A delicious summer pie: strawberry basil pie with balsamic vinegar!
It’s farm share season again, and so it’s time once again here in New England to grab all the best of the seasonal fruits and vegetables as they come. corwin recently called to say he was coming home with several quarts of the first strawberries of the year and so he thought I should make a pie. (It was my night to cook.) So before he got home I whipped up a batch of pie crust (I used the all-butter, food-processor variation of Flaky Pastry Dough from the 1990s edition of The Joy of Cooking and I added a bunch of fresh grated nutmeg to the dough) and then started looking at recipes.
The “problem” with plain strawberry pie is that it can actually come out too sweet and too homogenous. Some solve this by doing strawberry rhubarb, but we didn’t have rhubarb. Some suggest upping the acid content with more lemon juice, but you still have relentless strawberry, then. The nutmeg in the crust was going to help a little, as was the fact that I was going to do a lattice top, which gives the pie a little more toothsome bite, but how to add complexity and body to the flavor?
And then I realized I was staring at a small basil plant that has been growing on the kitchen counter for about two months now…. I’d picked it up on a whim in April and amazingly it’s still alive and still giving really delicious basil leaves. There’s an Italian dessert I’ve had that is basically chopped strawberries and basil tossed in balsamic vinegar. Sometimes it is served on vanilla ice cream, but sometimes it’s just in a bowl all by itself.
So here’s what I ended up with:
5 cups hulled, halved strawberries
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup sugar (cut down from the 1 cup in most fruit pie recipes)
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt
20 large basil leaves, chopped
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and let them sit for a while. (20 minutes? Half hour?) I used a really sweet, almost syrupy balsamic vinegar and I think I could have probably put in more than I did. Basically I would say taste the strawberry mixture and if it tastes good, the pie will taste good. If the strawberries aren’t as ripe, maybe add sugar or cut back vinegar until it seems right.
I made half of the Flaky Pastry Dough recipe into the bottom crust, patted it into a glass pie pan, poured the strawberry mixture in, and then made lattice strips for the top. To make the lattice strips I rolled out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface, then used a pizza cutter to make the strips. I didn’t try overly hard to “weave” the strips, just laid them down in alternating directions and crimped them to the bottom crust.
Bake at 425 for 30 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 for another 25 to 30 minutes. The recipe said to put a baking sheet underneath in the 350 stage to catch any bubble over, but I didn’t actually have any bubble over.
We served it with homemade vanilla ice cream but honestly I think it was great all by itself, too. corwin says if I make it again I should double the amount of basil and I think I could increase the amount of balsamic vinegar if I keep using the really sweet kind.