Blackberry Summer

Raspberry-Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings.jpegNow that it finally feels like summer, I’m feeling nostalgic; I’ve just sent my eldest on a trip to visit her Grandmother in Washington.  While we grew up in California, we’d spend a lot of our summers up there; taking long road trips to finally

get there.  I thinks its where my mom always felt most at home and now she’s made it her home.

Memories of being crammed in a car with my mom, grandmother and my two agitating brothers for the long trip from California to Washiington come to mind.  Playing “eye-spy,” finding the alphabet in the road signs, and fighting -mostly with my older brother’s ever-extending air guitar- only to hear him say (with one finger pointing right in my eye), “I’m not touching you.”

These road trips were obviously some of my mother’s favorite things to do with her mom, but for us kids that excitement ran out just passed the wind mills in Tracy.  Mom and Grandma Lee both smoked Terryton Lights and made sure to light one up anytime our fighting in the backseat got to be more than they could handle.  Cracking the window only enough for the smoke to whiffle out and right back in.  I attribute that one-inch crack in the window to my asthma today moreso than the smoke, because maybe if they’d just rolled the windows all the way down, I wouldn’t have lost my appetite on second hand smoke.

While much of those memories are full of rancor and sarcasm, the truth is they’re also some of my most cherished childhood memories.  Although I desperately needed to know how much longer till we get there, my grandmother’s child-like thrill to show us kids the salmon swimming up stream, or an eagle in the sky or the water falls tucked in between a mountain of large trees just off the roadside was utterly contagious once we unmangled our legs, hair and barf bags from the car.  I still remember her story of Donner’s Pass and the people who had to eat one another to stay alive in the freezing snow.  She’d tell us why California was called the gold coast and talk about the history of gold miners, women in covered wagons, farming, Indian Life and loggers.  Later in life when I saw The Grapes of Wrath, I thought that this must’ve been what it was like for my grandmtoher, always moving, looking for work to survive.  A Norwegian father, Cherokee and Belgian mother, fitting in where they could.

She taught us all the old American folk songs like “Old Suzanna,” and “She’ll Be Coming Around That Mountain.” Sometimes I will see something and it will remind me of a time before I was born, her time, but I’d also feel as though it was intrinsically my time too;  I was sitting in her log cabin with her; an invisible witness.

My foot taps. I begin to sing and now I’m completely transported right back to being seven years old, sitting in my mother’s blue Oldsmobile, and the year is 1976.

My grandmother’s sister Anne lived in Washington.  She had a large forest of blackberries along the side of her house and what she did with those was truly American, truly a taste of summer and any pastry chef today would envy her skills in the kitchen.  She baked blackberry pies for us and served them hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream and a glass of milk.

I was a tenacious little kid when it came to sweets and my brothers, not being bashful themselves, would clammor around her kitchen until that pie was ready.  The entire room brightened up with the aroma of butter and crisping dough and a sweet scent of blackberries tickling just under our noses.  She’d pull the pie out, set it on a little counter.  The crust brown and flaky with bubles of purple goop stained around the pie-hole.

“Where’s the ice cream?”

“Get the ice cream!”

“Wait children it has to cool.”

Auntie Anne would have to back us up against a playpen and her dark scratchy sofa where we’d wait to grab a seat at large the table. Sewing patterns, knitting needles, yarn and newspapers we’re swooshed aside.

“Plates! Get the plates and forks!”

“We’ve got the plates and the forks and the ice cream.  Have a seat.”

One bite is all it took, All those hours in the car, the fights with Michael and Danny, the long-winded baseball announcers blaring through the speakers, my mother’s cigarette smoke and grandma’s cracked windows suddenly evaporated.

Silence.

This next recipe is dedicated to the Berg women of Washngton and their ability to love us children unconditionally .  I believe Auntie Anne and Grandma Lee would be proud of this ice cream.  I’d call it Blackberry Pie but there is no crust in the cream.  But feel free to serve it over your own favorite pie.

The sweet-tartness of the berries balances out the richness of the vanilla custard.  We loved it here at home and it’s now one of our absolute favorites.

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Blackberry + Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings

Ingredients:

2 pints fresh blackberries
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extra (or vanilla bean)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1 cup sugar
5 large egg yolks (I saved the egg whites for breakfast)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup dark chocolate shavings (I love the bulk chocolates at Fairway and today I went with one from Spain).

Add blackberries to a medium saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla and lemon juice. Cook over low heat, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes. Drain using a fine mesh strainer, pressing berries to extract as much juice as possible.  I do this by pressing the berries firmly into the strainer with a rubber spatula and this takes a good fifteen minutes.  You’ll be surprised how much you can scrape off the underside of the strainer too.  Set aside.

blackberry mesh strainer-01.jpeg

Heat the half-and-half and 1 cup sugar in a separate saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat when mixture is totally heated and sugar is dissolved.

Add heavy cream to a separate bowl.

Beat egg yolks by hand or with an electric mixer until yolks are pale yellow and slightly thick.

Temper the egg yolks by slowly drizzling in 1 1/2 cups of hot half-and-half mixture, whisking constantly. After that, pour the egg yolk and half-and-half mixture into the pan containing the rest of the half-and-half mixture. Cook over low to medium-low heat (depending on how hot your stove gets) until quite thick, stirring constantly. Drain custard using a fine mesh strainer.

Straining the Custard.jpeg

Then pour into the bowl with the cream. Stir to combine.  Add blackberry juice puree to the custard mixture and stir.

Blackberry Swirl.jpeg

Chill mixture completely in the refrigerator.

Blackberries and Vanilla Custard.jpeg

Pour the mixture into your in an ice cream maker until thick- about 20 – 25 minutes.

Ice Cream Maker.jpeg

The last few minutes add the chocolate shavings so they get nice and mixed in.

Chocolate Shavings.jpeg

Place container in freezer to harden for an additional two hours.

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Then serve and enjoy with someone you love.  Create some good memories too!

Raspberry-Vanilla Custard Ice Cream with Chocolate Shavings.jpeg

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Apricot Jam Simply Delish

Apricots

Nothing better than a great slice of crusty bread, toasted with butter melting over the sides and a spoonful of apricot jam on the top. It’s a bit indulgent with the butter but I ask, is it any worse than eating a croissant? I don’t think so.

Yesterday, running errands in our beautiful city, a 3-pound carton of farm-fresh apricots caught my eye. Jason humored me as I retold him the story of having an apricot tree in our back yard and filling up on these in the summer until I got a tummy ache. $4 dollars got me the carton. What a great deal. I handed the man my money, (feeling I was getting the better part of the deal) and said to Jason, “These will make great jam!”

The rich sunset color, the downy skin and the sweet meaty fruit on the inside just make me happy. Memories of my Granny Mary fill my mind; it was her favorite too and we always had this for breakfast at her house. She’d give me a glass of milk and she would drink her coffee, which she liked “blonde” meaning, with a lot of cream.

close up apricot

This morning I washed them and cut them into halves to prepare them for canning. I looked to the experts for advice on a wholesome recipe. The last time I’d made jam was when I was just a little girl, along side my Grandma Lee (my mom’s mom). I came across a very simple recipe with a few simple ingredients and set out to make this beautiful, slightly tart, mouth-watering golden-orange elixir.

 

I adapted this recipe from David Lebovitz.  I substituted Kirsch for Vanilla but you could choose your own flavoring additive. Neither is overpowering, but both will enhance the rich, warm goodness of the apricots and give a smooth aftertaste.  I also added lemon zest to my recipe.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 Pounds of Apricots

1/4 Cup Water

3 Cups Sugar

1/4 Tsp Lemon Zest (minced)

1 Tsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice

1 Tsp Kirsch (I used Vanilla)

Prep:

Wash, cut in half and pit apricots.
washed and halved

 

Cook:

in the french oven with water and lemon zestPut the apricots in your French oven. Add the water and lemon zest.  Cover with the lid. Turn heat to medium high, stirring frequently.  Cook until apricots begin to turn tender and appear cooked through.

 
Place a small plate in your freezer.

 

Add sugar and continue stirring with the lid off.  Skim any excess foam that forms on the top.  Once the jam begins to thicken and reduce stir more frequently to keep the jam from burning on the bottom of the pan.

stirring frequently

When the mixture begins to jelly, remove from the heat and place a tablespoon of jam onto the plate in your freezer. Let sit for about 3 minutes.

 

 

 

You want the jam to wrinkle and mound when you press it. If it doesn’t do this, return to the heat and cook for a while longer. If this isn’t clear then just make sure your jam reaches approximately 220ºF, 104ºC.

220

Add lemon juice and kirsch (or vanilla); stirring in to fold in those rich flavors evenly. Remove from heat; using a ladle, spoon jam into your jars. I reused old jelly jars.

jarring

Since I will be gifting two of the jars and eating one myself, there is no need to use a formal canning method. Cover jars tightly while jam is still hot. Clean any excess jam off the sides. Allow them to cool down to room temperature.

repurposed jars

 

butter and jam

Grilled Eggplant Preserve

SUMMER SEASON’S BEST!

Eggplant is beautiful and at it’s peak in the summer time.  I love to grill them with  extra virgin olive oil, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice,  sea salt and black pepper.  But, since I’m the only one,  other than my 16-year-old,  crazy about this summer starlet,  I usually have left overs.

Grilled Eggplant

Grilled Eggplant

This weekend I did a little research on the best way to preserve them in the fridge.  Mostly I found pickling recipes. This was not what I had in mind.    So I did a little improvisation and this is what I came up with.

I took an old jar,  perfect for such a dish, and gathered a few ingredients.   More extra virgin olive oil,  (from Jason’s brother-in-law’s family farm in Greece) three cloves of garlic and five or six fresh basil leaves from my Window Herb Garden.  Here are the images.  I think we’ll item it up this week when Gigi is home.  We’ll most likely enjoy them with her nana’s roasted peppers and mozzarella on a nice Italian bread for a summer picnic.

I’d live to know how you prepare yours so please share your ideas with  me!

A little this and a little that

Layer Fresh Basil, Lemon Juice, Olive Oil, Garlic and Crushed Red Peper

Layer basil, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper, lemon juice and salt and black pepper

Layering the Eggplant

Top it off with two or three more leaves of basil. Fill the jar, getting into all the nooks and crannies, with olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar.

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This also makes a great gift.

Delish Dish by Dena

I decided, last minute, to add two thin slices of lemon to give a little more acidity to the preserve.

Eggplant with Lemon