This morning, Mike and I made it out to a Slow Food Boston fundraiser. Now, I’m not normally into giving away money since I’m a bit under-employed. For example: on Friday I was walking to the Copley Square market to buy the last of the summer’s peaches (seen above) when a GreenPeace sidewalk canvasser magically lured me into her spiel with a smile that made me think she legitimately recognized me from a former life. She shared her umbrella with me. She even offered me a job. She was the nicest person I’d spoken to in a week, but I refused to make a donation even after she told me that the homeless guy on the corner had the heart to make a pledge. I have the capacity to be that cold-hearted.
So how did Slow Food Boston sucker me in to paying $10 to help a few foodies get to an invitation-only conference in Turino, Italy? Well, they suckered me in with the promise of a potluck feast. And well, there was a dessert contest too. GreenPeace, take notes.
The last food contest I entered was back in 1996 when I won Tom Green County Fair’s honorable mention in the 12-&-under category. I had made a German chocolate cake with coconut and pecan frosting (a family recipe). It’s a wonderful sheet cake – and impressive for a 10-year-old – but I needed something more sophisticated for the Turino-bound foodies, so I pulled this doozy off the shelf.
No, I didn’t win the contest (a delicious plum tart did… blast!) – but we did make new friends and eat a delicious lunch from a potluck spread on a green hill with the best picnic weather the late summer could offer. The event was on the Allandale Farm in Brookline, which is managed by John and Annette Lee (generous hosts of potluck). The farm sells CSA shares and has its own on-site 7-day market currently stocked with sugar pumpkins, squashes, corn, tomatoes, flowers, honey and more – all produced there on the property.
Jim, the egg farmer, showed us around the chicken yard – there were 130 laying hens scratching and pecking at the feed that Jim threw over the grassy hillside near their nesting trailers. An airplane flew low overhead and all the chickens hightailed it for the protection underneath the trailers, all except for two hens who kept wandering and pecking. Jim pointed at them and said they probably weren’t long for the hawks. Mike made his own hawk squawks and we heard a response from the wooded area above us.
The day turned out to be the consolation prize – the day and, of course, the obligation to try 8 different incredible desserts.
5 or 6 not-too-soft medium peaches
5 tablespoons creme fraiche
3 tablespoons sugar
zest from 1/2 a lemon (~1 teaspoon)
juice from 1/2 a lemon (~1 tablespoon)
1 vanilla pod (or sub 1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract)
1/2 teaspoon dried lavender flowers
a pinch of salt
1 batch of butter pie crust
On a silicon mat or between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out half of the pie dough to form the bottom crust. It should be about 3/8-inch thick. Transfer to an 8-inch glass pie plate and trim the dough that hangs over the edge of the pan. (Here’s a great tutorial on rolling out your dough.) Put the crust, uncovered, in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to set the shape. Preheat the oven to 400F just before you remove the crust from the freezer. Mold a piece of foil over the frozen pie crust, folding the foil over the edges of the pie plate. Put in oven for ~10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes. Place the pie crust on a wire rack to cool slightly and, with the back of a spoon, deflate any bubbled-up spots. Decrease the oven temperature to 375F.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, zest, sugar and 4 tablespoons creme fraiche with a pinch of salt. Slice the vanilla pod open and scrape the seeds out with a spoon, whisking them into the lemony syrup. Finely grind the lavender flowers with a mortar and pestle, or finely chop until they are almost a powder. Sieve through wire mesh, then add the lavender powder to the syrup. Cut the peaches in quarters, leaving the skin on, and toss with the syrup to coat.
On a silicon mat or between two pieces of parchment paper, roll out the second half of the pie crust. It should be about 3/8-inch thick. On the bottom of the par-baked crust, spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of creme fraiche. Arrange the peach quarters around the crust, nestled closely together. When they’re very crowded, cut any remaining peaches into bits and fit them into the crevices like a puzzle. Drizzle any remaining syrup over the peaches. Place the top crust over the pie, trimming the edges and crimping them to make a seal with the par-baked bottom crust. Make slits in the top crust with a knife or prick holes with a fork to allow steam to escape.
Slide the pie into the oven on a cookie sheet (to catch drips) and bake for about 1 hour, or until the top crust is golden and the filling is bubbling up through the holes. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator – this pie is excellent cold as well.