I know, empirically, that carrot cake doesn’t count as a serving of vegetables. Or that an incredibly huge slice doesn’t count as two servings of vegetables. I think we all do.
Yet I still have a vague sense that it’s somehow wholesome and good for me, even though my best recipe for carrot cake calls for a whole cup of mayonnaise. A wholesome, somehow good-for-me-excuse to eat frosting in front of company, because it seems bad manners to shovel it in my mouth with a spoon.
Since Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, I thought I’d share a story of love with you. It is a short story about love and birth, family and new life, and a couple of pounds of confectioner’s sugar. My little sister is nearing the end of her second pregnancy and will soon be bringing a tiny girl child into the world. Beyond ecstatic at the impending arrival and having the tendency to share love for my family through the food that I cook, I decided to bake a “Welcome to the World” cake for my sister and future-niece.
No, really. I would seriously make out with the genius who came up with something as goddamned divine as tiramisu, because he (or she) obviously had one sexy mother of a brain. My luck, the inventor was probably some stinky beast of a 17th Century cook, slaving away in the bowels of a remote Italian estate to please a spoiled fop of a minor lord with rotten teeth and too much cologne. In which case, I may have to re-evaluate the desire to make out with said dessert creator.
Standing in the middle of the kitchen, I close my eyes and inhale deeply. A not quite sweet, yet ripe and fragrantly layered juicy scent teases my nose, pulling me toward the stove. I lean over a large pot, blissfully sucking in every possible odor nuance of the bubbling purple-red liquid. My daughter is simmering freshly picked chokecherries. Lovely scent memories from my childhood rise up, enveloping me in the magic of these wild shrub berries.
Through the use of Chinese Five Spice and fresh cracked pepper, this recipe offers a unique variation to the strawberry rhubarb pie we all grew up eating. The flavor combination of strawberry and black pepper is an age old one – the pepper enhances the sweetness of the strawberry. When used sparingly, Chinese Five Spice adds an additional depth of flavor to this pie.