Monday, June 24, 2024

Grandma Pearl Bennett's Mountain Pie

This may not be the most photogenic dessert you've ever seen, but once you scoop a serving from the cast iron pan and taste it, you'll know why this pan of goodness was gone in a flash. The caramelized edges, mixed with the pudding-like center, will have you drooling, especially if you top it with vanilla ice cream.

It's a recipe from my friend Emily, who prepared this dessert as part of a multi-course meal that was the prize awarded at a silent auction benefit for Camp Mason, where Emily's husband Tom serves on the board. Camp Mason is a 460 acre camp and outdoor facility for young people near the Delaware Water Gap and was founded in 1900, making it the third oldest youth camp in the U.S. 
Lucky for my husband and me that our friend Alex was the highest bidder for this delectable prize and that he invited us to join him and his partner Jesse.
The dinner was a Lucullan feast prepared by Emily on their beautiful 50 acre Van Dyke farm in Hopewell, N.J., where they own not only a beautiful house and separate studio, but also a barn that they have transformed into a magical setting for special dinners and parties. 

Before the dinner began, Tom gave us a tour of his organic garden, where he's growing all sorts of vegetables and herbs.

I was flabbergasted to see he was growing agretti, a vegetable I adore and have seen only in Italy. They look similar to chives, but are thicker, and and to me taste similar to lemony Swiss chard.  
 On the property is a corn crib that's more than 100 years old and still in use, but not for corn,
It's where Tom stores the 13 varieties of garlic, 5 varieties of shallots, and another 4 or 5 varieties of onions that he harvests to enjoy all year long.
We kicked off the festivities in the barn with a glass of prosecco:
Then moved to the "dogwood room" -- a leafy canopy of trees where we enjoyed the hors d'ouevres:
Emily had prepared three:
-Spanakopita, made with spinach and mustard greens from the garden and served with a tzatziki sauce:
-Roasted garlic smeared on toasted pita wedges and served with pear jam.
-Caviar and creme fraîche with preserved lemon served in crispy wafer shells.
Back to the barn for the other courses, with a little diversion to hammer out a beat or two on the drums:
Emily appeared with a tray of cold soup, much appreciated on a day when the temperature was in the 90s -- and what a delicious soup it was -- a creamy and mild garlic scape soup, made creamy with potatoes, not cream. Edible nasturtium flowers (also from the garden) decorated the bowls, and piquant papadum crisps were served alongside the soup. Our taste buds were on overdrive.
Next came a gleaming copper pot filled with my favorite course of the night -- lemon fettuccine with agretti, feta cheese and a scattering of pistachios. It made me want to try growing agretti again, something I did years ago to mixed success.
The main course was a riff on salade niçoise - using both jarred (Tonino brand) and fresh tuna, but also boosted with shrimp skewers and cups filled with crab cocktail. The traditional eggs and tomato, along with asparagus and lettuces that also came from their garden, along with miniscule yellow and red pickled peppers, contributed a delicious and colorful touch to the platter.
At this point, we took a pause before dessert and headed up to the treehouse Tom and Emily had built overlooking the garden, the house and the countryside. It was a perfect place to enjoy the sunset, even if I felt a little skittish climbing up with prosecco in hand and wearing a long dress hiked up above my knees. Here's Emily in the corner of her little aerie (where she and Tom sometimes bravely camp out and sleep for the night).
The view as the sun was setting was transcendent from 15 feet off the ground:
But dessert awaited and we descended the treehouse with eager anticipation for the night's sweet ending -- a recipe from Emily's grandmother made with blueberries Tom had picked from the garden earlier in the day. We were all savoring every last morsel, and some of us (not naming names) even went back for seconds.
Nearly five hours later, it was time to say goodnight and head home. We left with full bellies and wonderful memories of a delicious evening spent with good friends and food grown with care and prepared with love. It's an evening we'll be reliving over and over.  

Could it have been any more perfect? Yes, it could have -- and was -- as we were regaled with a full "strawberry moon" on the longest day of the year, completing an already dreamy, delicious evening.

And now you too can also enjoy a little of the magic we felt and tasted with Emily's family recipe for Blueberry Mountain Pie:

Check out Ciao Chow Linda on Instagram here to find out what’s cooking in my kitchen each day (and more).

Grandma Pearl Bennett's Mountain Pie


1 1/2 sticks butter

1 1/2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk

1 1/2 cups fruit - Best fruits to use are strawberry, raspberry or fresh peaches (free-stone Georgia peaches if you can find them). Blueberries must be tempered with a dose of lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon juice. 


Melt the butter in a 10" cast iron pan (cast iron pan is essential in this recipe). The butter should brown slightly around the edges. Set aside.

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Mix in two cups of milk and stir until it looks like semi-smooth pancake batter. Carefully pour batter directly into the center of the butter pan. DO NOT STIR.

Add 1 1/2 cups of fruit into the center of the batter. DO NOT MIX.

Bake in 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. The edges should be caramelized and the center set to pudding texture.

To serve - Use a spoon to scoop a serving from the outside toward the middle and place a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.


  1. What a beautiful account of a midsummer nights feast. You and Ron were the perfect companions as Emily (aka Tatania the queen of the faeries) flitted to and fro in and out of the sparkly lights and flowers. Shakespeare could not have done a better job, even bringing the moon along for flourish. So glad to know you all!

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