Tag Archives: artists

Pie-O-Rama with Trang


Apple Pies and Tart 009A wealth of apples has yielded a shelf full of apple sauce,  a freezer box of more apple sauce, dried apples that vanished faster than I could stash them in the pantry, a miserable attempt to can apple pie filling, and lastly, today’s Pie-O-Rama:  one tart, two crumb-topped pies, and one double crust apple pie deluxe.  No, I have not run out of apples, so this may not be the season’s final apple post…

Scheduled as a team event with three aspiring cooks disguised as foreign exchange students, it became a simple apprenticeship with one student, Trang.  At home in the kitchen but new to American cuisine, she was eager to learn all about pies, translating the recipes in her mind to what her Viet Nam coffee shop might be able to duplicate.  (So sad to hear that apples were out of reach—too expensive to import.  She would have to manage with mango or papaya—oh, the sacrifices an artist must make !)

Apple Pies and Tart 001
apple butter
apple rings
apple rings

I began early with an apple tart   loosely based on Martha Stewart’s recipe (Pies and Tarts, 1985).  I found a rectangular tart pan hiding on the shelf above the washer and a jar of apple butter from last season in the freezer. Also, I snaked a jar of cherries in their own syrup from the back of the fridge (gift from a friend)—the syrup  would make a great finish to the baked  tart!

The food processor allowed me to whip up a double crust recipe (Pate Brise, Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts), and then wrap and rest /refrigerate the two discs of dough before rolling out one for the tart. After lining the crust into the tart pan, I warmed the apple butter just enough to melt a tablespoon of added butter, then spread it over the bottom of the crust.  I selected the rosiest apples, skins on for added color, sliced them thinly (about ¼ “) and spread them in an alternating pattern on top of the apple butter.

tart goes in the oven
tart goes in the oven

Dusted them with granulated sugar. Then into the oven.  After 40 minutes, I pulled the tart out and brushed on a light layer of cherry syrup just to keep the apples moist and to add a little tartness.  Voila!  A very beautiful display of yummy appleness!



Apple Pies and Tart 005
add the enrichment–butter!

Trang arrived in time to begin the second round of crusts which we stowed in the fridge while we prepared the crumb topping.  I selected a gluten-free topping because of the nuts–I’m not averse to a bit of nutrition in my desserts as long as it doesn’t compromise the flavor. So we used almond flour, chopped pecans, oats, browns sugar, and a few tablespoons of butter.  Trang learned just how much they might affect her mix—the butter bits started to glom together into a single crumb–but we were quick to set the mix aside until we needed to use it.

Apple Pies and Tart 004
pecans, almond flour, and sugar
Apple Pies and Tart 006
warm hands can be troublesome…


Then we took the crusts out of the fridge and began to process the apples.

Apple Pies and Tart 012
right tool for the job–
Apple Pies and Tart 017
imagine: a hole for your thumb!

I cored as she peeled and  we continued to peel and slice until we had enough for two pies—I had to add a couple more apples to be sure there were enough; I like a heaping pie of apples!  We added a couple tablespoons of sugar, some lemon juice, and cinnamon, to each of our bowls of apples.  Then it was time to roll out the dough.  I want to mention that it was very useful for me to model what Trang was to do, just before she needed to do it—riding in tandem without the bike!  We took pics to record the process so she could share it with her friends.

Apple Pies and Tart 028
are you sure this is going to be round?
Apple Pies and Tart 022
heaping pile of apples–yum

The dough for the crusts was easy to handle, thank goodness.  I told her I have cried over pie crusts before, but that was a long time ago before America’s Test Kitchens and food processors.  Meanwhile, we checked the thickness at different edges and made adjustments.  Pie plates were lined and filled with apples.  Time for the crumb.

I reminded Trang that when the apples bake, they will sink a bit which will allow the topping to cover more efficiently; her larger crumb will come right in the oven.

Apple Pies and Tart 023
crumb goes on the pie–
Apple Pies and Tart 026
not on the counter!

We topped both pies and put them in to bake.  Very satisfying so far!

Our final endeavor was to make a two crust pie, Ken’s preference.  This time, after coring, peeling, and slicing three varieties of apples, we added a couple tablespoons of agave, a teaspoon of cinnamon, and two tablespoons of butter bits.  I rolled out the bottom crust and filled the pie.  Trang rolled out the top crust and together we applied it, folded and fluted the edges, vented the top with slits, and put it in the oven just as the other two pies were coming out.  The house was filled with the most wonderful aroma!

Apple Pies and Tart 033
I did it, Mom!–a picture to send home

Apple Pies and Tart 032

Clock was ticking and tummies were rumbling, so Ken and I scrounged for some lunch nibbles—he even shared his Alaska reindeer sausage—we ate leftover roasted rosemary green beans and carrots, yesterday’s baked salmon, some sweet potato crackers, and raspberries thick as my thumb,(as an aside, if you can imagine!   And aren’t leftovers wonderful?!)  It was not so much that we didn’t dare to have dessert before the meal as that we were waiting on another friend, a tart baker in her own right, and didn’t want to slice the tart without her.


mine, all mine…not!

Party in full assembly, the tart consumption was an event laden with superlatives.  Will I ever be able to duplicate the apple butter or the perfectly tender crust?  It was a great closing to a very active morning in the kitchen.  Trang took one crumb pie home; I will take the other to another connoisseur later this afternoon.  Pie-O-Rama, indeed!  So much more fun with an adept apprentice! 

An Eddy of Creative Fervor: Two Movies and a Book

Introduction (links and photos coming soon)

I am basking in a wave of satisfaction, having just watched the Red Box movie, Authors Anonymous; completed reading Michener’s The Novel; and visited the Darkside Theater to see Words and Pictures with Juliet Binoche and Oliver Kline.  I like all this stuff of the creative life swirling around in my consciousness.  I remind myself that, although I am not writing much this week, I am nourishing my creative life which can only help me to better do my work.

Authors Anonymous Overview

Untitled design (2)The tongue-in-cheek comedy of Authors Anonymous explores the dynamics of a writing group when the seemingly least likely member lands an agent, a publisher, and movie rights in quick succession.  Jealousy rages as the remaining members reexamine their commitment to their art and the ego that stymies or propels them forward.  This is a very funny romp but not so far from the truth.  Not a BIG movie, but entertaining and insightful for those of us who strive to live by the pen.

My Takeaway

Surely my writing groups would love this!   I don’t mean to suggest that our circles are all about competition, but consciously or not, we are modeling for each other the progress and pitfalls of the writing life, and this is a good thing.  We mimic each other in the sense that we internalize each other’s voices like friendly angels leaning over the keyboard to coax and coach us along.

And some weeks, we don’t seem to accomplish very much.  A couple people cancel.  No one has pages.  Then we can look like a bunch of posers who are pretending to be writers, but that’s just an impression, not the truth.  The truth is that we have demanding lives that enrich our writing and keep us honest.  We cannot shirk our responsibility to live those lives fully.

The  Novel  Overview

Michener has divided the book by role:  writer, editor, critic, and reader.  He reveals to us through each voice (and personality) the path of intellectual development that leads the person to his chosen profession, the personal and professional pitfalls, and the overlapping concerns of a small publishing house, an editor, her writers, (including the critic), and the reader who comes to embrace all of them.

My Takeaway

The author gives the reader a great education regarding the publishing business, though technologically dated, (copyright 1991); publishing is a rapidly evolving enterprise, even within the novel.

Yes, I enjoyed the descriptions of the Pennsylvania Dutch, the small prep school, and the New York publishing house, as well as the tragedy that unfolded and the twists and turns of each person’s life; Michener is a masterful storyteller. But being a story about books and book writing is an especially big draw for me.  (Remember Elizabeth Kostova’s, The Historian?  Umberto Ecco’s, The Name of the Rose?)

This book was nourishing in several ways:  good storytelling, excellent content that directly relates to the writing life, and a peek into the mind of an editor which is a role I am eager to study.

Words and Pictures Overview

This is a movie about two teachers in a high-achieving prep school who challenge one another to prove the supremacy of their art, one above the other, words versus pictures.  It is really just a ruse to get both of them and their students motivated, to push them out of their comfort zones.  The personalities are both charming and difficult—the writer is a drunk and the painter is beleaguered with rheumatoid arthritis.

My Takeaway

The fire to create is central.  It is very exciting to see their creative processes on the screen.  In watching the writer pitted against the painter, I saw my own internal dialogue come to life.  Well, it isn’t so much a dialogue as the multiplicity of artistic expression.  I want to reclaim my brushes and palette, and I’m not speaking in metaphor. This movie left me itching to paint.  I want to hold a big fat brush loaded with paint, like Juliet Binoche, (yes, she really is a painter who paints in this movie!), and twirl around on my swivel chair across a broad canvas.  What a yummy thought.  This could be the summer that I revisit my stash of paints—I said that out loud?  So be it.

In addition, I appreciated the conclusion as the two artists come into alignment.  Romance, yes, but more than that, they both value what the other has to offer, painter and poet.  That gives me a quiet thrill.


All three of these sources of inspiration honored the writing/creative life, even the spoof.  It is validating to realize that the creative life is a subject in contemporary literature and film.  We are not talking about da Vinci, but just us regular folk who do what we are compelled to do which is to create.  And we struggle to get it right because it is an opportunity to communicate something essential or profound.  Many of us are lucky enough or wise enough to surround ourselves with a community of writers/artists for support . (I include the artists we meet on the page or the screen.) This is the life.