Friday, June 8, 2012

From frozen bacon, bacon bits, prosciutto and aged Parmesan.

To ranch dressing, beef jerky, dried blueberries, vanilla extract and baking powder.

And Trident gum, corn syrup, creamy peanut butter and even 2 bottles of my beloved Brooklyn Brewery Beer.

These are just some of the things that have traveled in my suitcases from the US to Istanbul. (See also related post about traveling from Munich to Istanbul.)

When I recently visited Nebraska, I was just in time to harvest some of my mom’s rhubarb in the garden. I made a healthy version of an oat crisp dessert with strawberries, blueberries and rhubarb. It was delicious!

Then, I made sure to tell my envious husband just how delicious it was!

As a pastry chef in the US, rhubarb always signals the beginning of spring. After a long winter, you’re tired of using citrus fruits, apples, pears and dried fruits in your desserts. You want color!

Rhubarb, even though it’s technically a vegetable, gives you that pop of ruby pink color. And it’s just another thing that’s not available in Istanbul.
Fresh stalks of rhubarb in the U.S.
Well, there is something called Işkın, wild Turkish rhubarb, but I missed the season, and I don’t know if it’s similar to the rhubarb I know and love or not. Does anyone know?

Toward the end of my stay in Nebraska, I scored 3 pounds of rhubarb, cut it into pieces and double wrapped it in plastic freezer bags. I had promised my husband that I would bring back some rhubarb if I had room. On the morning of my departure, I carefully stuffed the two bags separately into my two checked suitcases.

Or so I thought.

By the time I arrived back at our apartment in Istanbul, I had traveled through four airports, flown more than 6,000 miles and been on the road for 24+hours. I was beat!

But I still had to unpack the perishables, including the rhubarb.

I opened my biggest suitcase and soon noticed a pinkish stain on a couple t-shirts. Then, I saw the stains all over my favorite trench coat!

Despite my careful planning and packing, the rhubarb, once defrosted, had leaked out of the plastic bags. Luckily, most of the stains washed out.

Lesson learned: next time you have a hankering for smuggling fresh rhubarb into another country, don’t do it!

But this is how much I love rhubarb. And how much I love my husband because he loves strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Now I can laugh about my follies and tell you that my foreign rhubarb combined with fresh Turkish strawberries makes an excellent pie!

I even shared a piece with my friends at Denizen Coffee in Sultanahmet.

Afiyet olsun!
My prized strawberry-rhubarb pie baked in Istanbul.
For a 9-inch pie, use your favorite pie crust recipe. I decided to try the Pioneer Woman’s Butter Pie Crust recipe this time and achieved good results.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Filling
(Adapted from my mother-in-law’s recipe. Thanks Mary!)

1            #                 (500 g.)            fresh rhubarb, small chunks
1 ½            c.            (275 g.)            sliced strawberries
¼            tsp.                                    salt
1 ¼            c.            (250 g.)            granulated sugar
4            T.                                        flour
¼            tsp.                                     nutmeg, freshly grated
1            ea.                                       lemon zest, freshly grated

In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients above. Place inside your dough-lined pie pan.
Strawberry and rhubarb tossed together for the pie filling.
For a classic American pie look, top your pie off with a weaved lattice crust. See this easy, but slightly cheesy, YouTube video how to make a perfect lattice top pie crust. Get your ruler out!
Using a ruler and a pizza cutter, I cut my strips into 3/4-inch pieces.
Then, carefully, weave the strips in between each other following the video's instructions.
Place your perfect pie in a preheated oven at 400 F/200 C. Sprinkle a little granulated sugar over the top. Bake for 20 minutes.

Then, cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent too much browning. Turn the oven down to 350 F/175 C. Bake for 30-40 minutes more until the juices in the pie begin bubbling and your crust is golden brown.

Remove from oven and let your pie cool down. If you slice the pie while it is still warm, the filling won’t hold together. I baked my pie late at night, so I waited until the next day to dig into my pie.

Serve with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Mmmm....strawberry-rhubarb pie!

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Julia said...

Thought you'd got rhubarb in Istanbul then. I was getting jealous. :) We always get one of our friends to bring some out for us. Love it stewed with custard on top - although your recipe is very tempting.

Ahmet C. Toker said...

great blog!

after 7 years as an expat in the states and germany, the first thing i started craving for in Istanbul was rhubarb.

Fortunately I found out that wild Rhubarb is sold in Istanbul when it is the season. It is consumed mostly in eastern Anatolia, but there are few street vendors that sell it here in Beşiktaş too.

I am sure you can find wild Rhubarb in pazars too. Its called Işgın in Turkish. I have to admit it doesn't look as pretty as the rhubarbs in the States, but the taste is similar.

Karen said...

Wow, this is painful reading! My Midwestern palate aches for all of this! I like to use my rhubarb as a substitute for the apples in my apple crisp recipe I've been making since I was ten from the Betty Crocker's Children's Cookbook. How I love that recipe. Although I often have to leave out the water, otherwise using rhubarb, it could get to watery. It has a flour, sugar, butter, and cinnamon top rather than oats.

Ahmet C. Toker said...

I use wild rhubarb in Mark Bittmans crisp. With Maraş ice cream on the side, it is perfect.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i am using my rhubarb every way imaginable and i can't keep up with the harvest! why wouldn't rhubarb grow in turkey? maybe next time you come home you could bring a small plant back and try to grow it. if they check your bags at the airport do they confiscate stuff? i had so much stuff taken away over the years i can only laugh when i think back on it now.

Moe said...

I have been hunting for rhubarb for years living here! I was excited thinking you had found some. I wish I were going back to the US soon to pick some up, I miss the taste and that pie looks beautiful!

Pille said...

I'm lucky for not having to smuggle rhubarb - grows well in Estonia (I got two HUGE bunches today from my cousin, so I can make some cakes and ginger-rhubarb jam). The only other places I've lived is Denmark (a rhubarb country) and Scotland (same). But my PhD supervisor smuggled rhubarb back to Spain (he was based there and commuted to Edinburgh once a month).

Love the lattice on your pie!

Joy said...

Thanks everyone!

@Ahmet, I've looked for the wild rhubarb at the pazars nearby, but I think I missed the season when I had to go back to the US last month. :-(

@ Julia, sorry to get your hopes up. I usually like to put rhubarb in a tart or pie like this. However, in London 2 years ago, we had a delicious rhubarb eton mess! Yum!

Joy said...

@Joyce, the only thing I've had confiscated out of my suitcase so far is American powdered sugar. Guess it looked too much like something else! ;-)

Yes, maybe I could bring some plants back and Claudia could grow them on her land at Assos since I only have a terrace.

@Pille, what a delight to live in Estonia and have a ton of rhubarb available! I'd love to hear any recipe ideas that you have.

Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

Such a lovely looking pie!! love rhubarb, must try yours :) Welcome back!

Miss Footloose | Life in the Expat Lane said...

I grew up in Holland where we love rhubarb, too. It needs a cool or cold climate to grow I think. My mother used to bake rhubarb with a thick cakey topping, cottage pudding they call it in the US I think.

I haven't seen it here in Moldova, where I live right now. Very sad because your post makes me crave it!

Your pie looks fabulous!