18 Mar 2014
My friend Steve is just one of the greatest friends you could ever have, and that’s before you even consider that he’s an incredibly talented chef. We’ve been friends for almost half my life, and I’m so grateful for him. When I lived in Berkeley, he lived in this amazing little cottage up in the Berkeley hills, and he used to invite me (and Eric, if he was in town) to dinner. When Steve invites you to dinner, you say yes. Those meals are some of my happiest Berkeley memories, and I have an awful lot of happy Berkeley memories. Eventually it became clear to me that Steve was a pie master. He’d make his dough from scratch with no food processor, no pastry cutter–with nothing more than his hands. I used to sit on a stool in his tiny but beautiful kitchen and watch him work butter and flour into magic. Steve’s love for pie dates back to our college days, when he discovered Mama Jo, so we’d often make buttermilk pie and strawberry cream cheese pie, two of his favorites. But he’d also make savory pies, which were just as amazing. We called these happy events Pie Day. By the end of my time in Berkeley, I’d just call him up whenever I had any good fruit. I took my ten pounds of cherries over, and we made a day of it. And so when Steve told me he was in town for a week from Korea, I asked him if we could make pie. He was happy to oblige, and he suggested strawberry cream cheese. For the savory, I told him I’d been dreaming about asparagus and fresh green peas. And that was all it took. Steve came over on Monday to hang out with me, my mom, and Ellen, and we had the most marvelous time.
I was really touched that he made time for us on his last day in town. And so were my mom and Ellen. Luckily, we found some Oxnard strawberries, and then we got to work shelling peas before Steve got there (this was more or less our only contribution, but Steve always makes you feel like you’re being so helpful). While he was working on the dough, these two lovely ladies were knitting away on the couch.
This was our savory filling…mmm, I am still dreaming of it. I should also mention that Steve stopped mid-cooking to make salad dressing for me because I was starving and needed to eat some greens. And then he let me eat all the filling that was leftover from the pie. See, he is the best ever. Sadly, I don’t have any real recipes for you, but this is asparagus and green peas lightly cooked in butter with shallots and sliced almonds. And then we covered it with shredded Manchego and Parmesan.
When the pie was in the oven, I told Steve he should make himself a drink and made sure to advertise the Luxardo cherries I got Eric for Christmas. So he made two Aviations, one for him, and one for my mom and Ellen to share. I didn’t have any, of course, but they looked delicious! One of my favorite drinks, definitely.
Finally, it was pie time. Just look at this exquisite beauty. I could have eaten the whole thing myself. It is worth noting, though, that Steve is such a sweet person that he cut a big hunk for Eric, who couldn’t be there that day.
And these were the strawberry pies–one with cream cheese and one without, both equally delicious.
I don’t know what words I can use to say this that haven’t already been written, but truly, there is nothing better than good food and good friends. I am looking forward to the next pie day already.