the essential northwest pie: blueberry and peach

lavender peach blueberry pie

The Northwest is home to many delicious fruits. Every summer we’re blessed with abundant yields of locally grown fruits, including peaches and blueberries. (Georgia may be the Peach State, but we hold our own here in Washington.) We are now entering the peak peach season, when it’s easy to find premium-quality fruits, even at the supermarket.

Last September, one of my husband’s colleagues gave us about 10 pounds of ripe golden peaches that he had just picked in an orchard. Those were the best peaches I had ever had: fresh, juicy and so intensively flavorful. The only inconvenience? The fruits don’t keep very long in the hot summer weather. So we took to canning — heating up our already warm kitchen filling jar after jar with peach jam and peach salsa.

peach & blueberry pie

Peach and blueberry is one of my favorite fruit combinations: The two flavors greatly complement each other, and the fruits look great together. Somehow, they just capture the fragrance and feel of summer. My go-to breakfast is a handful of blueberries, a sliced peach and a spoon of cottage cheese. Sprinkle some crushed walnuts on top and enjoy! I’m also a big fan of blueberry peach crumbles, pancakes, cobblers… But surprisingly enough, I had never made a pie. It was high time to give it a try. Nothing celebrates summer as much as a fruit pie.

fruits pie

A pie, yes, but with a twist: No double crust for my pie. I had something more subtle and delicate in mind, something that would enhance the flavors of the fruits rather than overpower them with a buttery crust: a crumb streusel with lemon zest and lavender buds (from my harvest session in Sequim few weeks ago). Just enough to add some layers to the taste of the pie without detracting from the sweetness of the peaches and the floral perfume of the blueberries. A true Northwestern pie with locally grown peaches, blueberries and lavender. All the flavors get a chance to shine and it makes a beautifully perfumed combination.

uncooked pie

The key to a delicious pie depends on the quality of the fruits you use — ripe but not too soft, sweet with a balanced tanginess — as much as on the consistency of the crust: Never settle for anything less than light and flaky. In a previous attempt, this pie gave me some trouble with the crust being too soggy and the blueberries turning into a soup. I finally nailed it after choosing to pre-bake my crust and add a little cornstarch to the blueberries to thicken their juices. (Note to self: Shortcuts are never good when baking.)

fruits pie with crumb topping

As for the final product, it’s definitely a keeper. The crust is nicely flaky and lemony, the crumb topping is light and airy which really allows the fruits to shine. This must be the taste of sunshine.

Blueberry, peach and lavender pie

yields one 9-inch pie


For the crust (with a zing)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • a pinch table salt
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, very cold and diced

For the filling and crumb topping

  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of the fruits)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lavender buds
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 3 ripe peaches
  • 1 cup of fresh blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

For the lemony crust

Pour the water in a cup and add a few ice cubes. Keep aside. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Add the dices of very cold butter and, using a pastry blender (or your fingers), work the mixture for few minutes, redistributing it as you go so that everything is worked more or less evenly. Stop when the butter pieces are the size of small peas. Don’t worry if there are still some bigger chunks of butter. You actually want them to improve the flakiness of your crust.

Drizzle about 1/4 cup of cold water over the mixture and gather the dough together with a spatula. Add more water if necessary, one tablespoon at a time. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead it gently. Wrap in plastic and chill dough in the fridge for at least one hour (and up to two days).

Butter and flour your pie tin. Roll dough on a lightly floured surface and transfer to pie tin, gently pressing dough onto bottom and sides up of the dish. Pierce the bottom of the crust with a fork and place in the fridge until firm, at least 30 minutes. Trust me, the colder the better. It will help the crust keeps its shape and size while baking.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line crust with foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights (or rice). Place the pie tin in the middle of the oven, on a baking sheet and bake until crust is set, about 20 minutes. Carefully remove parchment and pie weights and put the crust back in the oven for another 12 minutes, until crust is pale golden. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

For the filling and crumb topping

Mix together flour, sugar, lemon zest and lavender buds in a small bowl. Using the pastry blender (or your fingers), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Set aside.

To peel the peaches, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare a large bowl of ice water. Using a sharp knife, cut a small “X” through the skin at the base of each peach. Put the peaches in the boiling water and blanch them for about 40 seconds. Transfer the blanched peaches to the bowl of ice water with a slotted spoon. Let them cool for about 1 minute and then drain the peaches and pat them dry. The skin should easily pull away. Halve the peaches, remove the pits and set aside.

Toss gently blueberries and cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside.

Sprinkle a third to half of the crumbs in the bottom of the pie shell (to absorb the juices). Place the peach halves face-down in the crust and spread the blueberry mixture between them. Drizzle with lemon juice and cover with the remaining crumb topping.

Bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the blueberries are bubbling. Let cool before serving. The crust will be crispy and the filling should not run. Sometimes perfection is as simple as a pie.

One last thing: Do you remember the Presidents of the United States of America (which apparently is a band from Seattle)? Yes?… No?… Well, let me refresh your memory: “Millions of peaches, peaches for me“… It has become just impossible for me to think about peaches without having this song stuck in my head (thanks to the hubby for introducing me to such a monument of American music). I thought I should share it with you. You’re welcome!


the perfect cheese board

Cheese plate

I might be a living cliché but I love cheese. Shocking, isn’t it? A French girl who likes cheese. But it’s true, and I could do an entire meal with only cheese and bread — and wine, of course. I grew up in a family where cheese was valued and where there would never be less than 4 different sorts on the table. Raw-milk was a rule (and I never got sick; I actually think it helped strengthen my immune system).

So try to imagine my fear when I moved to the U.S., the country where it’s possibly easier to buy a gun than real French cheese! At least, that’s what I would have thought from looking at the cheese selection in most supermarkets here. But I was actually surprised to discover that Washington state is home to dozens of artisan cheese makers who use raw milk and that even in the U.S. it’s possible to find unpasteurized cheeses (as long as they’ve been aged for 60 days).

French cheeses

I know that here cheese is generally thought as an appetizer, but in France, cheese is traditionally served between the entree and the dessert — why choose between cheese and dessert when you can have both? It might seem like overdoing it, especially seen from the perspective of health-conscious America, but that’s what has been identified as the French paradox: French people have a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats. Basically, we’re a a nation of butter lovers and cheese eaters who don’t get fat. (Life is unfair, I know.) To be honest, I think it has a lot to do with portion control, self-discipline and avoiding processed food, but that’s another story.

Cheese overload

Creating a cheese platter can be intimidating. Which sorts to choose among all the amazing possibilities? (And believe me, I know about cheese overload: I come from the country where there are more cheeses than there are days in a year.) Here are some tips which I hope will help you to create a delicious platter of cheese.

Be a mixologist! Your aim should be to propose a balanced, complementary range of cheeses. No hard rules but try to mix different textures (soft, semi-soft, soft-ripened, washed-rind, hard, semi-hard, blue), milks (cow, goat, sheep) and flavors (mild to strong). Have enough variety to accommodate all palate types. A good rule of thumb would be: “something old, something new, something stinky and something blue”.

Make it pinteresting! Label your cheese so that your guest know what they are eating: use chalk on a slate board, write on a sheet of brown paper or use a label attached to a toothpick. And if you’re going international, you could even create little flags to indicate the country each cheese is from.

Franco-American cheese plate

Clockwise from the top left: Roquefort, Délices de Bourgogne, Cypress Grove Umboldt Fog, aged gouda, Comté.

Another tip is to think about a theme: How about an Italian cheese plate with antipasti? Or try a “cheese flight” by proposing cheeses within the same category to discover the nuances that differentiate them.

Practice good cheesiquette! Serve the cheeses at room temperature. Take them out of the fridge an hour before serving which will help the flavors and texture to reach their full potential. Unwrap them from their packaging just before serving to prevent them from drying out.

Cheese sample

French cheese plate. Clockwise from the top left: Petit Basque, Comté, Roquefort, Boursin, Pavé d’Affinois.

It is traditionally recommended to arrange your plate so that cheeses are displayed clockwise from the milder to the stronger. I tend to follow my own instincts and associate them by shapes or colors, depending on my very subjective desires.

Cut the first slice of each cheese so that your guests don’t feel intimidated. Cut round and square cheeses in wedges, and rectangular ones into slices. Each cheese should have its own knife.

Befriend your cheesemonger. Have a good relationship with your cheesemonger. They can do wonders and will be happy to advise you and let you sample! Some places where I’ve found a good variety of cheese: Trader Joe’s and Murray’s. If you happen to live in an area where you can find good local cheeses, try to incorporate them. Farmer’s markets are often a good place to discover them. In Seattle, we’re lucky to have local creameries such as Beecher’s and Port Townsend Creamery, specialty stores like DeLaurenti, Big John’s pfi and the Calf & Kid, and all those amazing farmer’s markets. 

Pick your pairings. Again, there is no “rule”, but here are some guidelines to make the most of your wine and cheese. An easy way is to let the “terroir” speak by serving wine and cheeses from the same region. 

Wine bottles

I know it might seem counterintuitive, and for some even blasphemous, but white wines are usually easier to pair with cheeses than red wines. Try to pick a fruity or buttery white wine with limited acidity, like a Sauvignon Blanc or a Riesling, but avoid Chardonnay (its oaky taste often overpowers the taste of the cheese). If you’re going red, the lighter and fruiter the wine, the easier it is to find a match. Try to pair a Sangiovese with mozzarella or provolone or a Rioja with havarti. Aged cheeses go generally well with older, earthier and more tannic red wines such as Zinfandel, Syrah or Merlot, and light cheeses with light wine: Fresh goat cheese is delicious with a glass of Sancerre or Pinot Gris. Finally, don’t forget dessert wines with your cheese; they make fantastic companions! Enjoy your brie with Muscat, a sharp cheddar with Gewürztraminer or Stilton with Port wine. If you’re feeling lost, Murray’s has a good pairing section on their site.

Nibbles, nibbles, nibbles… It’s a good idea to offer some accompaniments alongside your cheese, but don’t forget that cheese is the star of the show here. You don’t want to overpower it with stronger flavors. Instead, find tidbits that will enhance its aroma.


Don’t hesitate to mix sweet and savory: quince paste, jams and chutneys, olives, nuts, marcona almonds, pickles, cornichons, mustard, fennel seeds, fresh fruits (pears, apples, figs, grapes) and dried ones (apricots, dates and figs). In Belgium, when you order some gouda in a café, it is usually served with mustard and celery seeds and makes for the perfect snack. Ossau-Iraty, a cheese made with sheep’s milk from northern Basque country (and one of my all-time favorites), is traditionally eaten with some local black cherry jam.


Offer various kinds of bread: poilâne, walnut bread, rye bread, baguette slices… but if you don’t want your guest to get full too quickly, also propose some crackers. Macrina and Beecher’s have some really good ones (Beecher’s honey hazelnut crackers are delicious). Remember, pressed cheeses don’t really need bread, they’re great on their own.

Another thing that might go well alongside your cheese board is a simple salad. Prepare your vinaigrette ahead of time and toss the salad at the last minute. My mother has the most perfect vinaigrette recipe: She adds minced shallots and few drops of Maggi. No one can resist it and people generally fight to get a second helping.

Be adventurous! Try to go out of your comfort zone. It might look over the hill and smell funny but try it anyway. You might just be that close to falling in love! Same goes for the pairing: Serve blue cheese on gingersnaps or with chopped bitter chocolate. You’ll see, the combination is sublime. Remember, the stinkiest cheeses often aren’t the ones with the strongest taste.

Now you’re ready to put together your own cheese plate. Good luck, and keep in mind the secret ingredient: good company. Because the savoring of cheese is an experience to be shared.


have pie will travel

have pie will travel

Looking back to the summer vacations of my youth, I fondly recall the blistering hot days in New England when my mother and I would truck over to the u-pick berry farm and fill our bellies and pails with as many blueberries possible.  Most of the time the berries brought home were consumed by the handful. We enjoyed their perfection as nature intended.

No one complained that the berries weren’t safely nestled in pie crust because my mom never baked pie and we didn’t really know what we were missing. Don’t get me wrong, my mother is one of the best cooks ever. Her lasagna is so good that I can’t order it anywhere else because I’ll only be disappointed. But she’s never been much of a baker. Maybe it’s a sweet or savory thing. Sure, she makes brownies and sweet breads but never pies.

I get nostalgic for those hot summer days of blueberry picking. I miss the quietness of the farm. The scorching sun. Sweat mixing with sunscreen. Dusty feet in sandals. The long stretches of silence as my mother concentrated on picking out the best berries and I concentrated on stealthly eating more berries than the number that ended up in my pail. And consequently, my mother scolding me for eating too many berries.

Sure, I could drive up to the u-pick berry farms north of Seattle. But it wouldn’t be the same. Who would advise me not to eat all those blueberries? Gosh, I might not return with any… just a belly full of berries. And lately, I’ve been busy so it’s easier to run over to the traveling farmer’s market and pick up a few pints. As July runs out of days in the month it dawned on me that most of the berries purchased have been eaten by the handful. No berries have been safely nestled in pie crust. As a person who loves to bake, this feels almost criminal!

I know – I said I’d cool it on the baking for a little while but let’s be honest here, it was only a matter of time before I broke down and returned to the kitchen. (Must. Bake. Pie.) Plus, my hubby and I were getting ready for a road trip to Bend, OR (for yet, another wedding!) and I nominated myself to take care of the sustenance. The idea of a summertime road trip just beckons for a little picnic. And what picnic could ever be complete without something sweet? This road trip would be the perfect opportunity to try out blueberry pocket pies.

They are simple to make and super portable. All you need is love… and these ingredients:

all you need

Blueberry pocket pies

Yields 6 pocket pies


  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • pie dough – insert your favorite recipe (I use a butter and shortening dough recipe)

Pre-heat the oven to 400°.

Mix the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt in a medium mixing bowl. To reduce trauma to the berries, simply mix by hand.

When the oven is just about done preheating, begin to roll out the dough. It was hot in my kitchen so I needed to return the dough to the refrigerator several times to keep the dough cold.

Once the dough is rolled out into a long thin sheet, divide it in half and then into thirds. Then scoop berries into each section and form into pockets.

A break down of the steps to pocket pie:

step by stepBake the little pies in the oven for 35-40 minutes.

Here is the result of my first batch:

unciviled pocket piesI thought they came out rather uncivilized so I ended up making several batches. In the end… not a single batch looked perfect. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that I kept trying to over-stuff the little squares of dough with too many berries. But oh! The taste was heavenly. The crust was buttery and crumbly and the fruit inside was sweet but not overly sweet. The blueberry flavor remained true with just a zing of lemon. At some point I told my husband that these little pies were “pie-crack.”

pies on a plateWe brought a pair of pies on the road trip to Bend. Between the piping hot coffee and the high I was riding from the pie – it’s a good thing I wasn’t driving.

I’m thinking about trying these out with sweet cherries or maybe a blueberry peach combo. Bridesmaid dresses (and any other fashion for that matter) be damned. I’m back in the kitchen baking and I’m going to enjoy the fruits of summer.

Have a super week!


let’s get crafty… DIY hairclips

hairclips final product

While my husband and I have been attending weddings like weekend warriors – it’s been difficult to justify experiments in the kitchen. Yes, I’m human and can only dance off so many calories (and those bridesmaid dresses are never forgiving are they!?) Truly, it’s a bit necessary give the baking and ice-cream trials a rest.

Combine the wedding eating and drinking extravaganza with the baby bonanza that is erupting among the other half of my friends/family and we have a necessary project. Yes folks, it’s summertime and therefore, appropriate to bring us all back to our summer camp days. Gather ’round the picnic table – we are about to get crafty.

I had an idea of what I wanted to make for all the sweet baby girls that are about to arrive into the world (hair-clips!!) but I didn’t have any of the items necessary. So, I strolled over to the local fabric store, Stitches. They have a fabulous assortment of supplies and I purchased a small amount of ribbons, hair-clips and a few add-ons for about $6. Yes, you read that correct. $6!!! When does anything (let alone anything for a baby girl) cost $6? Almost never.

supplies hairclip project

The rest was easy and fun. I decided to cozy up to our “crafts” table (the table that my husband used as a child to paint his model airplanes), in the event that the project became messy. I plugged in my cheap-o glue gun, found a pair of sharp scissors and got to work.

First, add a tiny dab of glue to the bottom of the tip of the hair-clip. Then, start to wrap the hair-clip with ribbon. Feel free to do a “practice wrap” before you commit to adding glue. Once you feel comfortable moving along, remember that it’s a good idea to add a bit of hot glue as you go. Stick to a system – ie. add a dab of glue on the bottom of the clip every time you wrap the ribbon around. This way the ribbon is secure along the metal clip. If you don’t add the hot glue as you go, the ribbon may slip and slide over time and the silver metal will be exposed.Collage 1 hairclipsCollage 2 hairclipsThat was easy, huh?

I’m pretty sure it took all of 5 minutes. So I made a second one. With pink, of course!

pink hairclipIt’s so simple (and cheap) and truly a thoughtful gift. As you know, I’m always a fan of a homemade gift. And I’m already dreaming up ideas for other barrettes and hairbands that would be super sweet. Big, poofy ribbon roses or sweet pink heart barrettes or we could go in an entirely different direction of whale ribbons for a preppy east coast nautical theme… the possibilities are endless!!!

Since I don’t have a little girl – I had my Lucy dog model the hair-clip. She stayed still just long enough for me to snap a picture. Pretty cute, huh?lucy modellucy modelI think so too!

Good luck and happy crafting!


currently crushing on… all things lavender

Lavender bouquets

It is no secret that I love lavender — whether it’s in the garden or in a floral arrangement or in my food and drink. Lavender simply works everywhere!

So somehow, it’s appropriate that I should be living in the Northwest, site of “North America’s lavender capital”. The Olympic peninsula of Washington state, and more particularly the little city of Sequim (pronounced “Skwim”), is famous for its production of lavender. So famous that each year, during the third weekend of July, a three-day festival celebrating “all things lavender” is organized.


Historically, growing lavender in this region once dominated by dairy farms was not a natural choice, but it’s now a major agribusiness. The climate around Sequim was a determining factor. It is said to be similar to the one of the Provence region in France and it supposedly gets as little rain as Los Angeles. The Olympic Mountains act as a wall and protect the northeastern Olympic Peninsula from the bulk of the rain that moves into the Pacific Northwest. They call it the rain shadow. Let me express my doubts about that. The first time I visited Sequim, it was pouring. The second time, it was only drizzling. This year the expectations are high: I want to finally see Sequim’s sunny side. The weather has been gorgeous in Seattle, and with any luck it’s the same in Sequim.


So today, I’ll be harvesting fresh lavender in the farms and will be on a lavender high for the rest of the weekend. I can already smell the intoxicating perfume of fresh lavender.

Lavender in a basket

The Sequim region during the festival weekend would be a perfect getaway if it weren’t for the crowd. Thousands of people are expected during the festival. My advice: If you’re not interested in the festival activities but just in the market for some fresh lavender, come back the next weekend. Many farms welcome visitors and some even offer bed & breakfast accommodations.

Have a great weekend!


Currently crushing on… liberté!

eiffel tower

Fireworks in Paris – Photo by Flickr user

It’s that time of the year when streets in France turn into blue, white and red, the champagne flows, military forces parade on the Champs Élysées, the café waiters race with their loaded trays,  and people go dancing at firemen’s balls before watching the fireworks. And flags are on full display. It is as patriotic as France can get.  Le 14 juillet, also known anywhere in the Anglo-Saxon world as Bastille Day, is for sure the ultimate French celebration.

Growing up, I never really cared about it. A holiday in the middle of my two-month summer vacation did not make much of a difference. But now that I’m far from my country, thinking about it makes me sort of nostalgic and longing for some French spirit.

tarte aux pommes

A French classic: the tarte aux pommes (apple tart)

If you want to indulge in French lifestyle and catch a glimpse of this holiday, there is a good chance that something is organized not far from where you live. Major cities will have some kind of event. In Seattle, there will be a Bastille Bash in Madison Valley, a day early, on the 13th, and a pétanque tournament on the 14th. Personally, since I’m always looking for an excuse for a soirée, I’ll be throwing a “down with tyranny party”, a commemoration of both the 4th and the 14th of July, to celebrate the glorious liberation of our respective homelands from oppressive and unjust rule. If there is one thing that France and the United States have in common, it’s their revolutionary spirit!

If you feel like celebrating too, here are some ideas:

We’ll be drinking the Liberté cocktail, a mixture of gin and lillet.

There is no specific food tradition associated with the 14 juillet, but here are 10 French classic recipes that will take you to Paris.

A video of the military procession — it is quite long…

No good 14 juillet without playing pétanque.

How to celebrate Bastille Day in Paris.

blue-white-red flowers

Blue, white, red flowers for Bastille Day

Have a great weekend and Vive la France!