Tag Archives: blackberries

Blackberry supper

BLACKBERRY SEASON is making me a little nostalgic. Blog-nostalgic, that is (though I still think blog is a particularly ugly word), as I wrote my first post on Toby’s Kitchen Notes nearly seven years ago, toward the end of berry season, with my recipe for Blackberry Cobbler No. 8.

It seems hard to believe I’d made eight versions of blackberry cobbler in 2009, but I did, along with some other must-have fruit desserts. This year, as I write, it’s just the beginning of blackberry season, and the other day I had a couple freshly picked pints on hand. I really wanted to bake something with them — but not a dessert. Aha — it remembered Nigel Slater’s marvelous recipe: Blackberry focaccia.

blackberry foccacia slice

Blackberry focaccia has only a hint of sweetness, from sugar sprinkled atop the dough.

Half the recipe would be plenty, I figured, as there were only two of us eating it, and it doesn’t keep well for leftovers. (I wrote of this before, so the recipe is here.)

blackberryfoccin progress

The yeast dough is easy, but does need gentle handling, especially when you fold in half the berries after the first rising. The rest of the berries are strewn on top; then, it rises again and you drizzle olive oil and sprinkle demerara or sparkling sugar on top.

blackberry foccacia

Once out of the oven and cooled just a bit, you can sprinkle with confectioners sugar if you like.

We had a choice: ruin our appetites by devouring the focaccia immediately or wait a few minutes, make a green salad, and call it supper.

saladandslice BF

We chose the latter — and it wasn’t a sacrifice. Calling it supper gave it a certain sense of legitimacy, if not outright virtue.  (More nutritious than pancakes with syrup for supper, anyway.) And yes, it was delicious. I plan to repeat this combo!

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August fixin’s

pasta and vegAUGUST REMINDS ME of my childhood: the sticky hot humid days in Chicago, barely relieved by the big swamp cooler in the basement. We had no air conditioning and my two sisters and I slept in an upstairs attic-type room, catching what little breeze we could from the open window and a fan. A thunderstorm was an evening’s entertainment:  From our screened-in back porch, we’d listen to the thunder, watch the streaks of lightning and smell the oncoming rain.

But best of all, August meant we would pack up the car (I always had a case full of books) and leave the city for a rented cabin in Ephraim, Wisconsin, or South Haven, Michigan, where we’d swim in Lake Michigan (Yes, we did that at home too, but here it was even better) and eat fresh peaches and blueberries, corn and tomatoes, trout and smoked whitefish, and bakery white rolls. And cherry pie.

Wherever you are, fresh produce is abundant this month, and dinner doesn’t have to be salad. On these lazy days, I love to center an August meal around corn on the cob. Or potato and green beans in a vinaigrette. Or cherry tomatoes, as in the photo above, roasted (or sauteed) with some garlic and oil and sprinkled with basil, to dress a pasta. With a side of green beans with lemon zest, and a simple salad with beets (dressed in another vinaigrette) and hazelnuts, it was a light but satisfying meal that didn’t take long at the stove.

blackberry cobbThis kitchen blog began in 2009 with Blackberry Cobbler No. 8, a recipe for the eighth version I had made of blackberry cobbler.

This week my daughter and I picked  blackberries (it’s been unusually hot here so it’s almost end-of-the-season) for a cobbler and decided that the No. 8  version is still hard to beat, with very tender biscuits with a touch of cornmeal. There’s not too much sugar in it, and a dollop of ice cream on the warm cobbler will suit it just fine.

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Summertime easy

saladbowl
It’s been more than a month since I’ve written here, and in the meantime, we took a 12-day road trip to Montana (central and eastern) and a bit of Wyoming. For those of you who have followed my blog, you’ll know this trip in the rural West presents a challenge for me in finding food that I like, especially fresh vegetables.

I’ve written about my road trip kitchen and motel cooking tips before here, and here — and salads I made by boiling water in the electric kettle to cook bulgur and washing lettuce and other vegetables in my salad spinner.

But this year, I was lazier — ahem, that is to say, more practical (smarter?)– and often bought those packages of pre-washed spinach or salad greens that I usually eschew at home. Let me just say –they are great for travel! — Of course, I had my bottle of olive oil, plenty of lemons (and my lemon reamer) and some salt, so I had all the ingredients for dressing any kind of salad.

Also, I was inspired by a nice new blue speckled enamel salad bowl I bought at Ray’s Sports & Western Wear in Harlowton, Montana.

broccolirabe

Amy of Terra Verde Farms clued me in about roasted broccoli rabe. Just toss with a little oil and salt, roast at 400 degrees till it’s as done as you like it.

Back home, I really haven’t had much energy for making dinner. So we continue with salads (lettuce and radishes from the farmers’ market) and corn or bread or a quesadilla. If I am more ambitious (not much) I might just make pasta with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil and a sprinkle of pecorino. Or it’s cool enough to turn on the oven, occasionally I make a delicious  little piece of sockeye salmon and rice. Or some roast vegetables.

Often I really can’t think of what we should eat for dinner (crackers and cheese?) but if I do decide to actually cook something, it must be simple. It’s summertime, after all.

beancornquinoaThe salad above is about the most complicated thing I’ve made in a month, and it was really pretty easy. Quinoa (I used red quinoa from Trader Joe’s) a can of black beans, corn kernels, green and red onions, halved cherry tomatoes (from the plants on my patio!), chopped cucumber, cilantro, a little chopped jalapeno, avocado pieces and a dressing with some oil and lots of lime juice, some lime zest and salt. You could vary this a number of ways, of course.

It made a good lunch today — but I don’t know what we’ll have for dinner.

It’s not that I’ve been avoiding the kitchen all the time. I made a jar of quick pickles using dill I had in the garden, and I bought basil from farmers’ market to make pesto.

picklesI made Blueberry Boy Bait for summer visitors. Lately, Steve and I have been picking lots of wild blackberries in the evenings, and I’ve made blackberry scones and blackberry crisp (in individual servings so we wouldn’t eat too much) and even blackberry focaccia —  but mostly I’ve been putting them into the freezer for the long winter ahead.

It’s summertime, I’m lazy, and the livin’ should be easy…

individualblackbcrisp

When it comes to dessert, few things are easier than a blackberry crisp. Add a tablespoon or two of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and a teaspoon of cornstarch to enough berries to fill two ramekins; top with a mixture of butter (you don’t need much), oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon (and chopped nuts if you wish.) Bake at 350 degrees till berries are bubbling and topping is crisp. Yum!

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Mid-August blackberry binge

August 15 is Ferragosto, festival of the Emperor Augustus, a celebration of the late summer and a day when everyone in Italy takes a holiday.

Here in the Northwest, it’s time for the annual blackberry binge (my daughter, who’s living in Virginia, tells me that East Coast blackberries cannot compare).

There’s a wealth of wild brambles near our house, loaded with plump deep-purple berries (as well as red and green berries that will ripen in the weeks to come).  In the mornings and evenings, we ramble to the brambles to fill up our containers, return home with scratches and stains, and I make blackberry sauce, blackberry jam, blackberry sorbet, blackberry crisp, blackberry cobbler (in fact, I wrote my very first blog post ever at the end of blackberry season, when I’d made 8 versions of blackberry cobbler). I also freeze a lot of the blackberries to enjoy through the winter.

This summer I was inspired to try a new blackberry recipe by my current favorite food book (which I wrote about earlier) Nigel Slater’s “Ripe.”

Besides the beautiful photos and writing, Slater has some wonderful recipe ideas… and one of the most unusual is the one for blackberry focaccia.

It’s not very sweet or very rich, and it’s so good–the blackberry juice bursting through the dough– it’s hard to stop eating it.
The first time I made it, three of us devoured the whole focaccia which Slater writes is “enough for 8.” I served it with some chilled white wine and a green salad on the side and called it supper.
The second time, I made half the recipe and served it with tea. I imagine it would also make a satisfying breakfast or a hearty contribution to brunch. Here’s the recipe, below. It’s just fine to substitute whole wheat flour for up to half of the bread flour.
Blackberry focaccia
Ingredients
  • 3¼ cups (450g) bread flour
  • 1 package (2 teaspoons/7g) quick-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon superfine sugar
  • 1½ cups (350ml) warm water

for the topping:

  • 1¾ cups (8 ounces/250g) blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons superfine or demerara sugar
  • Confectioners sugar, for dusting

Put the flour in a large bowl, add the yeast, the sea salt (if you are using coarse salt, crush it finely first), then the sugar and warm water. Mix with a wooden spoon, then turn the dough out onto a generously floured board and knead lightly for five minutes or so. You need not be too enthusiastic. A gentle pummeling will suffice.

Once the dough feels elastic and “alive,” put it into a floured bowl, cover with a clean cloth or plastic wrap, and leave it somewhere warm to rise. It will take approximately an hour to double in size. Once it has, punch it down again, knocking some of the air out. Tip it into a shallow baking pan about 12 inches (30cm) in diameter. Gently knead half the blackberries into the dough, scattering the remaining ones on top. Cover the dough once more and return it to a warm place to rise.

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Once the dough has expanded to almost twice its size, drizzle over the olive oil, scatter with the sugar, and bake for thirty-five to forty minutes, until well risen, golden brown, and crisp on top. It should feel springy when pressed. Leave to cool slightly before dusting with confectioners’ sugar. Cut into thick wedges and eat while it is still warm. It will not keep for more than a few hours.
© 2012 Nigel Slater

Buon Ferragosto!

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End of summer……..

"Peaches in a White Ceramic Basket," Fede Galizia, c. 1600-1605

Well, summer is nearly officially over, a poignant marker. There’s something a little sad about the turning of seasons. Goodbye to summer’s great bounty, to all those things you didn’t do or wish you could do again….

I never wrote “Summer Fruit, part two” which was supposed to be about peaches, plums, nectarines, more blackberries, and such. I never made a peach pie, which is rather shocking (though I am still eating fresh peaches, and with all the peach varieties, you can eat peaches from mid-summer to early autumn).

But I did eat rhubarb well into August and  I did make some of those nice dill pickles in brine, with fresh dill. I had a good summer kitchen day with Aviva: She made canned pickles and the two of us made a nice big batch of blackberry jam.

Aviva surveys results of the pickle-and-jam marathon

Grey days and rainy weather are setting in again, and there never were enough warm sunny days here this summer — but I just returned from the Midwest, where people were complaining about too many hot days!

Mario's Lemonade, Chicago

In Chicago, we went to Mario’s Lemonade on Taylor Street,  just before the stand closed for the season– how’s that for marking the end of the summer? And we talked to Mario, who has never used a computer or a credit card, and still sells a small iced lemonade for only $1.

Delicious icy lemonade, complete with rind

Back home, on a cool day, and still thinking about lemons, I made a simple supper of roast chicken, bulgur pilaf and green salad.

The roast chicken with lemon is one of the many slow-roast dishes I make in cool weather (that’s most of the year here): You set the oven to 300 degrees, stuff one or two lemons (pricked all over with a fork, to let the juices out) into the cavity, put a little olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle salt and pepper and paprika on the top, then let it roast for 2 1/2 or 3 hours.  You can baste a lot, or not, turn the chicken over halfway through or not — the long slow cooking will make it tender and juicy. Let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes before you cut it, and squeeze the lemon juice over it.

And the salad of course, had a simple olive oil-lemon-salt dressing….

For dessert? Now, the blackberries have sadly come to an end, but before they were gone, I discovered an easy dessert with some leftover pie dough I had: mini pies in ramekins.

I just mixed the berries with a little sugar and lemon juice and a bit of cornstarch to thicken, then cut a couple circles of dough with my biscuit cutter and laid them on top, brushed with a little milk and sprinkled sugar on top.  I turned the oven to 400 degrees and baked till the tops were golden. I bet this would work with frozen berries too.

"Apples and grapes" Claude Monet, 1880

Now it’s time to welcome those fruits of fall!

The Jewish harvest festival of Sukkos is just around the corner, and one of its primary symbols is the citron, or esrog (or etrog), the ancestor of the lemon. It’s considered a sacred fruit, and does indeed smell divine, but is not too good to eat….

What I always want to make and eat around this time of year is a simple yeast dough covered in delicious and beautiful Italian plums. Soon I will be making Zwetchgenkuchen!

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Scones: lost, found and reinvented

I made some some scones with blackberries the other day to serve with afternoon tea. Yum. They were so easy to make and tasty. And that got me thinking about how I came by this recipe.

About 15 or 16 years ago, my sister Milly gave me a calendar from Mollie Katzen’s “Still Life with Menu” book. It had Katzen’s charming paintings and a recipe for yogurt scones which I came to love so much that the calendar was always turned to the same page.

These pastries could be put together quickly, forming a wet dough that you sort-of plopped onto the baking sheet and brushed or patted with egg.  They called for yogurt instead of the more traditional (i.e. fattening) cream. And they were delectable. At first, the only change to the recipe I deemed necessary was to add (of course) grated lemon zest.

I never wrote the recipe down, because I just kept the calendar open to the scone page on top of the fridge, handy whenever I needed it, for the next couple of years.

Then it came time to move. This was about 13 years ago. I was packing up my things–but when I went to look for the calendar, it had mysteriously disappeared! I even plunged into the scary no-man’s land behind the fridge, braving cobwebs and crumbs, but there was no sign of the beloved scone recipe.

I suppose I could have bought Katzen’s book or, being cheap, checked it out from the library. Or even surreptitiously written down the recipe in a bookstore.

But instead I just tried to reconstruct it. That was pretty successful. Then I started changing it. And changing it.

At this point, I think it could be justifiably called my own recipe, or nearly so, gratefully inspired by Mollie Katzen.

The dough I use is not as wet, so you can pat it into a circle and cut it into the traditional triangular shapes.

Also, I always make these scones with berries, frozen berries–no need to thaw them– a tip that came from Nia (which she got from someone else). Steve and I picked enough blackberries this summer that I still have a couple bags in the freezer, but store-bought blueberries or raspberries will do just fine too.

I also often use whole wheat pastry flour, which works just fine. And nowadays, on the cholesterol watch, I substitute olive oil for half of the butter (the lower amount called for) and egg whites instead of whole eggs. These scones have adapted well and are still delicious!

They are perfect in any season, great in the morning for breakfast or with brunch, and just as nice as a  substantial treat for “elevenses” or afternoon coffee or tea. (Steve and I nearly always have them with tea — PG Tips, brewed for three minutes and served with milk, British style)

Yogurt Scones

  • 3 cups of flour – white or whole wheat pastry flour, or mixture. You can use up to ½ cup of oat bran in this mixture
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons butter (or 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil)
  • ½ to ¾ cup frozen berries or ½ cup currants or chopped nuts
  • zest of one medium lemon, finely grated, optional
  • 1 cup yogurt (nonfat or lowfat is fine)
  • 1 egg or 2 egg whites
  • confectioners sugar, optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and brown sugar) in a large bowl.
  3. Cut in the butter (or, if you’ve planned ahead and frozen the butter, you can grate it into the dry ingredients), using a pastry cutter, two knives or your fingers (working quickly).
  4. Add the frozen or dried berries and nuts to the mixture, along with the lemon zest if you’re using it and mix very briefly to distribute
  5. In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, beat the egg or egg whites together with the yogurt.
  6. Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture, and mix with a fork only until the two mixtures are distributed and the dough holds together. Do not overmix.
  7. Finish patting the dough together with your hands, and stir in a little more flour if needed. The dough should be very moist, but not sticky.
  8. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a thick circle about the size of a small dinner plate.
  9. Cut the circle into 6 or 8 wedges, like a pie, and place the wedges on a baking sheet. (You can brush with beaten egg if desired, or add some glaze after baking.)
  10. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden.
  11. To glaze the scones, mix up some confectioners sugar with a little liquid, such as lemon juice or maple syrup, and brush it on the scones while they are still warm.

Mixed, baked and ready to serve in about 45 minutes

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Blackberry cobbler No. 8

My baking was better than my drawing....

My baking was better than my drawing....

It’s nearly the end of blackberry season here, so we picked some blackberries and I made Blackberry Cobbler No. 8 — yes, I’ve made eight of these this summer! I think I am finally getting the recipe down pat….

Blackberry cobbler nearly half eaten

As soon as it had cooled enough to eat, we gobbled up nearly half of it.

It’s great with a little ice cream (or lowfat version of same).

Amazing that it has very little sugar and not too much butter either….(as compared to pie, for example).

Did you know that goats will eat blackberry bushes, thorns and all? Goats have tough, bony palates which enable them to chew up almost anything.

Here’s an interesting article about goats and blackberries:

I adapted the cobbler recipe from one in Cooks Illustrated. They had a great method of baking the berries till bubbly before you drop on the dough… However, I thought their version was a little heavy on the dough, so I reduced the amount. Plus, I substituted cornmeal for part of the flour.

Berry cobbler

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

  • 5 to 6 cups berries (any kind)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon

Mix above together in a 10-to-12″ Pyrex pie plate and bake the berries (without the dough) for 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Meanwhile, make the dough:

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  1. Mix the above in a bowl; then cut in 3 Tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, using your fingers or a pastry cutter, until the butter is the size of corn kernels (more or less). Stir in about 2/3 cup of cold buttermilk, just until thoroughly moist.
  2. When the berries are bubbling hot (after the 30 minutes), drop mounds of the dough on top in various places. Use a big spoon for this.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes or so, until the dough is golden
  4. Let the cobbler cool a little on a baking rack; then serve warm, with ice cream if you please.

After we ate our fill, I still had some blackberries left, so I made a couple jars of blackberry chutney. Chutney is basically a kind of vinegary, spicy jam — and there are endless variations to the basic formula. So I cooked the berries (and a couple of Asian pears I had around from a tree at our place) with brown sugar, apple cider vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, a little hot pepper, some mustard seeds I’d popped in a little hot oil…..etc.

chutney

My freezer is packed full of blackberries (I thaw a few at a time to eat with yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast, fall and winter) and there’s some blackberry jam in there too. A couple of jars are waiting for my daughter Aviva, when she returns from the East Coast. She missed the blackberries here. Well, there are still some left on the bushes, but they’re getting kind of small and mushy so now you get scratched and stained with berry juice when you pick them. I’m leaving the rest of my share for the goats.

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