Saturday, Spring Strawberries, Buttered Toast and My Week in Photos

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Wouter, who is Dutch, introduced me to this style of eating small, sweet strawberries on toasted bread with butter.

Not really a recipe, here is what you do to for the best Saturday, May 17th,  breakfast ever…..

1. Wash 1 pint of small, local, sweet strawberries under cool running water. Remove caps & put into a bowl, cutting larger berries in half. Sprinkle berries with a bit of turbinado/raw sugar. Crush a few berries with a fork. Let sit while you make toast.

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2. Slather toasted bread with softened butter, top with berries & another light dusting of sugar. This simple way of eating berries allows them to retain their flavor without being overwhelmed by other ingredients. It is just magical. Thanks Wouter.

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Get a little closer…..here….have a bite.

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“A Little Gallery of Images from my Week”

Saturday, May 10th, morning with previous week's NYT Corssword puzzle & cinnamon roll from "flour.sugar.eggs" Nashville
Saturday, May 10th, morning with previous week’s NYT crossword puzzle & cinnamon roll from “flour.sugar.eggs” Nashville
Vintage French Linens, Saturday, May 10th, shopping at Antique Mall for Props
Vintage French Linens, Saturday afternoon, May 10th, shopping at Gas Lamp Antique Mall for Props
May 11th, Sunday Mother's Day Brunch
May 11th, Sunday Mother’s Day Brunch
Early Monday morning, May 12th, strawberries from our garden
Early Monday morning, May 12th, strawberries from our garden
Wednesday, May 14, walk  around neighborhood, sign at corner of Monroe & 6th, Historic Germantown, Nashville, TN
Tuesday, May 13, walk around neighborhood, sign at corner of Monroe & 6th, Historic Germantown, Nashville, TN
Thursday, May 15, Prop Shopping after photo shoot with Paul, Ashley & Haley from Chicago. Mexican Silver knives & forks & odd spoons.
Wednesday, May 14, Prop Shopping after photo shoot with Paul, Ashley & Haley from Chicago. Mexican Silver knives & forks & odd spoons.
Thursday, May 15th, Blueberry Lemonade Ice Cubes, Photo Shoot
Thursday, May 15th, Blueberry Lemonade Ice Cubes, Photo Shoot, Relish Magazine
Thursday, May 15th, Photo Shoot Strawberry Tarts for Relish Magazine
Thursday, May 15th, Photo Shoot Strawberry Tarts for Relish Magazine
"Love Corn", Photo Shoot, Cutting Corn from Cob Demo, Relish Magazine
“Love Corn”, Friday, May 16th, Photo Shoot, Cutting Corn from Cob Demo, Relish Magazine
Saturday, May 17th. Strawberries on Buttered Toast with Turbinado Sugar.
Saturday, May 17th. Strawberries on Buttered Toast with Turbinado Sugar.

Life is short, make every day count. Have fun, work hard, sleep well and eat good food.

 

Blackberries, A Snake and An Upside Down (Gluten Free) Cake

Fresh Blackberries Please

I will bet most of you do not think of Blackberries and immediately think of Snakes…yes real live Snakes! Let me just say I am pretty crazy about freshly picked Blackberries, but not so crazy about snakes (sorry snake lovers). Why, you might ask, do I think of these two things simultaneously? Let me tell share with you a very short vignette….

….West Tennessee on a dry, dusty, hotter-than-Hades kind of day…lots of years ago when I was around 9 or 10…

I loved doing anything with my Grandmother (Granny) no matter if it was work or play.  I always wanted to tag along. The wild blackberries hung heavy & ripe all around so it was time to go berry-picking, the wild kind not the kind of blackberries planted in neat rows.  We were cautioned to wear “real shoes” &  to take care when blackberry picking as snakes liked berry patches.  This caution, along with many others doled out on such occasions, was met with a certain nonchalance on my part. Before this particular day, not after, nor since.

The sun was relentless as we began to pick around the outer edge of the very dense berry patch. At first reaching what was easy. But so very many large juicy black berries were just out of my reach a few feet into the patch. I wanted those berries. I boldly stepped forward with one foot lifted off the ground when I “felt” something move liquid smooth, quietly, directly beneath where I was about to plant my foot. I froze, foot midair.  Looking down I saw the snake slithering, very large & fat right underneath my berries & my foot. I am convinced to this day that I did levitate, backwards, out of the berry patch. There is something very Biblical about levitation isn’t there? And Fruit? And Snakes?

I did not pick anymore berries that summer.  I have picked since, I have bought many berries that others have picked, I am still pretty crazy about blackberries, but still not so much about snakes.

Here is a really easy not-so-sweet upside down cake that I made last Sunday using fresh local Blackberries picked by others, along with a few Pluots.

Cake

Here is what you will need to make this very dense moist gluten-free cake:

Ingredients for Upside Down Cake

1/2 stick Butter, 1 pint of Blackberries, 2 Pluots (or plums or peaches), 1 cup Raw Sugar/Turbinado, 2 cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, 1 cup Almond Meal Flour, the zest of 1 Lemon, 3 eggs, 2 cups Buttermilk, Sliced Almonds

Here is how you make it:

Skillet with Browned Butter

1. Place a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet with the 1/2 stick of butter over medium high heat until the butter is browned. Remove skillet from heat & set aside to cool somewhat. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Let me take a moment to say that if you do not have an iron skillet get one. A good seasoned cast iron skillet is just the best thing to use for all sorts of cooking. Lodge pre-seasoned cast iron skillets can be purchased very affordably on-line. I have many of their skillets in various sizes that I use daily.  For this recipe I am using my Great Grandmother’s iron skillet which is amazing well seasoned and is one of the reasons this cake will slip right out of the pan after it is cooked with no sticking.

Blackberries & Pluots in Iron Skillet

2. Slice Pluots & arrange in the bottom of the iron skillet over the browned butter. Sprinkle the Blackberries to cover bottom of skillet between & around Pluot slices.

Batter for Upside Down Cake

3. In a large mixing bowl whisk together the cornmeal, almond flour & sugar.  Add eggs & buttermilk & lemon zest.  Blend until batter is smooth. Spread batter over fruit in the skillet. Sprinkle with a generous handful of sliced almonds.

Upside down cake batterUpside down cake batter over fruit

Batter in skilletSliced Almonds over Upside Down Cake Batter

4. Bake in 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown &  bubbly around the edges & set in the center. Let cake cool in the skillet for about 10 minutes.

Upside Down Cake Baked

5. The “reveal” of an upside down cake is always the fun part. Place a plate or platter larger than the skillet face down over the skillet & then quickly & carefully invert plate & skillet right side up.

Plate

See how easy that was?

Blackberry Upside Down Cake

The crunch of the cornmeal combined with the browned butter, lemon zest & almond flavors & not too much sugar meld to make a very satisfying breakfast cake. Dust with a bit of powdered sugar if desired.

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Have you ever picked wild berries? Have you ever almost stepped on a snake? Do you connect foods you eat to events  from your past?

After I posted this my friend Diane Stopford, a Dubliner, left me a comment and a link to a poem by Seamus Heaney “Blackberry Picking” which I wanted to share with you. Thanks Diane.

Eat more Cake.

Give Me Some Sugar, Sugah!

….just a bit for my hot cup of tea..not too much…just a demitasse spoonful….that’s all.

How, as a Southerner, can I not like a little sugar? You other Southerners know what I mean. “Give me some sugah” being said to you as a child most often from some of your favorite Aunts & Grandmothers. Not literally “sugar”, but “sugah” which we all know means a kiss…as in “come over here honey and give Aunt Ruth some sugah”. So it is no wonder that many of us have a bit of a sweet tooth. We like our tea sweet, our cakes & pies a bit over the top and question those who do not.

I take a New Southern approach to “sugah”…a little bit goes a long way and if it is an interesting & somewhat exotic sugar  flavored with vanilla beans, ginger or lemon grass then it must be better for me when I stir a very wee amount into a hot cup of tea. Yes?

“My Very Little Recipes for Aromatic & Flavored Sugars for Beverages & Desserts”

#1. Brown Sugar Cubes Scented with Candied Ginger

Fill a glass jar loosely with brown sugar cubes & toss in a handful of candied ginger pieces. Shake well, add tight-fitting lid. After a week or so your scented sugar is ready for a hot cup of  strong black tea.

#2. Lavender & Lemon White Sugar

Into a glass jar filled with white sugar add a few stems of air-dried lavender & fresh lemon peels. Add tight-fitting lid & shake jar every few days. After a week or so the aromas & flavors will meld into a very delicate lemon sugar with hints of lavender. Very good with an Earl Grey tea or sprinkled over shortbread cookies.

#3. Coconut Palm Sugar with Star Anise & Green Cardamom Pods

Combine 1 tablespoon of slightly crushed cardamom pods & a few star anise  with a generous cup of coconut palm sugar for a wonderfully earthy sugar. Put int0 a jar with tight-fitting lid, shake often for a week or so allowing the sugar to become aromatic. I like this sugar with hot tea as well as cold tea over ice cubes.

#4. Very Vanilla Bean Raw Sugar

Not so unusual but oh-so-perfect with afternoon tea and a good book. Cut vanilla bean carefully down the length, open up to reveal beans and stick into a jar of raw sugar. Shake & leave covered for a couple of weeks before using. When you open the lid for the first time the scent is amazing. The perfect topping for a fruit tart or to make sugar-butter toast.

#5. Caster Sugar Scented with Fresh Lemon Grass

Add a few stalks of fresh lemon grass cut into pieces to this superfine cane sugar for a few days, shaking often to keep sugar from clumping, for a delightful sugar that is great dusted over pancakes or cookies or stirred into  hot lemon-zinger tea.

#6. Swedish Pearl Sugar with Cinnamon & Nutmeg

Readily available at most supermarkets in their international food aisle, I have always loved the way it looks, but really never knew what to do with it. I bought some, added a partially grated whole nutmeg & a couple of cinnamon sticks and was loving the aroma immediately. I think I will use this to decorate some simple cocoa sugar cookies for the holidays.

 This blog was inspired by my  collection of sugars from around the world. I found some of them while traveling, some were given to me as gifts and some I found in local international markets. Palm Sugar from Malaysia & Cambodia, White Pearl Sugar from Sweden, Rock Candy Sugar from China, Basterd Sugar from the The Netherlands, Dark Muscovado from the Mauritius, Panela from El Salvador & Piloncillo Sugar from Mexico, as well as Turbinado, White & Caster.

“Be sweet & make every sip count”

“Strawberries Fresh Picked & Put Up!” E.A.T. #3

Do you suffer from fear of canning? When you hear the words “water bath” do you shudder?

Hold on! Help is on its way…there is more than one way to overcome your fear, your trepidation, your absolute mind block about “canning”…come, I will share with you my fool-proof method to overcome your suffering as part of my E.A.T. (easy as that) series.

“E.A.T. #3  Fresh Picked Strawberries – Put Up”

My Grandmother, on my Father’s side of the family, Kenny Mae,  called it “putting up”…as in “we are going to put up some strawberries this morning” or “it’s about time to put up some beans”. So let’s forget the word “canning” for a bit…but we will come back to that a bit later this summer…for now I will share with you my “easy as that” method to “put up” fresh picked strawberries that will calm the fearful,  instill confidence in those who doubt, and give the uncertain certainty.

This April has given us an early bumper crop of Strawberries here in middle Tennessee. We are lucky in that the weather has smiled on us, but the moment will be fleeting as the days get hotter and drier.

At our house at this time Wouter & I  eat fresh strawberries every day. We go to the Farmer’s Markets and try berries from different counties around us. We eat them rinsed just out of the container, we eat them on crusty toasted bread with butter…(Wouter says that is the classic Dutch way to eat Spring strawberries)…we put them in all of our dinner salads, on granola for breakfast and in drinks.

Here is how to “put-up” strawberries to enjoy later in the year.

What you will need:

4 quarts of fresh picked strawberries, rinsed & drained

Turbinado or Raw Sugar, 3/4 cup

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar or other interesting fruity vinegar

Glass jars & lids that have been washed in soapy water, rinsed & air-dried

What to do?…it’s e.a.t. !

1. Cap berries. That means take off the green tops & discard. If strawberries are large then cut in half, if small then leave whole. Put all capped berries in a large bowl. Every so often sprinkle a layer of the berries with a few tablespoons of the sugar. Repeat until all berries are capped & sprinkled with sugar. Allow berries to sit for at least 15 minutes.

2. Using a fork smash berries to release juices. Don’t try to smash all the berries, just about half of them.

3. Stir in 2 tablespoons of balsamic or other fruity vinegar.

4. Fill glass jars with strawberries &  juice, leaving about 3/4 of an inch of each jar unfilled. (We are going to put the jars in the freezer. Freezing will make the mixture expand.)

5. Put lids on jars snuggly. Place in freezer until you are ready to use for some fabulous treat.

There…now that wasn’t so hard was it? Berries “put up” using this method is the first step to getting over your “fear of canning”. It is a baby step in the world of canning, but a big step for someone like me who just started canning about 2 years ago. This is how I got started. I don’t have a very large freezer so I have to mix this method with the more traditional (water bath) method for some of my goodies.  Freezing berries keeps their wonderful color and flavor. They will still be savory enough for salad dressing, yet sweet enough for desserts.

Let me know if you have questions…My little email hotline is open. Just get in touch:

teresablackburn1@mac.com

I am here for you. Start out with just a few jars…jump in, don’t be afraid.

A little gallery of how we eat fresh berries & use some of our frozen berries:

Fresh strawberries, no sugar on toasted bread with Kerrygold butter for breakfast.
More fresh berries with turbinado smashed on more toast with butter for lunch.
Nestled in salad greens from our garden & fresh Mozzarella from Lazzaroli’s in Nashville.
I folded some berries into a pint of vanilla ice cream…to make “faux” Strawberry Ice Cream.
Eaten natural.
Strawberry Aqua Fresca..partially frozen berries, fresh lime juice, honey & water blended.