Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Annual Pie Party

Pie.  Three little letters.  My synonym for joy.

How many different types can you name?

Harvest apple? Fresh summer berry? Coconut cream? Chicken Pot? Whoopie? Mud? 3.14159....? (well I AM a math teacher you know).  The list goes on and on.  Which are your favorites?

For me, it depends on the season.  What can I find on the trees, at the Farmer's Market or in my garden to put into a pie? It can be a savory pie, a sweet pie, a hand pie, a pizza pie - the possibilities are endless!  Which is why I have had a Pie Party at the end of the summer each year since I moved up to Maine.  I always serve pizza pies fresh from the grill and sweet pies topped with fresh whipped cream or local gelato. I invite my friends and family to come over and bring along their favorite pie to share.

This year, I made three savory pizzas and one sweet pizza as well as two dessert pies to share. I jotted down some ideas before heading to the Saturday Market in Deering Oaks Park, but I adjusted my recipes as vibrant produce and fresh cheeses caught my eye: over-sized white peaches, runny goat's milk brie, bright rainbow swiss chard, heirloom tomatoes, fresh ricotta...I could've topped a dozen pizzas with the gorgeous food laid out at the market!

Once at home, I started in on my dessert pies.  With a bulging bag of fresh peaches, I had no trouble picking my first pie: a peach & red currant pie with a gingerbread crust inspired by the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts cookbook (thanks to Betsey for contributing the currants from her backyard in Burlington, Vermont!).  And the second pie was a no-brainer.  Ever since my last trip to San Francisco, I've been waiting for just the right opportunity to pull out the Tartine pastry cookbook and make their crazy good banana cream pie.  What makes it so amazing, you ask?  A flaky pastry crust, melted bittersweet chocolate, homemade caramel sauce, fresh pastry cream, sliced bananas, a tower of real whipped cream and a garnish of chocolate curls just to push it over the edge (or, in my case, chocolate shavings).  It was worth every step.  The leftovers were still delicious the next day.  AND I have a whole cup of caramel sauce in my frig.  I added sea salt, of course, and plan on using the rest to make caramel brownies.  Don't worry.  I'll post.

With the peach pie cooling and the pastry cream setting in the refrigerator, I turned my attention to the pizzas.  First came the dough.  I doubled this 1 pound dough recipe from Eating Well, using all whole wheat dough and 4 T of yeast.  I came out with four nice-sized balls of dough, which held up on the grill quite nicely.

You can use your favorite dough from the store or make it from scratch.  Either way, it's a snap to grill a tasty pizza.  After the second rise, shape your dough, brush it with olive oil and put it on a hot grill set to medium low, oil side down.  Close the lid, but keep a close eye as it only takes a few minutes to brown and bake.  Then remove the crust with a large spatula, brush the uncooked side with olive oil, put the crust oil side down on a cookie sheet and top the grilled side with your favorite ingredients.  I suggest you precook the ingredients, so the pizza only needs to be on the grill for a few minutes in order to melt the cheese and bake the other side of the crust.  

Now start thinking outside the crust and create some wacky, mouth-watering pizzas!  This is what I came up with this year:

Pizza 1: The Sassy Swiss Chard
fresh ricotta spread on the crust
swiss chard sauteed with cayenne, red pepper, leeks & garlic
corn straight off the cob
Sungold tomatoes
grated pecorino

Pizza 2Figgy Peach
fig jam spread on crust
sliced white peaches
fresh rosemary
goat's milk brie
toasted slivered almonds

Pizza 3: Balsamic Bliss
ricotta, goat cheese & cracked pepper spread on crust
sauteed red pepper and portobello with balsamic vinegar
fresh avocado
drizzle of balsamic

Pizza 4Pistachio Pesto Pizza

pistachio pesto spread on the crust
sliced heirloom tomato
fresh mozzarella
fresh basil
toasted pistachios


Anyway you make it, it's good stuff.

Happy eating!