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Cookbook review: The Farm by Ian Knauer

Rustic recipes follow the growing season from a revived family farm in Pennsylvania.

(Page 2 of 2)

There are recipes for every level of culinary knowledge. With my moderate experience, I decided to tackle Rhubarb-Sour Cream Crostata Pie. While I didn’t pick the ingredients I used fresh from the garden, I stood in the middle of the produce section of my local grocery store and tried to imagine the farm – its smells, the summer heat, and the grimy sweat from a long day of weeding and plucking.

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Allison Terry works on the web team at the Christian Science Monitor, coordinating online infographics. She contributes to the culture section and Global News blog, and previously reported and edited for the national news and cover page desks.

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Back at home, I set to work mixing the dough ingredients. I made the mistake of leaving cracks in the dough ball when I put in the refrigerator to cool. When rolling out the dough, those cracks made it difficult to make the crust completely round. Next came chopping the rhubarb. Rhubarb is best when it's deep red. Mine was a mixture of red and a little bit of green. As I chopped the one-inch pieces, I was worried that I might accidentally be using celery; the stalks look so similar when rhubarb is green. 

I waited until the crostata cooled to room temperature before tasting it. The cornmeal crust was the perfect nutty texture for the syrupy and tart filling. Originally skeptical of the sour cream, it was just enough cream to complement the rhubarb.

It’s definitely a dessert I will make again, and maybe then I will make the journey to find fresh rhubarb from a local farm.

(The following is excerpted from "The Farm," © 2012 by Ian Knauer. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.)

Rhubarb-Sour Cream Crostata Pie

A little bit of cornmeal in the crust adds a nutty note to this rustic spring pie. Rhubarb is a favorite of my cousin, Leif, who, when he met this pie for the first time at the farm, ate it in slices – wide-eyed and smiling – right from the pie tin, as if it were a dessert pizza.

For the pastry dough:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-3 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

1/4 cup sour cream
5 cups (1-inch pieces) sliced rhubarb (1 pound)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Make the pastry dough: Work together the flour, cornmeal, brown sugar, butter, and salt with your hands until it is mostly combined, with some small lumps of butter remaining. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the water with a fork. Press a small handful of dough together: if it looks powdery and does not come together, stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon water. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap. Using the edge of the plastic, fold the dough over on itself, pressing until it comes together. Form the dough into a disk, wrap completely in the plastic, and chill for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, with a rack in the middle.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the pastry dough with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch round. Place the dough in a 10-inch pie tin.

Make the filling: Spread the sour cream evenly over the bottom of the crust. Toss the rhubarb with the sugar and lemon zest, then spread the fruit evenly over the sour cream. Fold the border of dough up and over the edge of the fruit.

Bake the crostata until the crust is golden, the filling is bubbling, and the rhubarb has started to brown, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8

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