Friday, May 16, 2008



First, thank you to everyone who has wished me luck on my various medical adventures. I'm late today because I was out getting an MRI on my hip (results next week--they're looking for a better view of a chip of bone the x-ray saw floating in there.) The rheumatologist yesterday said he thinks the elbow pain is "poor man's tennis elbow," simply tendonitis that comes with wear and tear. He based his judgement on the fact that the rheumatic factor blood test was only "borderline positive," and that I'm in fine shape otherwise. I was surprised, since I'm surrounded by people on both sides of my family with RA and figured it was only a matter of time before it showed up in me. But he gave me a non-steroidal pain pill and it seems to be working. If I don't have RA, that's fine with me!

While I'm on the subject: today's was my third MRI, and I find them quite a trip. It's like a half-hour symphonic work of experimental electronic music, complete with insistent, pulsating rhythms à la Phillip Glass. It's awfully loud, but I find myself getting into the sounds and feeling left high and dry when the technician suddenly has to change frequencies, like abruptly beginning a new "movement." I wanted to tell him it would be better if he could maybe fade out gradually. Simple pleasures, found in weird places....

Now, about this incredible pie. I owe it to a lifelong friend, Frankie, who goes with me all the way back to high school. She got married in the 60s and became a true domestic goddess, learning French cooking techniques from the very first Julia Child book (for example), while I went on into the Peace Corps and remained in a very different kind of life for years. We reunited in the 70s and have been like brother and sister ever since. She blew me away with the domestic skills she'd picked up while I was bumming around the world being kewl, and I continue to learn from her to this day.

This pie takes its inspiration from the glazed strawberry pies we've all enjoyed, those shiny, neon-red concoctions that are the essence of strawberry. This is the utter essence of blueberry, to me, a much more interesting flavor. It will work with virtually any fruit--I've made a knockout bing cherry pie using the same technique (the only thing I didn't like was pitting the damn cherries, but it's easy to bribe a helper with the promise of a pie), and I've made a mixed pie using blue-, rasp-, and blackberries. I've also done the pie using rhubarb in the syrup. All variations are delicious--once you have this basic pie down you can send your friends and family into summertime fruit pie ecstasy in a matter of a few minutes.

Using your favorite pie crust recipe, make a shell and blind bake it.

4 cups blueberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a food processor or using a fork, mash 1 cup of the blueberries. Measure the sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and water into a saucepan and whisk until smooth. Stir in the mashed fruit and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, or until the syrup is thick and clear. Stir in the lemon juice.

Taste the cooked syrup and correct the balance of sugar and lemon if necessary. Stir in the butter and heat until it melts, then pour in all the remaining berries and toss to coat them completely with the syrup. Remove from heat and allow to thicken slightly, then spoon into the cooked pastry shell and chill for at least 3 hours to set. Serve with ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.


Kat said...

This one is a keeper. If summer ever comes it will grace my table on the deck, and I'll give you full credit.

Like you, I'm in a round of tests. I've had x-rays, started physical therapy, have the dreaded colon.... next week and assorted other tests yet to be scheduled. Getting old sucks.

Hope all is well with the rest of yours!

Ralph said...

Good luck with all those tests, Kat. Just think of this pie and everything will be better!

Nan said...

Wow - what a great looking pie! So glad to hear that RA is not on any immediate horizon for you. Aren't MRI's so interesting? A few years ago I went round and round with some brain MRIs. I brought along Pink Floyd to listen to! And I'm still here doing just fine.

Ralph said...

Can't wait for you to try the pie, Nan. It's fruit all dressed up with someplace to go!

I'm afraid I'd never have been able to hear any music but the MRI itself, the thing is so loud. Not only are the machines interesting, they're also miraculous. I'm glad it waws able to prove you're OK.

Anonymous said...

This is a fine summer recipe. Will try this weekend. "blind bake??" what is that? Frozen blueberries maybe? Take care of that tennis elbow and thanks again for the recipe.

Ralph said...

Z&M, for blind baking, go back here to the raspberry tart recipe

I don't think frozen fruit would do this recipe justice. What's special about this technique is you alter just a little bit of the fresh fruit to make a syrup that tastes like the fruit on steroids, then mix it with the fresh fruit. You bite down on the fruit as nature made it but get an intensified flavor. Frozen fruit breaks down when it thaws and you'd have a soup. Now, fruit soup is good, but fresh fruit pie, it ain't.

Ravel said...

Slurp! Blueberries!

Cuidado said...

This is too funny. About an hour ago I teased my sister in law about having her husband spoiled against eating traditional blueberry pies because she has always made these. i attest to the uber-deliciousness.

Ralph said...

We have so many coincidences, Cuidado! As far as I'm concerned, once you've had this blueberry pie, there is no other.

Jenny said...

Oooh, anything with blueberries is delicious to me. My mother claims this was my first word (which I uttered while living in Ontario). They don't grow well here in Kentucky--I think it takes a northern climate to get the right blueberry taste. I'll save your recipe for when I get some fresh berries in British Columbia at the Farmer's Market in Kamloops.

Mark said...

Hi Ralph - this pie has my name written all over it! I cannot wait for the fresh blueberries to pour down from New Jersey. My winter survival kit of frozen blues just won't do for such a tasty pie. Can't wait --- thanks for sharing!


Ralph said...

Heck, Mark, I don't even bother waiting for the local ones. I just get 'em from wherever when I'm in the mood--although I will admit I generally wait for the summer and try to get local ones. We'll be looking for the NJ ones in Delaware. Thanks for the tip!