Today I attended the funeral of a woman I never met and was reminded that in the end, nothing is more important than how one makes people feel. It was a sad day for many, but also a joyous one because it was unquestionable that this woman lived fully by caring for others. She made it her life’s work to connect authentically and meaningfully, often using food made at her hands as the conduit for these connections.
I wish I had know Fani Haim. I imagine learning to make baklava or comparing recipes for bourekas in her kitchen, while enjoying one of her delicious cappuccinos. Certainly she would impart some simple wisdom that would cut right through the complex dance of the modern working mother. Because of today’s beautifully told stories of the moments of her life, Fani’s memory has already been a blessing for me.
The lessons of Fani’s blessed memory?
We’re in week three of strawberry season in Northeast Ohio and my family has eaten our way through 8 quarts of strawberries in that time. Strawberry shortcake has been on the menu twice, I’ve baked strawberry rhubarb pie two ways, and eaten fresh strawberries for breakfast with greek yogurt or oatmeal. I adore the way that the tartness of rhubarb balances the otherwise cloying sweetness of baked strawberries. But I wasn’t able to make it to the farmer’s market Saturday morning, and this week’s Fresh Fork share included strawberries but not rhubarb, so the strawberry pie challenge was on!
Strawberries with balsamic vinegar, or balsamic strawberries are a delicious and simple summer dessert. You combine strawberries with some sugar and vinegar and (optionally, but highly recommended) freshly cracked black pepper and serve them with mascarpone or ice cream, on top of poundcake or buttermilk biscuits, or simply enjoy them plain. Why not make a pie with balsamic strawberries, you ask? I can’t think of a single good reason.
Like rhubarb, the tartness of balsamic vinegar and the spicy sharpness of the black pepper balance the sweetness of the peak season strawberries beautifully. Holy smokes this pie is delicious! My boyfriend’s dessert palate favors the sweeter side and he said that this was his favorite fruit pie ever.
I tried using potato starch because somebody who likes sweet desserts (eh hem) missed the corn starch on the grocery list, and the resulting pie was a bit runny. It doesn’t really bother me, but in the unlikely event that this pie sits around for a few days the bottom crust will get mushy from the liquid, so I substituted for my first choice thickener in the recipe below.
This pie was experimental in both filling and adornment. I played around with a heart-shaped pie stamp emblazoned with the word LOVE. The results were delicious and stunning and a lovely tribute to Fani’s memory.