It’s not often that produce makes me stop in my tracks, nowadays. In a former life, I was a specialty produce buyer for a gourmet food distributor and at 4am, you’d find me at the produce market at SFO looking for new and unique – or just stellar – produce. It was the mid-’80s and fresh produce was being rediscovered. Baby vegetables, exotic greens, kiwis flown in from New Zealand at a dollar a piece…

It was great fun and a great education. I learned so much from so many people – and ate and ate and ate. I’ve never been a vegetarian, never wanted to be a vegetarian, but I have a great respect for Mother Nature’s Bounty. It’s one of the reasons I love Europe so much – they have a totally different respect for food and the earth that we lack here in the states.

So here it is 30 years later and I’m out in ‘burbia walking through the grocery store and my eyes zero in on a basket of strawberries that were some of the most perfect-looking berries I’ve seen since I was a wee tyke. Not only did they look perfect, they smelled perfect – like strawberries that wanted to be eaten right this moment.

The two-pound box went right into the basket.

I could have just hulled them and eaten them out-of-hand, but that wouldn’t be me. My modus operandi is to take the healthiest thing I can find and add whipping cream.

It’s an art. What can I say?

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And add whipping cream, I did. And a bit of booze, because… well… I can.

Strawberry Pie

crust

  • 1 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 cup cookie crumbs
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup – butter, melted

filling

  • 6 cups quartered hulled strawberries (about 1 1/2 lbs)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup grenadine liqueur

topping

  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp grenadine liqueur

Preheat oven to 350°F.

For crust:

Butter a deep-dish 9″ pie dish. Mix walnuts, cookie crumbs, and sugar in processor and chop until finely ground. Add melted butter and mix until crumbs are evenly coated. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides of prepared pie dish.

Bake crust until set, about 12 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

For filling:

Place 2 1/2 cups strawberries in medium saucepan. Mash strawberries with potato masher until chunky. Add sugar, cornstarch, and grenadine.

Stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils and thickens, about 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl. Cool to room temperature. Stir in remaining 3 1/2 cups strawberries and grated orange peel. Mound filling in crust. Chill pie until cold and set, at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours.

For topping:

Whip cream with a couple tablespoons of sugar and a couple tablespoons of grenadine liqueur until stiff peaks form. Spread over filling. Top with reserved strawberries.

There’s not a lot of liquid for the amount of corn starch, so it gets really, really thick. It will loosen a bit when you stir in the rest of the strawberries after it cools, but you need it really thick to hold together when you slice it.

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Ooey-gooey perfection.

I used some fairly plain Italian cookies we had in the house, but you can use just about anything from vanilla wafers to graham crackers – or even mix it up and go chocolate – maybe even paint the cooled crust with melted chocolate before adding the strawberry filling.

Have fun with it. It’s pie. It won’t be bad no matter what you do!

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