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Blackberry Lime Tart

19 Jul

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There is so much to love about summer, but the one summer thing I find myself singling out every single year is all the gorgeous berries that pop up at the market, in our garden, or sometimes by the side of the road. Portlanders, you know what I am talking about there. It’s just about time to go blackberry picking.

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As I imagine it is with most people around here, I have a seriously tense, love/hate relationship with blackberries. Himalayan blackberries are a scourge to gardens and yards all over the city this time of year, their prickly vines and tentacle-like roots popping up and taking hold every single place you don’t want them to be. These blackberry vines have been known to destroy public parks, obliterate native plants, and—god help me—produce some of the most delicious free fruit you’re likely to taste on this side of the country.

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I know, I know. Blackberry plants are a pain in the rear. But, if you can find a patch of blackberries far, far away from your own yard, a public park, or any other place that needs space to cultivate a healthy garden or place to play, there are few things as enjoyable as spending an afternoon picking berries, eating berries, then coming home and making whatever blackberry-laden dessert your heart desires. This year, my heart and mind were set on a combination of blackberries and limes, thrown together in a cool, creamy dessert that would carry me through a long week of hot weather. This tart is a summer dream, hitting all the right notes with its zingy lime zest, perfect berries, creamy mascarpone and yogurt filling, and a wonderfully crumbly, barely sweetened crust to pull everything together. Invasive, destructive plant life aside, this is a blackberry dream worth having.

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Last Year: Watermelon, Cucumber, and Feta Salad with Mint and Tangerine Zucchini Bread

Blackberry Lime Tart

 Crust:

Generous 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs (from about 16 graham cracker squares)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon finely grated fresh lime zest

pinch of salt

Filling:

¼  cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh lime zest

1/3 cup sugar

1 tablespoon flour

¾ cup plain yogurt

3 ounces (about 1/3 cup) mascarpone cheese (you could also use cream cheese)

3 large eggs

pinch of salt

1 to 2 cups of blackberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, sugar, lime zest, and salt. Stir until the butter is completely incorporated. Press the crumbs into a 10-inch tart pan, trying to keep the thickness of the crust as uniform as possible (if you can’t don’t worry—an uneven crust has never brought a pox upon anyone and their family). Bake the tart crust in the oven for 10 minutes, until it just begins to barely brown at the edges. Remove and set aside while you make the filling.

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, combine lime juice, lime zest, sugar, flour, yogurt, mascarpone or cream cheese, eggs, and pinch of salt. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Pour the filling into the tart crust, and bake in the center of the oven until the top of the tart has puffed up and the middle has set, about 30 to 40 minutes, checking the tart consistently after the 30 minute mark to make sure it doesn’t burn. The top should be just touched with golden spots.

Remove the tart from the oven, then immediately sprinkle on the berries. The top of the tart will sink a bit, and the berries will gently sink in along with them.

Refrigerate the tart until chilled through, at least 2 hours, or overnight. Serve with whipped cream, if desired.

Makes 1 10-inch tart, enough to serve 8 to 10 people.

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Mango Limeade

21 Jun

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One of the more achingly boring aspects of my daily life is the fact that I rarely drink anything other than water. My mornings begin with coffee, but 99% of the time that comes afterwards is filled with plain old water. Years ago, before the unfortunate onset of alcohol intolerance, I was able to pepper my evenings with a night cap or two, but these days I rarely consume anything at night, save for a cup of hot herbal tea if I am feeling under the weather. Like I said: boring.

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Perhaps because of the fact that I am so accustomed to drinking plain old water, I have a great deal of trouble enjoying sweet beverages. I’ve never loved soda, but now I’ve become so weak when it comes to sugary drinks that the sweetness of 1/3 of a bottle of Jarritos is enough to make my mouth actually feel sort of buzzy and strange. The only way to combat this, of course, is to not drink sweet beverages at all. Or, if you are stubborn enough—and I most certainly am—you can just start making your own sweet beverages that are not actually all that sweet.

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Much like making one’s own popsicles or popsicle variations, making homemade lemonade or limeade is a great kitchen skill to possess. If you are sensitive to the amount of sugar in your drinks, you can dial the sweetness down to suit your preference. If you’ve got a range of fruits on hand, you can experiment with blending things together and coming up with great flavor combinations. This is how I happened to come up with this wonderful mango limeade, a close relative to the mango lemonade I once made for my old column over at Indie Fixx. The difference between these two summery drinks is the ratio of mango to citrus, the mango limeade leaning more firmly in the direction of mango than lime. Here, the lime juice serves as a companion to the smooth and tropical mango puree, and the sweetness is hushed down considerably. While decidedly less sweet than most iterations of lemon-or-limeade, I can say with great certainty that this summertime treat is by no means any less enjoyable.

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Last Year: Roasted Broccoli Pasta Salad and Strawberry Mango Crumble–look! One year to the day, and I post another mango recipe. It must really be the start of summer.

Mango Limeade

If you are feeling a bit fancy, feel free to sub in sparkling water for the plain water in this recipe, or, if your fanciness takes on a more grown-up tone, try stirring some of the mango-lime puree into a glass of sparkling wine or Prosecco.

½ cup fresh lime juice

the ripe flesh from 2 mangoes, pureed then strained (you should end up with about ¾ of a cup of mango puree)

¼ to 1/3 cup sugar, depending on your preferred level of sweetness

4 cups water

pinch of salt

In a large bowl or pitcher, combine lime juice, mango puree, and sugar. Stir thoroughly, until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in water and pinch of salt. That’s it. You’re done. It’s so delicious, you can hardly believe it’s so easy, right?

Coconut Cake with Orange Cream Frosting

18 Apr

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It is with very little fanfare that I present this delicious cake to you without any accompanying photos, sans the one you see above. You see, I did not initially plan on sharing this cake with you all. This was a cake made for a birthday, and I went about creating it with simply the desires of the birthday person in mind, and not the requirements of a certain food-based website in mind. I baked it like I used to bake everything: without a camera at the ready.

And yet, please believe me when I tell you that this cake, this burst of coconut delight and citrusy cream, is one of the best cakes I have ever made. The yogurt and extra egg whites in the cake make for an especially light crumb, and the surrounding cloak of orange zest infused whipped cream provides the perfect amount of decadence without any element of heaviness. It’s what I always tend to think of as a grown up cake, meaning, the type of cake that a child would reject in a second (and, in this case, most did), but an adult would welcome with open arms (and open mouth). No matter, of course. Whatever the kids don’t eat, that just leaves more for the rest of us.

Last Year: Honey Cream, Strawberry, and Chocolate Pizza and Vegetable Pakoras

Coconut Cake with Orange Cream Frosting

Coconut Cake

2 ¼ cups sifted cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup plain nonfat yogurt

½ cup unsweetened coconut milk

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Orange Cream Frosting

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 teaspoon powdered sugar

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

finely grated zest of 1 large orange

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms of the pans with rounds of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy, about 60 seconds. Slowly add the sugar, and beat together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, add the egg, then the egg whites, beating about 15 seconds in between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if things resist mixing together. Beat in the vanilla.

With the mixer on low, beat in 1/3 of the flour mixture, then beat in the yogurt. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, followed by the coconut milk. Add in the last of the flour mixture, then mix until just combined. Beat in the coconut until just incorporated, about 10 seconds. You don’t want to overmix the cake batter, so use a gentle hand with all the incorporating of the ingredients.

Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake in the center of the oven for 22 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.The cakes will be done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center of a cake emerges somewhat clean, with just a crumb or two attached.

Allow the cakes to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert the cakes onto a wire rack to continue cooling completely.

To make the frosting, in a stand mixer, or using an electric mixer, beat the cream on high speed until it just begins to thicken. Drizzle in the powdered sugar, then vanilla, and continue to beat until the cream forms soft peaks. Add in the orange zest, and beat in until just combined. You can beat the cream until it forms firm peaks, as I did here, if you will need the cake to sit for a bit before eating it. However, if you will be eating the cake right away, and the cream will not be in danger of weeping, I’d go for light and soft peaks in the whipped cream.

When the cakes have cooled completely, frost with orange cream frosting as you would any other two-layer cake.

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