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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.

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?

Homemade Lemonade and Limeade

5 Aug

It seems a little weird to me that I am posting a recipe for what I consider to be the most basic of beverages, a beverage only about one notch simpler than, say, turning on the tap to fill a glass with water. Still, it was recently brought to my attention that there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how simple it is to make homemade lemonade. Maybe it’s the status of lemonade as a heralded summer drink that makes it seem like a daunting challenge to create at home, or perhaps it’s just a bit too easy to succumb to the allure of a bottle or two of the organic stuff that seems to be on sale at the market all summer long. Regardless, whether you’re making homemade lemonade by the glass or by the pitcher, you only have to keep track of a simple ratio in order to assure a perfect lemonade experience every time.

1 cup of water to 1.5 tablespoons of freshly-squeezed lemon juice, plus 2 tablespoons of sugar. That’s it. And here’s an odd little secret: the more you increase the volume of this recipe the more a surprise fourth ingredient begins to come into play. That ingredient? Salt. When you’ve got 8 cups of water diluting ¾ of a cup of lemon juice, the mixture starts to need a bit of perking up, and there is nothing more effective at perking up a nice, big pitcher of lemonade than a hefty pinch of sea salt. If you are making limeade instead of lemonade, that bit of salt becomes even more important, bringing out all the right notes of the lime’s flavor, and perfectly balancing it against the sugar.

Of course, once you’ve made yourself some lemonade, there is basically nothing stopping you from using it as the basis and inspiration for all types of wonderful drinks and treats. Muddle some fresh mint and fresh or frozen raspberries in the bottom of a glass, top it off with lemon or limeade, then drink as is, or add a splash of vodka. Or pour into popsicle molds and prepare yourself for some hot weather, perhaps even freezing the popsicles only halfway, then dropping some chunks of fresh fruit into the molds before popping everything back together and freezing completely. Once those babies are totally frozen, you’ve got yourself some fruit-filled citrus popsicles that are just to die for.

Last Year: Deep Dish German Pancake

Homemade Lemonade Recipe

I love making this with a mix of both lemons and limes, which, as you can see, is what I have done in these pictures. Also of note: I prefer a less sweet lemonade, so the amount of sugar you see here will result in an only mildly sweet drink. You can, of course, up the sugar content to suit your own personal tastes. The flavor of this lemonade will get more rounded as it is allowed to sit, so, if you’re making it for an event, I suggest making it a day ahead and allowing it to rest in the refrigerator for a day.

For a single serving:

1 cup water

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

small pinch of sea salt

Combine ingredients in a tall glass or cocktail shaker, then stir or shake until sugar is completely dissolved. Add ice, if desired, and drink.

For a pitcher:

8 cups water

¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

½ heaping cup sugar (or, to be more precise, ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons)

¼ teaspoon sea salt.

Combine ingredients in a large pitcher. Stir together until sugar has completely dissolved.

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