My neighbor sent me a cryptic text message last night at 10:30pm saying that *”Italians are coming for a BBQ tomorrow” and could we come? I said yes, of course, because who says no to a BBQ on a Saturday in June? Plus, I needed to find out more about these Italians. She texts again, “Great, bring a bit of fruit.”
After having a couple of laughs with my husband over what kind of fruit Italians like — Tomatoes? Olives? — I realized that there was only one choice, and the only time I would be able to make this happen was this particular weekend in June, as the sour cherry tree in the backyard was ready to pick.
The two trees are ancient, with huge canopies. I have no idea what kind of cherry they are. Even with an orchard ladder, most of the deep, shiny maroon fruit is maddeningly out of reach. But for pie, nothing, just nothing, has the flavor or tart cherries.
The problem was, after sharing with the neighborhood birds, eating my own palmful, and pitting the little things, there wasn’t enough to make a whole pie from just the cherries. Luckily, last weekend my kids and I went to the strawberry patch and picked a bushel, most of which turned into luscious jam and ice cream topping, and some of the fruits were still in the refrigerator. While cherry-strawberry may not be a classic combination, with sugar and a dash of almond extract, and baked in a rich butter crust…no one, not even the Italians, complained when it was served, and quickly eaten with freshly whipped cream.
*For the curious, the “Italians” were part of the university’s art history and foreign language department, and my neighbor was celebrating her graduation from the master’s program with her fellow graduates.
Double-crust Pie Dough
This dough rolls out like a dream; it doesn’t crack or tear while you’re working with it. Makes enough for a 10-inch pie with a bit left over.
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
In a food processor, whirl the flour, sugar and salt together until butter is distributed. Drizzle 2/3 cups very cold water over the mixture and pulse just until it comes together. Turn dough out onto a work surface and gather into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Chill for at least an hour.
After chilling, remove dough to lightly floured work surface and divide in half. Roll out bottom crust to the size of your pie and fill with the pie filling. Place the top crust on top and finish as desired.
Cherry-Strawberry Pie Filling
3 cups tart cherries, pitted (If not using the strawberries, use 4 cups of cherries)
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and diced
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
In large mixing bowl, combine fruit, sugar, flour and almond extract. When bottom crust is ready, pour filling into crust and top with top crust. Sprinkle crust with sugar if desired.
Cover edges of pie with foil. Bake in 375-degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for about another 25 minutes, or until crust is golden.