Simple Pleasures Homemade Blackberry Liqueur

I am posting this ahead of the upcoming Tennessee blackberry season so when you pick-your-own berries, or purchase at a farmer’s market, you’ll be ready to make a few bottles of Blackberry Liqueur.

It’s really refreshing splashed into a glass and topped with Prosecco or poured over ice with seltzer water. I think a slice of pound cake, a scoop of ice-cream and a trickle of liqueur would be delicious.

How about a cooling (adult) Blackberry Liqueur Snow Cone? Just the thing for a hot summer day and pretty unforgettable.

It only takes a few ingredients……

Fresh, plump, juicy berries……

…a sugar + water simple syrup….all added to a large jar filled with good vodka…

Day 1..this is what it looks like just mixed together…wait a while longer….

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….Day 8….a week later and a few shakes this is what is looks like..continue waiting…and shaking….

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….Day 15..,wait’s over….ready to strain and sip.

There are so many things we have no control over in our lives. Making things gives me just a bit of control over part of my little corner of the world for a bit. That is why I make things and encourage others to give it a try.

Keep a bottle…gift a bottle…make some more. It’s a simple pleasure.

Fresh Blackberry Liqueur

  • Time: 15days
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups good vodka
  • 4-5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed & drained
  • 2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

Directions:

  1. Bring water & sugar to a low boil over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Turn heat to simmer and cook for 15 minutes stirring often. Remove from the heat to cool completely.
  2. Pour vodka into a large glass container with a lid. Add the berries & simple syrup and gently shake.
  3. Infuse berry-vodka mixture for 15 days. The berries will lose most of their color. Every few days gently swirl mixture around.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer twice. Discard the berries. Decant mixture into decorative bottles for gift giving.

For Snow Cones – crush ice and pack into a glass. Drizzle chilled Blackberry Liqueur over the ice. Serve with a spoon and enjoy.

 

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com

“No Wall Y’all Hibiscus Flower Jam”

Tart, yet pleasantly sweet,  my “No Wall Y’all Hibiscus Jam” smeared on buttery toasted  baguette slices is something close to divine deliciousness. Have you ever had Hibiscus Flower Jam? It is quite common in Mexico and is just one of the many things I love about that country.

The culinary name in Mexico for this flower is Jamaica (pronounced ha-may-kah). Either picked and dried at home, or purchased dried in markets, these flowers have so many wonderful uses. Flavored waters, hot or cold tea, beautiful red syrups for drinks or desserts as well as thick jams are just some of the ways to enjoy.

One morning last week my friend Terry and I wandered into a restaurant, El Atrio Del Mayab, on the central plaza in the city of Valladolid in the Yucatan Peninsula, ordered cafe con leche and pan tostado with butter. The waiter brought us our order along with a small bowl of jamaica jam. I knew I would have to make a batch when I returned home.

Dried hibiscus flowers are found at most international or hispanic markets here in Nashville, or online shops.  I had some in  my pantry for making refreshing hibiscus ice tea, but made some jam instead.

Dried hibiscus flowers, freshly squeezed orange juice and zest and sugar are all you need. Mixed together and cooked down slowly to thicken into a deep carmine jam….

….put into jars and chilled…ready for pan tostado.

Make more jam, build less walls y’all.

Images from Quintana Roo & the Yucatan. Xpu Ha, Izamal & Valladolid, MX.

No Wall Y'all Hibiscus Flower Jam/Jamaica Jam

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dried hibiscus/jamaica flowers
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice
  • zest of one orange

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a non-reactive pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and stir to dissolve sugar. Turn to simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Put mixture into a food processor and pulse about 10 times to break up larger flower pieces to make a spreadable jam.
  3. Spoon jam into clean jars and let cool completely. Add lid and refrigerate. Jam will keep for up to 2 months.

Extra; For Jamaica Tea steep dried flowers in hot water. Drink hot or chill for iced tea.

A Short Story with Salted Radishes

I found these images among so many others I had forgotten about the other day. They are from our last trip to Amsterdam to visit Wouter’s mother together.  Soon after this visit Elizabeth died. but I saw these photos and remembered going to the market and returning to her house overlooking a beautiful canal right in the city with a bag of  great cheeses, bread and these fresh, crisp radishes.

The three of us ate them as they are best eaten….very cold with a dusting of sea salt. Biting into a salted radish is a delight to the palate. Crunchy, a bit peppery and salty, they are the perfect, simple appetizer to serve on a warm early summer day with a glass of cold wine or beer. A good aged Gouda and bread round it all out.

It is funny how food can be such a memorable part of our personal histories.  Recalling what you eat, with whom, where you enjoyed it and when is a fine thing indeed. So these salted radish images reminded me of this and what a fine early summer afternoon Wouter, Elizabeth and I had just sitting and talking, sipping our drinks and enjoying each others company laughing and telling stories while every so often biting into a radish.

Bon Appetit.

Plain and Simple Sugared Strawberries with Cornmeal Shortcakes, E.A.T. #24

A craving sets in this time of year for the first Spring Tennessee strawberries. This week baskets and baskets arrived at my local, downtown Nashville Farmer’s Market. Juicy and plump with the wonderful variations in shape and size not seen in supermarket berries.

Aren’t they beautiful?

Cut up and gently tossed with raw sugar awaiting a shortcake.

I am not a big fan of store-bought shortcakes when it is so easy to make my own. I enjoy a shortcake with a bit of texture and flavor which I get by adding cornmeal to the mixture. Buttery & barely sweet with a bit of crunch. Soft enough to soak up those berry juices.

Light golden brown right from the oven.

Here….have a bite. Treat yourself…strawberry season doesn’t last long. It’s as Easy-As-This!

Sugared Strawberries with Sweetened Cornmeal Shortcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart of local strawberries, capped, sliced
  • a few tablespoons of raw sugar, to taste for berries + 1 tablespoon for the shortcake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup heavy, cold cream
  • Ice cream or whipped cream, optional

Directions:

  1. Toss sliced berries with a few tablespoons raw sugar to taste. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  3. Whisk together remaining 1 tablespoon raw sugar, the flour, cornmeal, baking powder & salt.
  4. Work cold butter into the flour mix using your fingers or a pastry cutter.
  5. Drizzle heavy cream over the top of the flour and stir to bring together to form a somewhat wet dough. Use your fingers to bring together into a ball. Knead a few times.
  6. Pat dough out into a rectangle about 10-12 inches x 5 inches. Cut into 6 pieces and place on a baking pan lined with parchment.
  7. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown and puffy. Remove to cool on a rack.
  8. Serve cornmeal warm or room temperature shortcakes split open and topped with juicy strawberries. Add a scoop of ice cream of a dollop of whipped cream if desired.

Teresa Blackburn          www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com     http://www.foodonfifth.com

Pondering the Fungi – Shiitake and Crimini Mushroom Cheese Crust Pie

Looking through the latest issue of Donna Hay magazine while pondering what to eat for dinner I turned a page and beheld the most fabulous photographs of savory pies, crusty quiches, deep dish tarts…whatever you want to call them…and knew exactly what we would be having for dinner. A quick trip to the market and a couple of hours, and much pondering later, our Shiitake-Crimini Mushroom-Cheese Crust Pie was in the oven.

While I was taking photographs of the mushrooms and later while the pie was baking I spent some time pondering nature and how fantastic it is that we have environments where these little, almost precious looking, edible fungi thrive.  Relaxing musings.

This  led to me pondering about what would make any foolish person or persons in charge of overseeing the balance of our natural world want to change, damage or undo environmental policies that protect such environments. Anxious thoughts.

This line of thinking led me to reading about the world of mushrooms. I needed a diversion from the political path I was going down while  waiting for my pie to bake.  I was pretty happy to learn how adaptable they are to multiple and risky environments. Fungi can adapt in amazing ways to changes in the earth and still thrive. Happy ponderings.

Which led me to realize we humans are not in any adaptable league with fungi.  Sad thought.

The last 10 minutes of bake time I spent writing a note or two to a few congressman and the White House about their recent disregard for the environment, fungi and life on earth as we know it.  Hopeful Act.

Pie ponderings. No matter how much I cook I still learn new “tricks” that make so much cooking sense.  Such is the making of this crust. Once the springform pan is prepped and the cheese dough is well-chilled I grated it into and over the bottom. It’s so much easier to press down and up the sides. Grating the chilled dough also created a finished baked pie with a ruggedly ragged crust that is very striking. Thank you Donna Hay.

It looks a lot like fresh pasta doesn’t it?

Sauted mushrooms, Gruyère shredded, eggs, cream, fresh thyme leaves fill the crust……

….to be baked to a toasty brown perfection.

This is one of the best things I have made in a while. Crisp crust, velvety filling with the earthy mushrooms and the sharpness of Gruyère cheese. After all that pondering so very satisfying with a salad and glass of wine. Delicious thoughts.

Shiitake and Crimini Mushroom Cheese Crust Pie

                        

Ingredients for crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour with 1 teaspoon salt mixed in
  • 1 1/2 cups cold butter chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded aged white Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 1 large egg
  • a few tablespoon cold water if needed
  • parchment paper cut to fit 9″springform pan
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter for springform pan
  • a smear of Dijon mustard for the baked crust

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped small
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt & 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 pound mixed shiitake and crimini mushrooms, trimmed
  • 1 cup heavy cream, warmed in the microwave
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyère cheese (divided)
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

Directions for crust:

  1. Place all ingredients except for the ice water in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Remove lid and using fingers test dough to see if it will hold together. If not, replace processor lid and drizzle in, by tablespoons, cold water until dough starts to hold together. It can still be loose and slaggy.
  2. Dump dough onto a flat work surface and form into a firm ball. Cover with plastic and chill for 1 hour. (This could be done the day before just as well.)
  3. When ready to make pie preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  4. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9″ springform pan. Cut a piece of parchment to fit the bottom of the pan. Place in pan and butter paper.
  5. Grate well-chilled dough over the bottom of the pan evenly. Press in bottom and up sides of pan halfway leaving an uneven somewhat ragged edge.
  6. Line dough with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper, fill with pie weights or beans and bake for 25 minutes on a large sheet tray.
  7. Remove the paper and weights and cook for another 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown. Turn heat to 325.
  8. While crust is cooking saute onion and garlic, salt and pepper in olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium heat until onions are softened. Remove and set aside.
  9. Melt butter in same skillet and add mushrooms. Saute until lightly browned stirring often. Remove from heat.
  10. Slowly add the warm cream to the eggs, whisking as you add. Stir in half of the Gruyère cheese and thyme leaves. Add the cooked onion mixture.
  11. Smear the Dijon mustard over the bottom of the baked crust. Sprinkle mushroom over the crust. Gently pour the egg cheese mixture over the mushrooms. Sprinkle remainder of Gruyère and additional thyme if you like over the top.
  12. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, on a sheet pan, or until the center is set and pie is golden brown and puffy. Remove to a wire cooling rack for 30 minutes to cool before cutting. Serve cut into wedges to serve 4 or 6.

Adapted from a recipe from Donna Hay magazine.

 

The Politics of Minestrone

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It has been mentioned and implied to me in passing that perhaps a food blog is not a place for politics. I say food is one of the most political things in the world based on the abundance or lack of,  trade agreements between countries, crops and the ability to farm or not farm,  all affected by conflicts, weather, whims and cultures. Every food we eat or drink is influenced by governments here and abroad. Food is something that many have too much of and many more have too little of. If that is not political I am not sure what is. How do you feel about this?

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The greens in this soup recipe were picked and packaged by workers in Southern California, the canned beans and tomatoes, the Parmigiano came from Italy as well as the word “minestrone” meaning ” a thick vegetable soup with or without pasta”.  The white bowl in my photo was made in Portugal, the pepper grinder from France and the salt pot from a ceramicist in Nashville….oh yeah, the sea salt from England. The quality and safety of each is determined by rules and laws set down by local and federal governments. Trade agreements allow us access to these items.. All directly depend on the politics of where they come from and where they are going to end up. Such is the “politics of minestrone”.

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The rinds of Parmigiano Reggiano add a unique flavor to a pot of minestrone. So don’t toss them when you have grated down to the rind, save for soup.

Hearty, easy and comforting. We can all use a little comfort…no?

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This is an interesting website with lots of interesting videos about food that might make you think about all kinds of food and life in some new ways.

March Minestrone Soup

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Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped small
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 large bunch of Swiss Chard, trimmed & rough chopped
  • 1/2 head of Savoy Cabbage, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh baby Spinach leaves
  • One 28oz. can of whole tomatoes with juice
  • 1 quart low-fat chicken broth
  • 2 quarts of water
  • 2 pieces of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rind
  • 2 cans of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • freshly ground black pepper and sea salt to taste

Directions:

  1. In a stock pot heat olive oil and add chopped onion and celery and saute until softened, about 8-10 minutes.  Stir in smashed garlic and cook another 5 minutes.
  2. To pot add tomatoes with juice, breaking up whole tomatoes as you add them to the pot with your hands. Stir in the chicken broth and water.
  3. Toss in the Parmigiano rind and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the cut up cabbage and spinach leaves and cook on low for about 30 minutes.
  5. Add chard leaves and beans and cook another 15 minutes on a low simmer.
  6. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and sea salt. Discard Parmigiano rinds before serving.

Note: This soup is often served with a cooked, small pasta such as mini shells or ditalini. Trying to cut calories wherever I can we just ate as is.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com   http://www.foodonfifth.com

Cara Cara and Blood Orange Salad E.A.T #23

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Blood Orange, Cara Cara, Satsuma, Tangerine, Navel, Little Cuties, Mandarins by any other name would still taste as sweet or tangy, fresh or juicy.  It is February and peak season for all manner of citrus. Some are easy to peel, some are seedless, some have smooth skins and some are more pithy.

My favorite winter centerpiece is a simple bowl of beautiful oranges. They glow in the late evening light.

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Lovely slices of blood oranges and cara cara oranges ready for a salad. Simple and clean.

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Here are four “easy-as-this”  steps for making perfect oranges slices. This method is sometimes called “supreming” and it is just a technique in which you cut away the pith/membrane from the fruit before slicing or sectioning.

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Pretty easy huh? Slices piled on a salad plate topped with radish sprouts and a drizzle of dressing. It really is as “easy as this”.

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Cara Cara and Blood Orange Salad

  • Time: 20mins
  • Difficulty: extremelyeasy
  • Print

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Ingredients:

  • Ripe, firm, juicy oranges/citrus – for each salad serving use 2 different types. I used cara cara and blood oranges. For 4 servings you need  6-8 oranges, for 6 you need 10-12 oranges
  • fresh sprouts – radish are great, but pea sprouts or sunflower sprouts are good too
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • dressing to drizzle – creamy or vinaigrette.

Directions:

  1. “Supreme” your oranges/citrus and cut into slices. Remove any seeds. Here is how:DSC_0354DSC_0356DSC_0358DSC_0361
  2. Divide slices between serving plates and season with salt & pepper.
  3. Scatter fresh sprouts over the orange slices.
  4. Cover and chill if not eating immediately.
  5. Drizzle with dressing right before serving.

Teresa Blackburn      www.teresablackburnfoodstyling.com