Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Life is just a bowl of cherries...

Ten years ago, almost to the day, Charlie and I clutched the dimpled paws of our baby girl as we marched her off to her first day of Kindergarten. I can still remember the nostalgic scent of white paste and construction paper wafting out the door into the warm morning air as we entered the Lilliputian world that would be Carly's first classroom.

She lost her first tooth, and made her first friend that year.

Today, I dropped Carly off at her first day of high school. Funny. I don't really remember shedding a tear the day we left Carly at Miss Woodman's door ten years ago. But today, I cried like a baby as I pulled away from the front steps of Carly's new home-away-from home for the next four years (and my Alma Mater). Yes, I am ten years older and my hormones (as well as some other things) aren't quite as balanced as they used to be, but I think it's more than that...perhaps.

As Carly bopped eagerly out of the car, bid Willy and me a hasty "bye" and ran off into her new world, a flush of excitement washed over my body in a wave of tiny electric sparkles.  Like the powdery pop of one of those old-time photographer's flashes, a million images fired through my brain: lockers, classrooms, teachers, guys, tests, rallies, football games...friends.  Friends! That was it. That was what I was most excited about: the new relationships Carly gets to explore as she navigates her way from the placid pond that was 8th grade into the high seas of high school life.

Almost 30 years later and we're still whining and dining...

So, yes, I did compose myself and luckily made my way out of the rat maze of a parking lot without completely exposing myself as a rookie parent.  I came home, plopped down in front of my computer and, just like any other day, watched a flood of emails populate my in-box. But it really wasn't any other day. Something changed.

Instead of scoffing at yet another Costco mattress event special offer or dreading the inevitable slew of mundane to-dos that would come, I smiled as I watched a parade of my friends stop into my in-box to say hi. Costco, your special offer is going to have to wait...I'm pouring myself another cup of coffee and stopping to chat.

Carol, wants to know if we've picked a hotel yet for our second Las Vegas high school girls get-away. "This time we're not sharing a double bed!"

Check out our Cindy Brady pig tails. I think mine were a little springier than Carol's

Amy, my "first house" best-neighbor-friend, wants to see if I am free to work with her at an upcoming non-profit event she is planning. "Yes...it's the only way I get to see you!"

On her way home from the hospital, two days after she was born, Carly (we were there too!) stopped at Amy's house first! They have been pals ever since...

Kathy, my "second house" best-neighbor-friend wrote on my Facebook wall that her oldest daughter is off to Davis. "Go Aggies!"

Onnie and Suz (my sorority/surrogate sisters) want to know when we can celebrate summer birthdays. Maybe by Christmas...but let's keep trying!

Paula, my bawdy buddy mom from Carly's grammar school class emailed to coordinate the next time we can take our shared boat out. "Can summer be almost over already?"

We may not be on the boat, but picking roses amongst the grape vines ain't so bad either...

Someone's at the door...it's Laura, "my third house" best-neighbor-friend here to pick up some hand-me-downs and return a Tupperware. "Can you pick up Will from camp?"

Back to email...Cynthia, my oldest friend from college, wanted to say thanks for dinner the other night (more on that later).

Here is one of the first desserts I made for her...!

Oh, and Lizzie, my first college roommate emailed today from NY too...no wait, that's her old address that I know not to open (it's usually a pirated, virus-filled spam touting male enhancement products)..."Lizzie, that email's gotta go!"

Anyway, you get the picture...so to speak. Somewhere along the line, after years of school, and roommates, and new homes, and kids, my big fat cherry bowl of life got filled with friends, each one juicier than the next. So here's to you...my friends. You make my life delicious and I love you.  And to you, my Carly, may your bowl runneth over.

Back to Cynthia. What a treat to have her to dinner the other night. After years of travelling the globe, she's back in town to stay for a while...so I did what I do... I made her a cherry pie. It's a little different than your run-of-the mill cherry pie but Cynthia's a little different than your run-of-the mill kind of friend...so here you go!

Start with my two favorite ingredients.

Add a couple of egg yolks.

Add the dry stuff and mix till it looks like this.

Press half of  the dough into your tart pan.

Then, roll out your other half of dough.

Chill your dough while you prepare your cherries.  I don't have a cherry pitter so Carly and I improvised by poking through each berry with a plastic chopstick...

...worked great but it was a mess. Nothin' wrong with that!

Pour your prepared cherries into the chilled tart shell.

Cover with the chilled dough disc then sprinkle with sugar. Nothin' wrong with that either!

Bake it baby. Here's what it looks like before being sliced to pieces. I think the bubbly, pitted crust is so cool in an alien, surface-of-the-moon sort of way.

Cherry Tart with a Cornmeal Crust

Beat with a mixer on medium speed until smooth:
  • 1 cup butter at room temp.
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup sugar
Stir in until well-blended:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
Divide the dough in half. press one portion into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch fluted tart pan with removable rim.  Place the other half on a sheet of waxed paper and roll out with a floured rolling pin into a 10-inch round. Slide onto a baking sheet and chill with the shell at least 1/2 hour or more until firm.

Mix in another bowl and let stand at least 10 minutes:
  • 1 1/2 lbs. clean pitted cherries (this is the only cherry pie I've ever seen that didn't use the sour cherries that we can't get easily here on the west coast)!
  • 2 Tbs. quick cooking tapioca
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
Pour into your chilled shell and spread evenly. Place chilled round over the tart and press the edges to seal with the shell, trimming off any excess.  Sprinkle with a bit of sugar for extra sparkle and crunch.

Place tart on a baking sheet and bake on the lower rack at 375, rotating once half way through, until golden brown (about 35-40 minutes).

Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream (how about lemon buttermilk?). Serves about 8.