This recipe is created for my favorite purple person, an amazing, quirky, and funny blogofriend Melinda of http://www.purpleslobinrecovery.com. I promised her a few months ago to create a purple cake. A while later, I made a purple pie and photographed it (before it was gobbled up!), getting ready to post the recipe. Unfortunately, it took me a few more months to get to it, but fortunately, dear Melinda would not let me dive into a serious guilt trip. She had patience to wait, thus reminding me of an inscription on a photograph my mother had carried with her throughout the war, through horrors and pain.
This old, grainy photo of my mother at the age of 16 had been enlarged and framed. It is the first thing I see when I open my eyes in the morning. Behind her shy smile are five years of hospital stay, more than 80 surgeries, and childhood memories of the world-famous Stolyarsky Specialized Music School of Odessa, a school for gifted children, known as “The Forge of Talents.”
David Oistrakh was one of the shining stars who emerged from “The Forge,” as was his son Igor, as were many other prominent musicians. The founder and visionary, Pyotr Solomonovich Stolyarsky developed unique pedagogic methodology for music instruction started at very early age. Even though Stolyarsky claimed that any child could be taught to play a musical instrument, to be admitted to his school, a three or four-year old had to undergo a rigorous examination and thorough evaluation. But in Odessa, traditionally, all boys played violin and all girls played piano. Thus my mother was admitted to Stolyarsky School’s piano division. Her first recital, at the age of seven, was such a resounding success that her teacher, M. M. Starkova, promised a reward – her own photo. In 1937, professors’ photos were treasured by students. The long-anticipated reward did not materialize until yet another fabulous performance at a recital three years later. Then the war started.
Men were drafted into the army. Women, children, and elderly people, especially Jewish people, who, by now, had heard stories of Kristallnacht and the fate of Polish Jews under German occupation, looked for any means to leave Odessa, a large city with sizable Jewish population. When Odessa surrendered, in October of 1941, about half of its Jews had already been evacuated, among them my 11-year-old mother with her mother and grandmother (my grand- and great-grandmother). The train was bombed. My mother never wished to describe the bodies strewn around, the screams, the stench… She had multiple shrapnel wounds, mostly affecting her left foot and left wrist. Both older family members had not a scratch!
Surgery followed a surgery, over 80 of them, pulling those pieces of shrapnel out one by one. A fighter by nature, my mother immersed herself in books, but never gave up hope for music, imitating piano exercises with her right hand on an army blanket in a hospital bed. Once in a while, she would pull her teacher’s photo from under a pillow and hear Mozart sonata and applause. My grandfather, convalescing after his own wound, went down on his knees to the Chief Surgeon who was about to amputate his only daughter’s foot, “She is a girl, not a soldier, – he cried, – she’ll need to dance, to find a young man, to get married…” The foot was saved, albeit deformed, which had never prevented my mother from dancing up a storm and marrying my father.
The wrist, not as badly deformed as the foot, had not been in danger of being amputated; nonetheless, she didn’t even walk to the new beautiful Stolyarsky School, built after the war. All that was left of the budding brilliant music career was her teacher’s pre-war photo, bearing an inscription “Those who have patience to wait, receive their due rewards.” My mother’s reward was a beautiful family. All her life she had been surrounded by love and respect of those who knew her, and all her life she had excelled in everything she did. I am sure she is smiling down from Heaven at my granddaughter who bears her name, Alisia.
Dearest Melinda, you’ve had so much patience to wait, so now you can grab a package of Graham crackers or a cup of regular rolled oats (I did the latter, to keep it gluten free) and pulse it in a food processor with some non-dairy butter substitute. I use Smart Balance, but feel free to use real butter if you have no issues with dairy products. Press the resulting mass into a pie form. I actually press a second pie form on top to shape the crust. Mist it with oil to sort of glue the crumbs together and give it a nice shine.
Meanwhile, simmer your blueberries and raspberries with agave (I guess you can use maple syrup, but I haven’t tried it, so I am not sure) and a few drops of lemon juice. Keep stirring and squashing the berries until the filling thickens. Let it cool for just a bit and save a teaspoon of liquid. Pour the rest into crust, and bake it for about 10 minutes, just to get the edges nice and crunchy.
Once the pie has cooled sufficiently, cover it with topping. I use non-dairy whipped topping, and to make it purple, I have whisked it with saved berry juice. Both the color and the airy, fluffy texture were just perfect!
Here comes the tricky optional part. Fascinated by what lovely Rozina of https://rozinaspersiankitchen.com calls Brittle Coral Tuile (see her recipe here), I tried to make one and stick it on top of the pie. I also made it with whole wheat, rather than white flour, and added some unsweetened cocoa powder (how could I not?). My experiment was only half-successful: it looked lacy but it wouldn’t stand. Still, I think it seems rather pretty topping a dainty purple pie.
I do hope you make it, Melinda; it’s very easy, very healthy, totally yummy, and it bears your name!
- 1 cup rolled oats or about 5 sheets of Graham crackers
- 1 tablespoon butter or substitute
- 1 pint blueberries or combined blueberries and other berries
- 1/4 cup agave or more to taste
- A few drops of lemon juice to taste
- 1 cup whipped topping
- For Coral Tuile, please refer to Rozina’s recipe above
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Using food processor or blender, pulse oats or crackers with butter or substitute until crumbs come together. Press crumbs into pie form, lightly mist with oil. Put aside.
- Combine berries with agave, bring to boil, reduce heat, simmer, stir constantly while pressing on berries, until thickens. Remove from heat, let cool, reserve 1 teaspoon of liquid.
- Fill crust with the rest of filling, bake for 10 minutes, or until edges brown. Let cool.
- Whisk berry liquid into whipped topping, cover pie with topping, garnish with fresh berries and or Coral Tuile, if desired. Refrigerate until serving.