Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Blackberry Season

We are blessed and cursed with blackberries here in the Pacific Northwest. They are non-native, and they grow EVERYWHERE - taking over fencelines and alleyways in both town and country. But they are delicious, and though I curse the ones climbing over the neighbor's fence to root on our side each year and cut them back regularly, I also relish the short season when they are ripe and reachable.

What's a girl to do but make jam and pie?

This weekend, it was jam.
I used a standard recipe from the trusty old "Ball Blue Book" for berry jam, but in half. I've used it many times before and will again. It's trusty for a reason.
Warning: To make this recipe, you'll need canning equipment. That means a big pot with a rack in it, and jars with two-piece lids - small ones for jam.

This is the amount in the recipe, but it is scaleable:
Take 9 cups of crushed ripe blackberries (it'll be nearly double uncrushed).
Put in a big saucepan and mix in 6 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil while stirring. Then, cook to the "gelling point". The Blue Book goes into this but basically, cook it for a while (30 min or so) until it gets thick and when you stick a spoon in it the jam drips slowly off of it and is sticky.

In the meantime, prepare your canning stuff. Wash your jars and lids. Heat up your big pot of water to near boiling and keep your jars and lids in it until ready to use.

Ladle the jam into the hot jars, put the lids on, and put the jars into your rack and boiling water bath (turn it up as soon as you take the jars and lids out and it's ready). Boil for 15 minutes and remove to the counter top. Your lids should pop down pretty soon and you've got some nice jam to hold you over till next year!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fresh summer meal

Miss Single, hubby and I enjoyed a super fresh and delicious summer meal last night.

Key components: fresh baguette from local bakery, pesto from Mr. Monkey's garden, summer squash and onions from my garden, an heirloom tomato-watermelon salad with goodies from the farmer's market, and a peach-blackberry pie.

Pesto squash dish: Chop up a yellow and a green summer squash. Chop up some fresh garlic and onion. Saute onion and garlic in little olive oil. Add squash and fry it up. Add fresh pesto and heat through till it's done the way you like it.

Tomato-watermelon salad: We just made this up but I'm sure there are recipes out there. Coarsely chop a big heirloom tomato (we used a green one). Coarsely chop a fresh watermelon (we used a red one, though I thought I bought an orange one). Cut some fresh basil into strips. Mix together. Add a little olive oil, salt, and balsamic vinegar (I used blueberry flavored vinegar).

No time for the pie recipe now, but the peaches were tree-ripened from the farmer's market, and the blackberries picked fresh from the backyard. Good for dessert AND breakfast!

Can't wait to get my own tomatoes - they are really behind this year.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summer Pizza

Everyone loves pizza. Well, I can't be sure, but everyone I know loves pizza anyway. I like to make pizza. Luckily, there a few local bakeries that make dough and sell it in little plastic bags ready to roll out and bake - easy and delicious.

The great thing about homemade pizza (aside from getting to eat it) is that you can have it any time of year and with and endless variety of toppings. In the summer, I love using fresh garden veggies - and that's what I did last week.

For a sauce in the summer, I like to just use a food processor to combine some fresh tomatoes (ours aren't ripe in the garden yet, but we had a big yellow heirloom from the farmer's market), basil, garlic, and olive oil. Voila! Last week, my friend Rose made the sauce and also added a bunch of parmesan into the mix. That made it nice and creamy!

Summer squash is ready, so I chopped up some yellow squash for topping. And I found some dried tomatoes from last year's garden to add a different flavor on top.

Here's how it goes:
- Let the pre-made dough sit out so it's room temperature.
- Heat up the oven to 350 or 375. If you have a pizza stone, stick that in the oven.
- Prep all your sauce, toppings, and cheese.
- Roll out or stretch the dough to the size you want it (I usually put a little olive oil on the counter and my hands so it doesn't stick), and let it sit for a few minutes.
- If using a pizza stone, pull it out of the oven and sprinkle some course corn meal on it.
- Put the dough onto your stone or baking pan (grease the pan if it's metal!), and quickly get it into the shape you want it - like if you want to pinch the crust around the edge.
- Rub a little olive oil all over the surface of the dough. This prevents it from getting soggy when you put the sauce on.
- Spread the sauce on. Then add your toppings. Finally, cover with mozzarella cheese (or a mozz/parm blend - my favoritie).
- Put it in the oven for about 20 minutes. Take out and let cool for a minute or two before cutting up and eating!

Keep in mind that the more sauce and toppings you put on, the less likely you'll be able to pick it up to eat it.