Making the most of the blackberries

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Yesterday morning, Gavin had laser focus: playing on his tractor, snacking on blackberries and meandering down to the pile of felled pines (his favorite, most exciting play place) were all on the list. But I got stuck on the blackberries. And since I only have a few weeks each year to obsess over them (plus that wonderful time in winter when we pull a few bags out of the freezer) I figure I can get away with that. So when we came in from our playing and berrying expedition, it was time to put the harvest to use.

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I think it took less than an hour to piece together these little wonders (including crust-making time) so don’t be put off by their daintiness and tininess!

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Blackberry Hand Pies (makes about 28)

Crust:

2 C. Flour (I used whole wheat and it was fine, but I’m sure regular flour would be excellent as well)

3/4 tsp. Salt

3/4 tsp. Baking Powder

3/4 C. Butter, cut into 1″ cubes

1 Egg

1 Tbs. Apple cider vinegar

4 Tbs. Ice-cold water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder, then cut in the butter till the mixture is fine and crumby. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, vinegar and water. Add half of this liquid combination to the flour and stir it in. Continue adding in small amounts till the dough is easily formed into a ball, but not gooey. Shape into two balls, wrap each in cling wrap and refrigerate while you mix up the filling.

Blackberry Filling:

2 1/2 C. Fresh blackberries

1/4 C. White Sugar

1/4 C. Brown Sugar

1/8 C. Flour

1-2 tsp. Ground nutmeg

Gently stir together blackberries, sugars, flour and nutmeg until everything is dissolved into the blackberry juices.

Assemble Hand Pies:

On a lightly floured pastry cloth, roll out one of the balls of pie dough into a fairly thin sheet. Using a 4-5″ bowl, cup or biscuit cutter, cut out circles of dough. Place a few Tablespoons of filling onto each circle of dough, fold one half over the filling and crimp the edges together (the result should be a pretty half-moon shape, probably with a few ragged holes in some of them, like mine!).  Place on baking sheet. Continue with the rest of the dough and filling till both are used up. Cover hand pies with aluminum foil and bake 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until they are golden and bubbling with blackberry juice. Enjoy (preferably after a few minutes of cooling)!

Love from Oregon,

Faerynn M.

P.S. There are a lot of blackberries out there: prepare yourself for more recipes!d

A trio of tasty things

Towards the end of June we went on a retreat to a place in northeastern Connecticut. We were a gaggle of ancient philosophers in an enormous lodge with an enormous porch and a bucolic view of rolling green hills (and fireflies at night!)  And it was wonderful: philosophy by day, all fun in the evening (of the bonfire and mixed drink variety). Since it was our university’s turn to organize the retreat, we were responsible for all the groceries. One of the excellent results of this state of affairs was that there was a lot of left-over food: trail mix, granola, yogurt, nuts, and so, so many bananas.

Now. I do not like bananas. But I do like banana bread, and I believe that I have found the holy grail of banana bread recipes (from–you guessed it!–SK!) The secret to Smitten Kitchen’s “Jacked-Up Banana Bread” is supposed to be a little bourbon. But I used a honeyed Jack Daniels, since it was all I had on hand. I also threw in a handful of dessicated, plain coconut, because it was calling to me from the pantry shelf, and swapped half the all-purpose flour for whole-wheat. The bread was dark, dense, moist, and just the right amount of sweet. We ate it for breakfast and again for an afternoon snack. And when it ran out two days later, I promptly made another loaf with the rest of the languishing bananas.

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July has seen two other SK recipes, both desserts. The first was her deep dish apple pie (from the book; but it’s probably on her site somewhere as well), which I made with left-over retreat apples for the Fourth of July. What a dream. Layers of apples, sliced small, drowning in their own juices and just a touch of sugar; a crunchy struedel topping; and that delectable all-butter pastry crust. Plus, you get the fun of filling an entire skillet with pie dough and putting it, handle and all, into the oven. I would not change a thing about it.

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Last, but certainly not least, the Sticky Toffee Pudding. When I let drop that it had dates in it, people were skeptical. I know: dates sound like a health food. But are they really? Probably not when you chop them fine, bake them into a cake, and then slather the results with homemade whipped cream and toffee sauce, and just a sprinkle or two of crushed sea salt (I hand-crushed mine with a mortar and pestle).

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My normally sweet-shy philosopher took an intense liking to this one. After we wowed our dinner guests with it, he took to eating the remainder in tiny slices (with all the fixings!) with his morning coffee. I tried this once, but the sugar (and there is a lot of sugar in it) went straight to my head. I’d recommend it as an afternoon pick-me-up instead of breakfast accompaniment.

(A quick kitchen note: one thing I was a bit surprised by was how difficult it was to evenly mix the cake batter with the pureed date sauce. I felt like my cake turned out a little more clumpy than I would have expected or liked. I think I would add the date sauce more slowly next time and stir more thoroughly between additions.)

That’s it for now! I have a busy few days ahead: more writing to do, a meeting in New York next week, and after that the move to our first apartment. It’s only a few blocks away, but it feels like the start of something new. I can’t wait.

Love from CT,

Allison

 

 

In which we eat nothing but zucchini

I grew a garden this year! It is beautiful and has been balm to my soul. I love the dirt under my finger nails and the tan lines on my little boys feet from mornings spent caring for our little plants. Back in May I sadly bemoaned my plight when it appeared that only one struggling zucchini plant had germinated in my garden, though I couldn’t complain since my seeds were 5 years old. And then I cheerfully reminded myself zucchini plants are always over producers, one will be just fine for my family of three. Not 24 hours later (I kid not) five eager zucchini plants popped up in their assigned hills. In the last seven days I have used 7 zucchinis (just from the first plant) and still have one in the fridge and one ready to be picked. Good thing we all love zucchini around here! Also, good thing Smitten Kitchen has recipes by vegetable, I plan to cook my way through zucchini top to bottom. Tonight we enjoyed her amazing zucchini and ricotta galette. The crust for this really is no less than amazing and (if you are comfortable with pie crust rolling) makes for a great quick supper since you can make the crust early and then roll out and top it later in the day. I also sliced my zucchini and laid it out 3 hours ahead of time (not the recommended 30 minutes) and it worked out just fine. So feel free to prep as early as you need to keep dinner time simple.

Now, I realize that if you are adding a quarter pound of butter to something, it might be hard to call it healthy and leads to a question, why try to make it healthier by adding say whole wheat? But, I only had whole wheat flour on hand this afternoon so made 100% whole wheat pie crust using SK’s recipe from the zucchini galette and it turned out Amaaazing! So, while I don’t always substitute whole wheat, and I am not sure there are significant health claims to be made, if you only have it on hand I would absolutely use it here without worrying that it will lend to a disappointing crust. . .the butter and sour cream certainly mitigate the density of the whole grain leaving a flaky and tender handle for all of your summer zucchini.

Love from CO,
Bethany

Zucchini and Ricotta Galette (Serves 6)

For the pastry:
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat pastry flour, chilled in the freezer for 30 minutes*
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces and chill again*
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar (SK calls for lemon juice which I didn’t have on hand)
1/4 cup ice water

*I cut my butter into the flour and then stuck the whole thing in the freezer for 15 minutes and it worked out just fine.

Filling:
1 large or 2 small zucchinis, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup (about 1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded mozzarella (muenster also works)
1 tablespoon slivered basil leaves

Glaze:
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Make dough: Whisk together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Sprinkle bits of butter over dough and (here, since I hadn’t pre chilled my ingredients I stuck everything in the freezer for 15 minutes) use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal, with the biggest pieces of butter the size of tiny peas (I purposefully left visible beads of butter). In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lemon juice and water and add this to the butter-flour mixture. With your fingertips or a wooden spoon, mix in the liquid until large lumps form. Pat the lumps into a ball; do not overwork the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour (I refrigerated mine for 3 hours with great results).

Make filling: Spread the zucchini out over several layers of paper towels. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let drain for 30 minutes (up to 3 hours); gently blot the tops of the zucchini dry with paper towels before using. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and the garlic together; set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella (I used muenster cause I failed at purchasing mozzarella  2 days in a row), and 1 teaspoon of the garlicky olive oil together and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare galette: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out into a 12-inch round. Transfer to an ungreased baking sheet (though if you line it with parchment paper, it will be easier to transfer it to a plate later). Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the bottom of the galette dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Shingle the zucchini attractively on top of the ricotta in concentric circles, starting at the outside edge. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of the garlic and olive oil mixture evenly over the zucchini. Fold the border over the filling, pleating the edge to make it fit. The center will be open. Brush crust with egg yolk glaze.

Bake the galette until the cheese is puffed, the zucchini is slightly wilted and the galette is golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, let stand for 5 minutes, then slide the galette onto a serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve hot, warm or at room temperature.