Sour Cherry Pie & In My Lunchbox

Eeeep!  Over 100 of you have liked my Facebook page!  Thanks!  If you haven't yet, go here to like Strong Coffee, and then you'll get status updates from me whenever I post something on the blog.  Sweet, right?  I thought so too.

This pie though.  Oh my goodness.  It's perfection.  If you thought the peach pie was good, this sour cherry pie is stellar-awesome-delicious-want-to-eat-the-whole-thing-right-now-om-nom good.  It was one of Lottie + Doof's first posts, via Bon Appetit, and it's no wonder he revisited it again on his site.  I could just eat a bowl full of the filling alone, with pleasantly pucker-inducing cherries slumped and bound together by a sticky-sweet sauce of sugar, lemon, and vanilla.  And then, with the crust, you get a hit of crunch and texture, with that luscious, soulful flavor only butter can provide.  Together they're magical, truly.  Every night last week I inhaled a slice for dinner, and didn't regret it one little bit (one night I even had two slices, but, errr, let's not talk about that).  My dad even proclaimed that it was the best cherry pie he's ever had, and I'm pretty sure he's tried a lot of cherry pie in his life.  So there.  What I'm saying is, get your hands on some sour cherries, and get to work.  If you're in Chicago you should go to Green City Market, they're delightful, and that's where I found mine.  I haven't seen them in a regular grocery store before.

For another picture-less In My Lunchbox entry I want to tell you about a little simple summer salad.  I know, I know, I posted about salad last time.  The thing is, I do eat a lot of salad, but it's only so I can justify my multiple snacks a day (and my pie for dinner).  I'm pretty sure I eat the most, and the most frequently, out of anyone in my office.  It may be a little sad, actually.  But when I'm munching on a handful a pretzels, oh boy am I productive.  The munching helps me concentrate, I think... Or it may just be that being full helps me concentrate.  Either way, I like to snack at work, so I end up eating several little meals a day rather than eating a couple big meals.  Especially since I'm getting into work around 7:30 in the morning, sitting in a coffee shop for a while until the office has actually become populated, working a full day there, then either taking the CTA up to the river site in Lincoln Park for sweep practice or biking up Lake Shore Drive to the lagoon site to teach the Learn to Row class, it's 9:30 or 10 at night before I can actually sit down for dinner.  At which time I should be going to sleep again.  So the 3-square-meals-a-day plan doesn't really work out for me.  Girl's gotta eat.

Anyway, so this salad.  I have to digress again for a second to talk about heirloom tomatoes.  Now, I'm not going to say that by virtue of them being heirloom and fancy (and more expensive obviously) that they're better than your average vine tomato.  But when I'm at the grocery store, the quality of the heirloom tomatoes has been consistently better in my experience than that of the little bundles of vine tomatoes, or the giant beefsteak tomatoes, which have tended to be watery-tasting.  At the farmer's market, though, the quality of those regular tomatoes is so good that I don't feel compelled to buy heirloom.  If you prefer heirloom unequivocally, then by all means.

So grab a medium-size tomato and gently dice (use a serrated knife to cut tomatoes, you won't squish them this way).  Throw it in a bowl.  Then, take half an avocado, remove it from the skin with a spoon, and slice it thinly.  Fan out the slices, placing the fanned-out stack on top of the tomatoes.  Do the same slice-then-fan process with a cooled roasted beet, skin removed, and place it over the avocado.  Douse with a glug of good olive oil, a splash of sherry vinegar, and a little freshly ground black pepper.  Shave a few slices of parmesan over the top with a vegetable peeler, then dig in.  The tomato juices will mingle with the oil and vinegar to create a luscious, slurpable dressing in the bottom of the bowl.  I suggest eating this with a hunk of crusty bread to soak up the sauce, or you can just drink it out of the bottom of the bowl like I do.  Shhh, don't tell.

Sour Cherry Pie
adapted from Lottie + Doof

2 1/2 c all purpose flour
1 c plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, divided
2 sticks really cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
5-8 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, divided
3 tablespoons corn starch
5 cups whole pitted sour cherries
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 egg, beaten
~1 tablespoon Muscovado sugar

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Toss the butter in the flour mixture and work with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until the mixture is the texture of damp sand and the butter is lima bean-size.  Make a well in the center and add in 4 tablespoons of water and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, beginning to work into the flour mixture and adding more water as needed for the dough to come together.  Divide into 2 halves, then roll each into a ball, pat into a disk, and wrap with plastic wrap.  Refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Keep cold until ready to use, but let it sit out on the counter for a couple minutes before rolling to soften.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and lemon juice in a large bowl with the cherries.  In a small bowl, whisk together the 1 c sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and corn starch, then add into the cherries also.  Roll out 1 dough round into a ~12 inch circle, then transfer into a standard pie pan.  Trim the overhang to 1/2 inch, then pour in the cherry filling.  Roll out the other dough round, place it over the top of the filling, then trim the overhang to match the bottom crust.  Using your fingers or a fork, seal the top crust to the bottom.  Brush the exposed crust with the egg, then sprinkle with Muscovado sugar.  Cut a few vents in the top crust to allow the steam to escape during cooking.

Place the pie on a rimmed baking sheet, then bake for 15 minutes before turning the temperature down to 375 degrees F and cooking for ~1 hour.  If you're worried that edges will/are browning too quickly, gently cover with a thin piece of tin foil.  Cool completely before serving with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Or both.

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