celebrating the food we'll miss in January
There’s a lot of talk across the ether about autumn, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and all that, but I’m not ready to give up on summer, not until the bell tolls on September 21st. We have not enjoyed much of a summer on the coast of Maine where, unlike the rest of the world, it seems, it has been rainy, foggy, and cool, so I’m ready to wring out as much of the season as I can before the calendar changes with its inevitable legitimacy.
Mind you, I am also that prissy little girl who probably sat next to you in fourth grade who was glad—GLAD!—to go back to school. New teacher, new room, new books, new things to learn—wow! Multiplying fractions, who knew? I loved the fresh paint smell of the spruced-up schoolroom, with its newly varnished floors and its ineradicable aroma of chalk embedded in the very walls. I loved President Lincoln’s benevolent bearded gaze hovering over all us little patriots, continuing to protect us now that Truth and Justice had finally triumphed over Fascism. I loved my new cardigan (aquamarine because my mother thought that was a good color for me) and my new saddle shoes that squeaked when I walked. (“That’s because they haven’t been paid for,” my father said, which worried me deeply until he assured me that indeed the bill had been settled.)
And I confess that I still get that tremor in my heart when I see the first school buses go up my street, picking up their charges. I’d like to be going back to school again.
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And yet, I’m still not ready to give up summer. The mellow fruitfulness is so enticing, especially at the end of the season, knowing it’s all about to disappear—the tomatoes, the sweet peppers, the corn, even the last of the blueberries, reminding me that, yes, summer is coming to a close but there are a few more days to savor.
So here are some pies, one savory and one sweet, to say a fond farewell to what has been, despite the rain, a rather wonderful summer:
A Riff on a Pissaladière
This one comes from my friend Joanna Pruess who admits it’s not a classic pissaladière. Indeed, it’s really more of a tarte renversée, which is basically a tarte tatin, a tart baked with the crust on top, then turned over (renversée) after it comes out of the oven. Joanna crafted this for a book she developed for the Griswold and Wagner Company about cooking with cast iron. It’s a lovely book, called Cooking with Cast Iron, with lots of encouragement for using that superb cooking instrument, the cast iron skillet (or braising pan or griddle) and I note that it’s still available on Amazon and probably elsewhere too.
And if a cast iron skillet is not part of your batterie de cuisine, I urge you to add one. I have at least five in various sizes at last count, some acquired new, some in antiques stores and yard sales. Black iron skillets (my mother called hers “the spider” for reasons I’ll discuss another time) are inexpensive, American made, very well made for the most part though there are cheap imitations from mysterious places (you know whom I’m talking about), and they are essential in the good cook’s repertoire. Antique ones are rising in price but occasionally you’ll make a great find and then you’ll have the joyful task of bringing it back to life.
But we’re talking about Joanna’s recipe and here I will add that if you must, lacking a black iron skillet, you may prepare this in an ordinary 10-inch frying pan but it won’t have the cachet of the cast iron, especially when you carry it to the table and flip it over in front of your awed family. (Practice this a few times in advance, please.)
Another though before we begin: I’ve seen small, individual serving sized skillets and I think it would be fun to adapt the recipe to single servings and bring them out for a picnic on the kitchen porch, encouraging each person to flip his or her own.
Or maybe not.
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