So far as I can tell, it's a very cheerful city. I spent six whole days there—visiting a friend with another friend in tow—and it was sunny every one. We took the ferry out to Bainbridge Island, rented bikes and found our way to the beach, and spent the ride back shaking sand from our pants. We ate mortadella on warm, toasted buns with onion jam above Pike's Place Market, drank hot tea with fresh baguette on top of Rattlesnake Mountain, and kayaked around Union Bay with our t-shirts on.
We rang in my 24th birthday with nachos and shrimp tacos and salt-rimmed margaritas, and arrived home to find five red roses from the Fishmonger on my friend's apartment steps. We wore our flip-flops from shop to shop, tried on expensive dresses downtown, and got a coffee at the very first Starbucks at the corner of Virginia and Pike.
It did rain once, but that was the night of a book party for six of the city's food writers, and we were inside in the audience drinking red wine and devouring paella. We could hardly mind on an evening like that.
In fact, the only flaw Seattle has so far as I can tell, is that it is a very, very difficult place to come home from. Between the time difference and the overnight flying and the sudden disappearance of acceptable coffee, it has me walking around like some sort of sleepless dead. Or rather, it did, until I realized the rhubarb was in.
Driving down Route 6, I saw the tractor set up with a cooler full of stalks and a neat printed sign: F-R-E-S-H R-H-U-B-A-R-B. I had to pinch myself at first, to be sure it had really arrived, but when I picked up the pink, satin bundle, handed over my five dollars, and untied the twine, I couldn't help but do a little dance.
Then I rushed home to bake a pie.
It came out perfectly—whether because of the egg in the filling or the milk and sugar I brushed on top, I really don't know. Either way, it woke me up right away. I forgave Seattle for the jet-lag, took a shower, and brewed a pot of tea.
Because after all, coffee and cities are nice. But between the rhubarb and the ice cream, home is just as good.
I bought the rhubarb for this pie from a friend, Jim Rose, who sells it from a very cute little tractor in his front yard. He only puts it out on sunny days, across from the Post Office on Route 6 in Wellfleet. The stalks go for $2.50 a pound.
Jim is also the one who told me the secret about using eggs. Adding a few to the filling makes the pie much less runny, and forms a nice sort of custardy layer around the fruit. I like to use the "Tart and Pie Crust" recipe from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food, but if you have a different favorite, feel free to use that.
Also, I bake my pies in a 12-inch Emile Henry plate that my sister gave me as a graduation present, so this recipe makes a lot more filling than you'd need for a 9-inch plate. I'd cut everything by a third if your plate is small.
6 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
3 cups granulated sugar
1 and 1/2 cups flour
3 eggs, whisked together
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, stir together rhubarb, sugar, and flour. Add the eggs, mix well, and spoon the mixture into a 12-inch pie plate draped with a bottom crust. Place a top crust over the fruit and working your way around the edge of the pie, pinch the two crusts together. Roll them over into a thick edge and press the dough against the lip of the plate. Once you’ve made your way around, use a knife to cut several slits in a radial pattern in the top of the crust.
Brush the crust with a paste of equal parts milk or cream and granulated sugar. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 degrees F and bake for another 20, or until the filling has set. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.