January 31, 2011
It’s well past midnight as I’m typing this and a Brazoria County Sheriff is standing in my living room, cross-referencing witness statements from the bizarre car crash that happened outside my house tonight. Our dear, dear friends Courtney and John came over to deliver an embarrassment of riches on behalf of our amazing community of loved ones: soup, kugel, chicken, pasta, pot roast, carrot cake, a taco “kit,” grocery gift cards, cash for hospital parking, and on and on. Jill starts chemotherapy tomorrow; we are being very well cared for.
As we were sitting down to dessert, a giant crash—poor Courtney’s car, which had been parked in the street in front of our house—had been completely smashed and shoved into the neighbors’ driveway. A big, red truck was weaving down the street; its driver parked in someone else’s driveway and stumbled to his house. Turns out we have a very unsavory neighbor.
Life’s craziness is relative and I’ve never found that “My life is crappier than yours” game some people play to be very compelling or gratifying. There’s no prize for shittiest circumstances, and there’s very little good that comes from bemoaning them. Sometimes there’s just what is and what we need to do next, and the little moments of humor or hilarity or camaraderie that inevitably manifest even in the worst of times.
In a couple of weeks, we might be laughing, looking back at the bizarreness of the evening, not because there’s anything actually funny about my dear friend’s car being smashed by a drunk driver, but because sometimes you just have to shake your head, ask “What next?,” change your mind about asking “What next?,” put on a pot of coffee and deal with it.
barely adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Café
If you cope by baking (like me!), this would be a fun one to do this time of year, when very good apples and very good pears are available. Hearty enough to work as a breakfast item but elegant enough to serve as dessert (especially if served with ice cream), we all enjoyed the texture of the cornmeal crust as well as the crunch that the not-separately-cooked fruit offered.
If you’re used to/fond of a more traditional “smooshy” fruit pie (yes that’s a technical term), I’d recommend softening the apples and pears for a few minutes beforehand in a saucepan with the rest of the filling ingredients, over low heat.
for the pastry:
1 ½ cups cornmeal (fine or medium)
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
~1/3 cup cream or half & half
pan: 10 or 9” tart or pie pan
Pulse the cornmeal, flour, sugar, & salt in a food processor (fitted with the regular blade) before adding the butter and processing until the mixture forms a coarse meal.
Add the egg, pulsing briefly, then add enough cream for the mixture to just come together. You might have to take it out of the food processor and hand-mix it a bit before rolling it out.
Divide the dough in half and roll each piece out on a very well floured surface (it will be sticky!) Place one dough round into the bottom of the greased pan, trimming the edges where they spill over the top. Cut the other half of the dough into strips and reserve.
for the filling:
2 ½ pounds mixed apples and pears
3 T sugar (maybe a little more, if you like)
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 T flour
1 T vanilla
Peel, core, & slice the fruit. Toss gently with the remaining ingredients.
Spread the fruit into the crust, then arrange the remaining dough strips to form a lattice on top. Transfer the pan to a baking sheet and bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden on top. Cool 10-15 minutes before serving warm.
(option: Before baking, brush the crust with a little extra cream & then sprinkle with some Demerara sugar. Makes it sparkle pretty and adds extra crunch).