Julia Child Foundation

Elizabeth's Summer Pie

I met Elizabeth at a birthday party.There were about thirty of us gals celebrating and roasting a friend.  I had finished putting out the salad (roasted beet and goat cheese on arrugula with citrus shallot dressing) and had just filled my plate with goodies when I saw Elizabeth.  I hadn't met her before and she was sitting with a friend Val (the amazing Eat-Drink-Garden Val) so I decided to join the two young gorgeous girls.

What a delicious decision that was!  Elizabeth, Val and I talked and talked and talked.  Get food people talking and the topics are endless!  We had a lovely time.  But, alas, Elizabeth is far younger than I and was so busy with kids and work and life that a year went by before I saw her again.  This time she was working at her Montecito pop-up shop making desserts, her specialty.  And oh how special they are.  She had told me about her passion that first night we met but it wasn't until I saw and tasted them that I realized just how special they really are, and how passionate she really is.

Our paths were meant to cross again, and so they did. Elizabeth graciously agreed to lead a demonstration on Summer Pies at the inaugural Santa Barbara Food & Wine Weekend in June 2014.  The weekend was an experiment of sorts, feeling out how the community would respond to food and wine education, demonstrations, presentations, panels. There was a culinary foreign film, a food writing panel, a winemakers dinner, an outdoor marketplace.  The female sea urchin diver cracked open her bounty of urchins for us, olive oil was tasted, mixology was explained.  The list goes on and the learning was paramount.  The event was, in part, a tribute to the legendary Julia Child and, and as such, her foundation The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and Culinary Arts, was to receive a portion of the proceeds from the event.  Julia would have been proud of how her fellow Santa Barbarans and foodies turned out for the event.

Elizabeth's class, like many others that weekend, sold out in advance.  She was adorable, with her pregnant belly preventing her from leaning across the presentation counter but not preventing her from displaying her incredible knowledge of her topic.  People started throwing out questions before she could say butter and Elizabeth had concise, truthful responses about everything from type of flour to how high to mound the fruit.  This girl knows her pies!

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I left her class excited to try out my new crust-rolling skills with a rustic berry pie like the strawberry rhubarb one from her class.  One look at her light, buttery, flakey dough and you just know it is going to be delicious.  Hers certainly was.  We not only got to taste the pies but each guest was given a mini-pie to take home!

Elizabeth's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I decided to try my hand at a raspberry blueberry tart, to combine Hubby's two favorite berries. And since I already experienced Elizabeth's amazing pie crust, I decided to try a gluten-free version to accommodate my paleo-ish groupies.

Sticking precisely to the recipe but substituting the flour with the popular gluten-free flour, 'my dough was dry' is an understatement.  I could barely roll it out and it was full of cracks. I knew it wasn't right and if I was as experienced as Elizabeth, I would have added a bit of water just to save the first crust.  But I didn't.  I decided I had to follow through just to see the results because the flour does say to substitute "cup for cup".  The results were that the pie filling was crazy delicious even though much of it seeped out because the pastry was cracked!  Duh.  Seems obvious in hindsight.

So I ate every bite of the filling and set out to figure out this gluten-free situation. What I found was that substituting cup for cup is NOT always an accurate measure to try and change a recipe to gluten-free, at least not a delicate recipe like pie crust.  According to some gluten-free baking testers, it is cup-to-125 grams.  When substituting gluten-free flour in a recipe that calls for regular flour, apparently you need to weigh it.  I weighed the amount I put into my pastry and it was 415 grams.  It should have been 325 grams using the weight method. Back to the rolling pin. Or maybe I'll give Elizabeth a call and see when her next pop-up shop is coming to town :)

Meanwhile, here is her tried and true recipe to make pie crust and a stunning blackberry filling, components of a perfect summer pie.

"If you learn something new every day, you can teach something new every day." -Martha Stewart

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Elizabeth's Summer Pie (makes one 9-inch double crust pie)

Pie Dough: 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp sugar 1 tsp salt 8 oz unsalted european-style (high fat content) butter, cold and cut into small pieces 1/3 cup plus 2 T ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, sugar and salt.  Pulse a few times to combine.  Add the butter and pulse about 5 times until the mixture resembles course crumbs with some large pieces of butter remaining.  Add water and pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with your fingers.  About 10 pulses.  (It helps to tilt the food processor a bit, shaking up the bottom flour to get it all combined.) Transfer 1/2 the dough to a piece of plastic wrap.  Press together and wrap tightly.  Refrigerate at least one hour and up to 3 days or freeze for up to a month.  Repeat with other half of dough.

Let dough stand at room temperature until pliable.  Roll out one disc on a lightly floured surface to an 11-inch round, about 1/4" thick.  Fit into a 9-inch pie plate.  Trim overhang to about 1-inch beyond rim of pie plate.  Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.  Roll out other piece of dough and refrigerate until firm. Remove from refrigerator and add filling.

Filling: 7 cups blackberries (about 2 pounds) (or berry of your choice) 3/4 cup sugar (could vary a bit with sweetness of berries) 1/4 cup cornstarch pinch course salt 1 large egg, lightly beaten, and coarse sanding sugar for top crust

In a large bowl, toss blackberries with sugar, cornstarch and salt.  Transfer to prepared pie crust.

Place chilled top crust over filled pie. Trim top crust to match bottom crust.  Press edges of both crusts together and fold overhang under itself.  Press to seal.  Using thumb and forefinger, crimp edges.  Cut a few slits in top of pie to let steam escape.  Freeze for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the lower third and a backing sheet on rack below.  Brush entire top of pie with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar.  Bake 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375 degrees and continue to bake until juices are bubbling near the center, about an hour more.  (If browning too quickly, tent top or edge with foil but continue to bake until bubbling near the center.) Let cool completely, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve with ice cream.

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Cinco de Drinko

I don't usually write about cocktails.  I don't usually drink cocktails.But this Cinco we had quite a spectacular Drinko that felt worthy of a post.  And posting makes it easy to find the recipe again.  Not that I am going to start drinking cocktails.  But I might drink this one.

The Drinko came about because I was hosting a dinner for The Julia Child Foundation and it happened to fall on Cinco de Mayo.  So when life gives you lemons, you must make lemonade, or perhaps margaritas.

Baby Girl had just returned from college and she brought a friend so I quickly got them on board as my kitchen help.  I asked one of my culinary and party genius girlfriends to help me host and she graciously agreed.  We organized a planning meeting (which is code for cocktails) to decide on the menu.  At the "planning meeting" Baby Girl saw something on the "menu" that struck her fancy....Watermelon Pineapple Margarita.  She ordered and it arrived looking like a beautiful pinky-red martini.  The planning committee all tried it and our first decision was unanimous.  That was to be our drink for the Cinco de Mayo party.  It was citrusy but not too tart, with just the slightest tinge of sweetness, nice watermelon undertones and cutting through it all was lovely smooth tequila.  Rest assured, we also made decisions about food for the party menu and you will read about some of it here one day, but our planning was decidedly cocktail-focused once the margarita martini showed up.

We left the "meeting room" (bar) planning to meet two days later to concoct the cocktail for our party.  But as luck would have it, my friend (yes, it was MaryAnne) "happened" to be back at the same location the next night for another "planning meeting."  She procured a recipe for our Watermelon Pineapple Margarita Martini.  Ingredients were written on a napkin with no instructions.  I didn't ask how she got it.

It was at first taste on the night of the party that Baby Girl spontaneously renamed it Cinco de Drinko, apparently a common term with college kids but unknown to us old folks.  We loved the name.  We loved the drink.  It was toasted many times during the night and our guests happily dranko all the Cinco Drinkos.

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Thank you Baby Girl and lovely college friend.  Thank you meeting place bar staff.  Thank you MaryAnne for being our chief of recipe procurement. Cheers to the Cinco de Drinko!

"Let's celebrate Uno, Dos, Tres and Cuatro de Mayo just like it's Cinco de Mayo." -anonymous

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Cinco de Drinko

(serves 10 or more)

1 bottle of Patron Silver 1/2 fresh pineapple  1seedless watermelon 1 cup fresh lemon juice 1/2 cup sugar fresh limes for garnish Special Equipment:  martini glasses and shaker

The Day Before: Pour tequila into a large, wide pitcher. Peel, core and slice the fresh pineapple into large  wedges, add to the pitcher and refrigerate. Peel and chop watermelon into large chunks.  Puree in a blender and refrigerate. Pour 1 cup fresh lemon juice into a pitcher.  In a saucepan, stir together 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of sugar.  Bring to a simmer and stir to dissolve sugar. Simmer for 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Pour 1 cup sugar water (simple syrup) into the pitcher with the lemon juice and refrigerate.

When ready to serve: Strain tequila back into the bottle, setting aside the infused pineapple for another day, or for garnish, or for the kitchen staff. Mix 2 cups pineapple-infused tequila with 1.5 cups watermelon juice and 1 cup lemon juice in large pitcher.  Using a shaker filled with ice, pour drinks into shaker and shake to chill.  Pour into martini glasses and garnish with fresh lime.

To make one drink at a time: Pour two ounces tequila, 1.5 ounces watermelon juice and 1 ounce sweet lemon juice into a shaker and shake to chill.  Pour into a glass and serve.

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Sarah's Chilled Pea Soup

I find it very fortunate that I have never been a big worrier.It is not because I am smart or organized or efficient. I don’t worry because I am just too naive to ever think of  outcomes that I should be worried about.  I usually find out from other people that I should  have been worried about a situation, well after it is over and done.

Moving to new cities, and even new countries when I was over six months pregnant might have been cause for some concern.  But it was just what I did at the time.  And I did it three times!  I guess I forgot about the first two times when people told me how crazy I was.  Having a selective memory has also served me quite well throughout my life.

Since I have these traits, I just let myself believe that they are a good thing. The most significant example of my naiveté is how shocked people are to find out that I cooked for Julia Child.  Since I am not nor have I ever been a professional in the kitchen, that information is a bit surprising.  But I did not cook for her at an event, nor as part of a fundraiser, nor as a job in a test kitchen.  I cooked for Julia as a friend, to sit down and eat with her.

Hubby and I met Julia for the first time in 1981 at the inaugural meeting of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF).  Julia and Robert Mondavi gathered wine professionals, chefs and friends to kick off a new organization that would honor and promote gastronomy.  The meeting was held in Santa Barbara, California, and Hubby and I were invited since he worked in the wine business and we were friends with people in that world.

Hubby as a young wine professional.
Hubby as a young wine professional.

We were still in college at the time and were definitely the youngest people there.  That meeting and subsequent brief meetings with Julia weren't memorable, to her nor to us.  No one had cell phones back then and meeting someone once or twice did not constitute a friendship.  We lived our separate lives and continued pursuing our mutual loves of wine and food.

The Julia meeting.
The Julia meeting.

Many years later, we ran into Julia at a party.  We began reminiscing about AIWF and that meeting and subsequent years of me being on the AIWF New York board and mutual friends and so on.  I moved on to chat with others at the party that night but Hubby and Julia continued talking for hours.  When we were leaving, Julia said “Let’s have dinner,” and a beautiful friendship began.

I cooked for Julia numerous times, usually at my house with me in the kitchen and a few friends around the table.  A few times I cooked at Julia’s place with friends of hers and her endearing assistant Stephanie.  Eating and cooking with Julia was always entertaining and she liked to have participants.  This was during a period late in Julia’s life so she wasn’t usually active in the cooking, although she did teach me to shuck oysters one fun evening in my neighbors kitchen.

It seemed very normal to cook for a friend and so it wasn’t a topic of conversation that I brought up much with people during the years it was happening.  Obviously I knew Julia was famous; we ate out at restaurants with Julia and she was a very recognizable figure.  We became used to people clapping when she entered or coming to the table to shower her with praise.  Julia took it all in stride and accepted it with grace and modesty.  She had many, many friends that she ate out with at restaurants, but, as I learned later, not so many who cooked for her.

Cooking for Julia was truly a joy.
Cooking for Julia was truly a joy.

When Julia died, it was announced that Hubby had been named a trustee of the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts, and it became public that we knew her well.  It was then that I realized that cooking for Julia Child was something that might have, or maybe should have, caused a bit of anxiety for an inexperienced home cook like myself.  People exclaim upon finding out that I had Julia to dinner that I must have been SO NERVOUS!  It finally began to dawn on me how oblivious I really am.  And I have an equally oblivious husband.  He was the one who called her up to invite her over the week after the party where we had reconnected.  Apparently, she had given him her number during their conversation that night.  He casually told me that Julia Child was coming to dinner that Friday night and asked who else should we invite.

I wasn’t nervous at all that first time.  Julia was such a warm and wonderful lady, it never occurred to me that she would be critiquing my food.  For me, it was just a chance to get together with friends who would be interested in wine and food.  It turns out that I was right to be relaxed about it because Julia was the most gracious guest one could ever have.

The first thing I served was a chilled pea soup that I learned to make from my friend Sarah while living in Australia.  It is a fresh-tasting, simple recipe that I had made dozens of times and people always seemed to enjoy.  Julia complimented it as she dove in enthusiastically, saying something like “This is delightful Dearie.  What is in it?”  I replied, “It is Lettuce Pea Soup, pureed and chilled, with cream added at the end.”  My good friend Peter who was also at the dinner said, “Are you serious?”  I thought he was referring to the lettuce and I told him it really did have an entire head of iceberg lettuce in it.  He laughed deviously and suggested I rethink the name of my “Let Us Pee Soup.”   Julia had a great sense of humor and loved a good laugh so it was a great start to a wonderful friendship.

When I think back on situations like this one, I am very grateful for my obliviousness.  Perhaps I am not as conscientious, intellectual or driven as some people, but my lack of perfection has allowed events to happen that may never have come to be if I had thought too much.  Apparently, inviting Julia Child to come over for a home-cooked dinner was not something a lot of people felt comfortable doing.  It’s too bad more people didn’t because Julia probably would have said yes.  Inviting Julia to dinner is what sparked the development of our friendship.  And my memories of our friendship, and dining with Julia casually around our table, are priceless to me.  The food may not have always been up to par with her usual fare, but we always had a good laugh and a good time.

"Learn how to cook-try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" - Julia Child

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Sarah’s Chilled Pea Soup

1/4 pound fresh shelled peas OR 1 heaping cup frozen peas 1 large potato, peeled and sliced 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and sliced 1 head iceberg lettuce, broken up 5 cubes chicken bouillon dissolved in 3 cups water OR 3 cups very strong chicken broth 2 T. chopped chives 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream (to your taste) juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 T.) 1 tsp salt or to taste 1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste chopped chives and blanched snow peas for garnish

Put peas, potato, onion, lettuce and chives in large pan with strong chicken broth.  Bring to boil and simmer 15 minutes or until potato is soft.  Cool and puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Add cream, salt, pepper and lemon juice.  If too thick, add more chicken broth. Chill thoroughly. Serve with snow peas and chives sprinkled on top.

Note:  Can be prepared one day ahead but add cream a few hours before serving.

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