I don’t know if I can adequately explain how much I love summer in the Midwest. You’d think, coming from California, that I wouldn’t be so enthralled by sunshine. You’d think I’d be used to it. I suspect there are two reasons why I still feel so elated when summertime rolls around each year.
The first is that summer is qualitatively different in the Midwest. In California, rain comes in the winter, and the summer is dry and hot. Summer means sunshine, but it also means a brown, dead landscape. But in the Midwest, the summer months are peppered with powerful thunderstorms, so when I throw open the kitchen door to let in the sunshine, I see this:
And then, of course, there’s the sheer contrast. In California, we have two seasons: warm and sunny, and grey and rainy. It’s mild and pleasant, and one never needs a down coat, but I never truly appreciated the sensation of sunshine on my skin until I moved to the Midwest and experienced winter.
Rhubarb is another Midwest summer standby I never knew about growing up. It looks like red celery, but it tastes perfectly tangy and it bakes up into the most beautiful pies. Rhubarb has a short season, so make this soon, if you’re so inclined, and content yourself with the knowledge that, though rhubarb season will be ending soon, it’s not yet midsummer, and there are many more adventures to be had.
Rhubarb Berry Pie
Adapted slightly from Easier Than Pie
2 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup margarine
1/3 cup cold water
1 1/2 tbs distilled white vinegar
Preheat oven to 350. Combine AP flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the dough blade. Cut in margarine in small cubes. Pulse until margarine is broken into pea-sized bits and is evenly distributed. Add vinegar and half the water. Pulse until combined. Add water slowly until dough reaches desired consistency (I had about a teaspoon of water left over). Divide dough into two pieces, one slightly larger; wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Berry Rhubarb Filling
2 cups washed and sliced strawberries
1 cup frozen raspberries, defrosted
1 cup rhubarb, sliced into 1/4 inch cubes
2/3 cup sugar
4 tbsp cornstarch or tapioca
2 tsp freshly-grated orange zest
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract
Gently toss fruit with spices and cornstarch to distribute evenly. Add vanilla extract and mix gently.
Pull out the bigger portion of dough. Roll it out into a nice circle about an inch bigger than your pie pan. Place it in the pan and pour in the fruit filling. Now get the other portion of dough and roll it out into a rectangle. Cut long strips about an inch wide and lay them over the top of the fruit filling, criss-crossing each other. Roll the extra, overhanging dough from the bottom up over the lattice top and crimp it nicely. Brush the lattice crust (but not the crimped edge) with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about an hour and fifteen minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool for at least four hours before slicing.