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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.

Red, White, and Blue Berry Parfaits

27 Jun

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Not generally being one who goes in for themed or color-coordinated desserts (I like to plan my dessert-eating around taste rather than appearance), it can’t be denied that a fresh pile of red and blue berries, situated against a backdrop of pale cream, is certainly a nice way to celebrate the 4th of July. The fact that the best summer berries around here tend to ripen just around the beginning of July seems almost fortuitous, if not obvious. But, with such gorgeous piles of raspberries and blueberries haunting me at the market, how could I not make a red, white, and blue treat in anticipation of the 4th?

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These little parfaits are a perfect combination of creamy, citrus-tinted coolness, juicy berries, and a fantastic hit of barely sweetened crunch (and by barely sweetened, we’re talking only around 2 tablespoons of added sugar, total). When I dreamed them up, I had visions of a simple treat that could be carted out post-picnic feast, or easily highlight a night of fireworks-viewing. Since everything but the assembly of these fine fellows can be completed ahead of time, they are a perfect make-ahead treat. They are great for a crowd, and you can even set out the individual components of the dessert, give each of your guests a small glass or bowl, and let each person assemble their own parfait. Then all you need to do is grab yourself a blanket, settle in under the stars, and wait for the celebratory fireworks to start.

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Last Year: Semolina Flatbread with Arugula, Mint, and Spinach Pesto (this is perfect for picnics) and Sour Cherry Upside Down Cake (this is perfect for…everything)

Red, White, and Blue Berry Parfaits

½ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon white sugar

pinch sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes

¼ cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used almonds and pecans)

1 cup cold heavy cream

½ teaspoon powdered sugar

drop of pure vanilla extract

¼ cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

1 teaspoon lemon zest (or orange zest)

2 to 3 cups blueberries and raspberries (or other berries of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine flour, dark brown sugar, white sugar, and salt. Add the vanilla and butter and, using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is uniformly incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse crumbs that form clumps when pressed together. Stir in the chopped nuts.

Using your hands, press the crumbly dough into a rough ball or mound. Then, using your fingers, pinch off ½-inch pieces of dough and place them on the prepared baking sheet. If some of the pieces fall apart or happen to be larger or smaller than ½-inch, don’t worry. The dessert police will not come knocking on your door.

Place the pieces of dough on the middle shelf of your preheated oven. Bake the pieces for 17 to 20 minutes, until the edges of the pieces are dark golden and your kitchen smells like cookies. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Using an electric beater or, if you have forearms like Lou Ferrigno, a wire whisk, beat the cream until it barely begins to thicken and hold super soft peaks. Add in the softened mascarpone and lemon zest, and beat for just a few seconds, until the mixture holds soft peaks, but is still quite creamy and light.

To assemble parfaits, drop a few berries into the bottom of a small glass, then add a few pieces of crumble (crumbling them even further, if you wish), then dollop on a spoonful or two of mascarpone cream. Repeat layers once more, then top each parfait with a berry or two.

I used 8-ounce glasses for the pictured parfaits, and I was able to make about 8 parfaits, with a bit of crumble left over. You can, of course, easily double this recipe and make twice the parfaits, to feed a whole crowd of revelers.

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?

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