Seattle is a beautiful city if you like delicious food and fine art. I will never forget the amazing bouquets of flowers at the famous Pike Market, nor will I forget the variety of fish being tossed by the fishmongers to any chef willing to make the catch there. It’s a crowded show for tourists, but a beautiful one.
On another trip we were invited to use a cottage owned by a friend on the San Juan Islands. We took a train to meet the ferry that would take us to the island. As the train rumbled over the winding coastal track, I noticed the plump blackberries growing practically, but not quite, within our reach. On the ferry, it was a delicious day, and we saw many small whales diving around our boat. We were met by our friends and shortly thereafter their two boys and I were plucking blackberries, quickly filling a few buckets with those luscious things. The boys were motivated by the promise of a pie, but we ended up with so many berries that I gave the two of them, aged 8 to 10, a blackberry 101 class. We did make a pie, but we also made turnovers and chilled cream of blackberry soup — which is a melted ambrosia. One of the boys loved the lesson because he was very interested in cooking. The other loved it because he was very interested in eating. Todd and I, of course, enjoyed it too, as did the parents of the two boys. Here are some of the dishes we made and recipes so that you can prepare some wonderful treats for your loved ones.
If you are a fan of my writing and recipes please promise me that this summer you will learn to make a delicious pie dough. You owe it to yourself. It’s so easy to do well once you master a couple of key elements, and the world is filled with so many pies with poorly made dough that you will be shocked by the difference.
- In a food processor place a cup and a half of plain flour, a tsp. of salt, two tbsp. sugar and pulse to combine.
- Cut up a stick of cold butter into eight pieces and pulse a few seconds.
- Add a tbsp. of cold Crisco and pulse to combine with flour and butter mixture and quickly turn machine off as soon as you notice the mixture is starting to form a ball. It is critical not to overwork the dough, which will toughen as you bring out more of the gluten, so I will repeat: Only run the food processor just until a ball starts to form, then turn it off.
- Gather dough and shape it into a large burger shape, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash and pick over about two and a half cups of berries. Don’t worry about any berries that are overly ripe — put them aside and use them for jam, the recipe for which follows later.
- Wash and drain the berries, place in a bowl and set aside until the dough is chilled.
- On a chilled surface, sprinkle a little flour and trace a 12-inch circle with your finger as a guide for rolling out the dough. Place the rolled out circle of dough on a jelly roll pan. A cookie sheet is not good because if the berries drip it will make a mess in your oven.
- Mix a heaping tbsp. of flour and a cup of sugar, a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg if you like and gently toss the berries.
- Spoon into the middle of the dough, allowing three inches all around to be gathered with your hands. You should have about a three-inch circle of berries visible.
- Brush the dough with buttermilk, cream or an egg wash, sprinkle with sugar and bake in a 375 preheated oven until the dough is lightly browned and the berries begin to “weep.”
- If the berries are very juicy you can pour off some of the juice into a heat proof bowl during the baking and return to oven until the dough is browned.
- Allow to cool slightly and serve with whipped cream.
When my mother first started to spend winters in Florida, she was thrilled to find a pick-your-own strawberry farm. As much as she enjoyed the picking, she really enjoyed the eating — just as fast as she could pick — so I’m not sure if the farm stayed in business too long. My “Mom, don’t they need to be washed?” warnings were ignored as she developed a stomach ache from overeating.
Because of the heat in Florida I always enjoyed making a chilled soup with the strawberries.
- Pick over about three cups of any not too bruised berries, again saving the real soft ones for jam.
- Place berries in a heavy pan with two cups of red wine, a heaping tbsp. of cinnamon, a cup and a half of sugar and bring to a boil.
- Quickly lower the heat to a simmer and cook over low heat until the berries burst.
- Allow to cool slightly and then puree in a blender or food processor with two cups of heavy cream.
- Chill and serve with a sprinkle of fresh mint.
The bruised berries can be saved in a plastic bag until you have enough to make some jam.
- In a large skillet, combine two cups of fruit with a cup of sugar and the juice of a small lemon. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat and and cook until the sugar is dissolved.
- Raise the heat and cook until the mixture is foamy. After a few minutes the mixture will thicken and appear syrupy. Cool to room temperature and freeze or refrigerate for up to three weeks.
- I hope you have a very berry time at the farmer’s markets this summer and enjoy the fruits of the season when they are at their best.