Mar 6 • 9M

Jazz pie, crocuses, etc

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Taali
Taali Talk (literally) is the audio version of Taali's popular weekly newsletter. Musings every Sunday from an NYC expat living, baking and singing in Amsterdam. Bonuses include quotes from my grandmothers, feminist theory and cheeky Jewish neuroses.
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Hi, my love.

Having a flare up of (what I think? are?) old tendonitis issues, so trying to scroll/type less this week and keep it brief.

But oh man: The sky has been so blue these past few days. A respite, a respite, a respite, from the endlessly gray Amsterdamian winter we’ve talked about.

Since basically every day in recent memory has been the opposite, I’m not sure I trust this new good weather. So during said respite I’ve been biking whenever I can, like a good Disney character living in this Dutch simulation.

And that is how I learned that the entire city of Amsterdam is flowering right now.

(I mean it!)
(Especially if you have the extreme good fortune of living near Vondelpark!)
(Which I do!)
(Life! is! the best sometimes!)

On one of my bikes home in the Dutch simulation I decided that rather than take my usual route, I would do a full loop around th’ol Vpark.

At the time I was listening to a song on the album that used to be called “Where Do You Fit?”

I’ve since changed it to “Somewhere over Kansas,” because, like a true album written by a Jewess, there were just… too many songs with question mark titles.

(I kept a few, by the way.)
(My definition of “too many” would have been 4! of the 13 songs.)
(Now it’s 3.)

Anyway, anyway, anyway.

I had “Somewhere over Kansas” blaring in the headphones. When the album comes out I’ll tell you more about it because I don’t want to be annoying and use a whole bunch of tendonitis typed words to tell you about a song you can’t yet hear. But for now, to paint a brief picture: It centers around a repetition of the lyric, “Where Do You Fit?”

The melody is pretty fabulous, if I may say so myself, and the track is drenched in v pretty cello parts that I wrote. We ended up keeping the Spitfire audio samples rather than having cellists record them (wild that an audio library can sound that good), and Bender made them sound absurdly cool.

So I’m biking, making sure I still like the mix on “Somewhere over Kansas” fka. “Where Do You Fit?” It’s a comically beautiful day in the simulation. I’m thinking, “It doesn’t really get better than this.”

And then I look to my right, and guess what it does get better, in the form of A SEA of crocuses.

Do you know what a crocus is, by the way? Those perfect little cutie purple flowers that signify spring? I’m not sure if they grow everywhere, but I can now say for sure: They show up in New York and they show up in Amsterdam.

And they signify, almost always, that the dark times are waning.

Growing up the crocus was absolute magic. First the purple, then Passover and then it’s beach time, baby. My dad still sends me a photo of the first one every year.

Speaking of, here’s 2022’s first NY crocus captured by Michael:

Man. That cutie purple hit my nostalgia at its absolute height.

But this week I had to pull the bike over, because I’ve never seen so many in one place. Death by flower nostalgia: A blanket of purple that just took my breath away. The iPhone does it absolutely no justice, but hey, you know I love ya, so I tried anyway.

i live in disney world! does this make me snow white!? jury is out!

Magnificent.

To top off the simulation there was a crew of supremely adorable kids from a nature day camp selling their handmade trinkets by the crocuses. I think it was to benefit the woods or something? Honestly they could have been raising money for anything my honey baby, you KNOW I pulled over and bought so many of their things. Here is a download of my Instagram story to show you my cutie haul.

(It’s too much. It’s too! much!)

The day camp instructor was big on the kids practicing their English with me. This wasn’t a challenge because Holland’s population is alarmingly good at English, so the Dutch kids’ English was better than most American people’s. But they had an adorably difficult time trying to explain my favorite thing I bought, which are those little wooden pendant necklaces.

According to the instructor and the bobis, the character on those wooden pendants is some sort of … nature leprechaun? A magical protector of trees? Hard to say, but one of the kids finally got frustrated and yelled, “YOU KNOW WHO HE IS. OKAY!? THE FOREST MAN WITH THE TRIANGLE HAT.”

So there you have it. He’s… the forest man with the triangle hat. Yes I absolutely could Google him and give you/me more clarity, but I prefer to not and just go with the bobi’s definition of him.

Sigh. It’s been that kind of week. Humanity, flowers, tendonitis, iPhones, etc.

I know iPhones don’t quite fit in that sentence. But they and the whole screen based universe have been top of mind, because I watched The Social Dilemma again with José last night.

(Have you seen it yet?!)
(I wrote to you about it a while back after watching it on a plane.)
(It wrecked me then.)

It kind of did this time, too, but I feel a lot better about it on the second watch. The documentary involves a fuck ton of former engineers from the top social media companies more or less admitting to messing with our brains and lives like creepy profit driven marionette operators. They are the good kind of former profit driven marionette operators though, and have realized this is really bad for … just about everything on earth.

They give valuable, essential information (v brave! i don’t know how they’re not getting sued!) and some suggestions for how to move forward.

The first time I watched it I just felt flabbergasted. It put so many issues I had into perspective.

It explained the soul crushing frustration I’ve felt at watching friends, relatives and acquaintances start fervently believing (and spewing!) ideas that felt absolutely ridiculous and foreign to me. Wherever you stand, you might know what I mean: Over the past decade I’ve watched people I care about become increasingly racist, conspiracy driven and polarized. Each time I speak to them I leave deflated, feeling there’s no point because they seem to live in an entirely different universe than me.
(Spoiler alert! They do! It’s a different screen world! And they feel the same about me!)

It explained the very cause of this tendonitis plaguing my poor currently stiff forearm. Put into perspective the angst, paranoia and loss of time I experience, as someone with addictive tendencies no less, when it comes to these little screens.
(Spoiler alert! This is by design! And, if you can imagine [oh! no!] it is somehow much worse than you think!)

And it explained this past few years, so well. The way that I, by defense, have made my world so small.
(Spoiler alert! This was kind of the right choice.)

The first time I watched it I was crestfallen. I could see how much of my life I had lost to this shit, and I was sleepy and sad thinking about it.

This time around, though, I felt empowered. Wanna know why?

Because of THIS, my love.

Because on November 15, 2020 I decided that all this was nonsense. I posted a picture of my Savta and thought, “There has to be a better way to connect and talk to people than Instagram. There just … has to be.”

I made this newsletter, and you all subscribed. And over time I have gained many, many more members of my little famil-ee.

In the year and a half since (!) this here ttalk has become a really fabulous safe space for me. I’m so grateful you’re here. Do you know what this means, after watching that harrowing documentary?! This means you are very special! Very very special! Because you have read and/or listened to this entire fucking thing.

And that is so, so, so cool. Thanks for bucking the system with me, one tendonitis word at a time.

To that end, if you do follow me over on the hellscape that is Instagram, you know that this week I made something magnificent. Girl if I didn’t do my very best work this week.

That, my frond, is a strawberry lemon basil pie.

And if you’re thinking, “that sounds interesting,” you are correct. Because I MADE THAT SHIT UP.

Yes, I bucked my exclusive devotion to Petee’s Pie recipes this week, and went full on jazz-improv-pie.

I made it up for my bobi Tete, who we have spoken about a few times on these here t-talks. She is one of the very few people I know who drains zero percent of my energy, who I could talk to for hours on end.

And she is also the greatest lady on earth. Last week I learned that the greatest lady on earth actually prefers fresh and sweet desserts.

She didn’t say it in a cutting way or anything, because she is the greatest lady on earth. I was just trying to figure out what birthday cake to make her. But my exploration led me to realize that the weekly Shabbat pies I have been making have not been exactly what my queen might like to consume.

So I got to work. I thought about flavors. Perhaps… a pineapple pie?! Passionfruit?!

I landed on strawberries and basil, thinking about spring and the pretty crocuses of the week. But I am me, after all, so I wasn’t going to go into my first jazz pie blind. I went into true taali hyperfocus, watching about 20 videos on the chemistry of strawberries, debating on different starches, crossing my fingers and finally getting to work.

In the end I came up with the below, and like I promised, am including the recipe as a PS.

Side bar: Writing this recipe was enormously hard (I have new respect for cookbook writers?!) so I’m making a play: If you are considering using this recipe and read these every week, might I ask you to become a paid subscriber? If you’re new or are already an email subscriber, you can convert by clicking the below button, adding your email and choosing a monthly subscription amount of $5/month. Either way no pressure, and happy pie making!

upgrade to paid subscriber

If you’re a baker, there’s more to this ttalk below (!) If not, I love you a lot.

More next week.
t

Taali’s strawberry lemon basil jazz pie

Filling:

900 grams fresh strawberries, quartered
10 grams basil leaves, stems removed (which, for my American bobis, is between 1/4 and 1/3 cup)
125 grams sugar
zest of 1 lemon
6 tbsp tapioca starch
1/8 tsp table salt

Crust:

Petee’s Butter Pastry Dough (from Pie For Everyone):

1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 tablespoons salt
60 ml boiling water
180 g pastry flour, from the freezer
80 g all purpose flour, from the freezer
(side bar! I use all french flour from Bake Labs because Holland doesn’t do pastry flour, it works fine)
225g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch (12-mm) pieces

Egg wash:

1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
A dash of milk

Note: You can go one of two ways on the crust. If you are not experienced in pie crust, may I please recommend this EPIC workhorse of a crust instead of the above. It will come out delicious and it will not potentially ruin your life in the process.

But if you are experienced (this shit took me a year to perfect) and are feeling like rolling the dice and either ruining your life or having the most bomb delicious crust you’ve ever eaten, may I please suggest use Petee’s Pie recipe that I included. Okay let’s get back to this.

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425, or 220 in celsius.

Step 2: Make the pie crust!

  1. Stir the sugar, salt and water together until the sugar and salt are fully dissolved. Then place this in the freezer - this needs to be ice cold before you add it to the dough.

  2. Also freeze your flour. Cold! Cold! Cold! Everybody has to be cold, okay!?

  3. Once everyone is v freezing, put the flour in a large bowl and dump the butter chunks in. Toss to coat each piece of butter in the flour. Then work quickly. Squeeze each piece of butter between your thumb and index fingers into a thin sheet. Shake em up, make them fronds.

  4. Sprinkle the ice cold water onto all of it.

  5. Use your fingers to shake it all around and disperse the liquid.

  6. Squeeze the shaggy mess (Petee’s words!) with your fists repeatedly and quickly until the chunks get bigger and more cohesive.

  7. Important: At first it’ll feel crumbly and like it won’t come together. Keep pushing! You can do this! Don’t overmix, but don’t stop too early: You want to get it to the point where it can make a ball. Then cut that in two, refrigerate for half an hour, and roll out one crimped bottom crust and one that you cut into lattice. Instructions on bottom crust here and lattice crust here.

Step 3: Make the filling!

You ready for the jazz, my love!?

Let’s do this.

  1. Throw the basil into a food processor and pulverize the fuck out of it.

  2. Put the sugar in, and get ready for the greatest thing you’ve ever experienced in your life: Basil sugar. This was a revelation that I will never get over, it doesn’t take more than two pulses or so to get there.

  3. Drop all of this into a big ol’ bowl and mix it up with the tapioca starch so that everyone is fronds.

  4. Add the lemon zest

  5. Add the strawberries. Stir everyone together. The filling will start to get soupy - keep going while it does! This is what you’re looking for.

  6. Scoop that whole splendiferous jazz mess into your bottom pie crust. Use a rubber spatula here to get every last drop of the basil lemon strawberry perfection.

  7. Top it with the lattice (instructions on that in the link above or just anywhere on the interwebs), and brush it with the egg wash. Sprinkle some turbinado sugar on there to make it brown if you’re feeling realllly fancee.

Step 4: Bake this noise!

  1. Put the finished pie on a baking sheet so that you can catch any drops or crust falls.

  2. Put it in the oven and bake it at 425 for 15 minutes, then reduce to 375 farenheit/190 celsius and bake for 40 minutes more. This is key, my love: I need you to let that filling bubble for a while. Before you even THINK about taking it out it needs to have been bubbling for a good 10 minutes, okay!?

  3. Take it out. Cool it. Really! cool tf out of it. 3-4 hours at least.

Step 5: Eat the pie and thank me forever

  1. Take out your fork… just kidding.

  2. But in all seriousness if you make this jazz pie, pls post a comment on the ttalk with a picture! It will make me so happy!