Keeping it real

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of being a “real” cook. I mean, can you be a real cook if you use pre-prepared items? Do real cooks use pasta sauces from a jar? Do real cooks use frozen vegetables? Do real cooks buy frozen pie dough?

Nancy Silverton, one of my chef heroes, believes that you don’t have to make everything from scratch in order to be a good cook. As a matter of fact, her newest book is based on this premise.

In Twist of the Wrist, she shows home cooks how to make healthy and delicious meals at home with a handful of fresh ingredients and pre-made items that can be found at the local store. So if bread maven Nancy Silverton says it’s okay to cook at home with pre-made items, surely that means you can be a real cook and use store-bought, prepped items…Right?

If you happened to read the great article my friend, writing partner (more about that someday soon) and fellow food blogger, Leah of Spicy Salty Sweet wrote about trying out a recipe from the Twist of the Wrist cookbook, you’d probably end up saying “NO” to that question.

Leah is an incredible cook and when it comes to making a meal, she almost always prefers making everything from scratch. And when I say everything, I mean everything. She makes her own pasta, her own pizza dough, her own ice cream…But then, Leah self-admittedly calls herself a kitchen masochist, which makes me believe that maybe there is hope for the prepared food aided cook. Maybe a real cook like Leah might believe you don’t have to cook everything at home in order to consider yourself a “real” cook. Maybe.

Okay, so I’m obsessing

The reason I’ve been thinking about this subject, is because I recently made a pie with store bought frozen pie crust. Now, if you’ve been reading Food Woolf lately, you’ll know that I’m trying to get over my fear of pastry. Which hasn’t necessarily been easy. I’ve messed up measurements, I’ve had to bake and rebake a cobbler until I got it right.

So when I bought the ingredients for a pie and put together a recipe that was inspired by Fine Furious Life, a fellow food blogger, I was really excited to go into work at the restaurant and tell the girls in the pastry department about it.

“Oh really?” they smiled. “What’d you put in it?”

I rattled off the ingredients. They nodded with interest. Until I told them I used a frozen pie crust. Their eyes went dim. Did I just say “frozen pie crust”? In the pastry department? What was I thinking?

I gulped back my embarrassment as I skulked out of Pastry. I was crestfallen. Until I spied this month’s Bon Appetit. In the June issue, they featured a rustic plum and port tart recipe that, get this, called for a refrigerated pie crust.

A ha!

Victory, I thought! Bon Apetit appeals to real cooks, right? They recommend prepared pie dough. Surely I must be taking all this prepared food item stuff way too seriously.

Yeah. Seriously.

What follows is this delicious, easy, fast and fresh Rhubarb, Nectarine and Cardamom Pie. It’s really great fresh from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Be sure to drizzle a bit of freshly ground cardamom and some Maldon sea salt on the ice cream to make it really special.

Rhubarb, Nectarine and Cardamom Tart
adapted from a recipe from Fine Furious Life
Makes one pie

Two pack of pre-made pie crusts. I used organic pie shells from Whole Foods.
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb, cut in 1-inch pieces
4 nectarines seeded and sliced in 1-inch cubes
1 nectarine cut into wedges
1/2 cup sugar
1 orange, juiced
12 fresh cardamom pods, opened, seeded and ground
2 tblsp raspberry jelly

Bonus points if you use:
Maldon sea salt
A pint of vanilla ice cream
A handful of cardamom pods, opened, seeded and ground

Prepping the cardamom:
To open the cardamom pods, use the back of your knife or a mallet. Take out the black, flavorful seeds and put them into your mortar. Hand grind with the pestle until the cardamom is more like a rough powder.

For the filling:
Combine rhubarb, nectarines, sugar, orange juice and cardamom in a bowl. Transfer to a large skillet. Stir over medium-high heat until liquid starts to bubble. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer until rhubarb is almost tender, stirring very gently in order to keep rhubarb intact. About 8 minutes.

Drain rhubarb and nectarines well, reserving the sugared juice. Add the juice from bowl to skillet. Boil the juices until it becomes a syrup or a medium-to-thick reduction. Mix in preserves. Cool. Very gently add the rhubarb and nectarines to the mixture.

Preheat oven to 375F. Follow the directions for the frozen pie crust (thaw and pre-bake one of the two pie crusts. Reserve the other for the lattice top). Once the pie crust is cooked (about 20 minutes), add the fruit mixture. Line the top of the pie with the nectarine wedges.

Prepare the lattice top:
Carefully transfer the second, uncooked pie crust dough onto waxed paper. Cut one inch strips into the dough and lay across the top of the pie in a lattice pattern.

Bake for about 40 minutes, or until filling is bubbling thickly and crust is golden brown.

NOTE: This post was amended on 6/29


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Food Woolf Written by:

Brooke Burton is an Los Angeles-based restaurant professional and hospitality expert. She is a freelance food writer, speaker, and co-author of The Food Blog Code of Ethics.

One Comment

  1. Leah Greenstein
    June 27

    Thanks for the props, Brooke. The pie looks amazing and involves lots of real cooking! There are plenty of recipes that call for refrigerated pie dough. And a secret? I use Trader Joe’s frozen puff pastry 🙂

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