Summer Berry Spritzers and a Mojito



~ Blackberry, Lime and Mint Spritzers~

It’s summertime and the living is easy. And what better way to enjoy the sultry season than with a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink? During this window of time when berries are prolific, I like to make a syrup which I add to drinks.  Depending on the mood or time of day, I’ll stir a few spoonfuls of the vibrant, tangy syrup into icy glasses of Prosecco or sparkling water. If we’re feeling extra festive, I’ll muddle a jigger-full with mint, lime and rum and call it a mojito. The following recipes call for blackberries, but raspberries are a great substitute. And if you’re lucky enough to have a bunch of black currants growing in your garden, then go for it.

Blackberry Syrup
Makes about 1 cup.

12 ounces blackberries
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until blackberries soften and release their juices, about 10 minutes. Cool. Purée in a food processor, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Discard the seeds.

Blackberry Spritzers
Makes 1 

Ice cubes
1 part blackberry syrup
2 parts sparkling water, white wine or Proscecco
Lime wedge and mint leaves for garnish

Fill a wine or cocktail glass with ice. Add syrup and sparkling water. Stir. Garnish with lime and mint.

Blackberry Mojito
Makes 1 

1/2 lime, cut in 4 wedges
2 sprigs mint, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) blackberry syrup
Crushed ice
1.5 ounces white rum
Sparkling water
1-2 blackberries for garnish

Muddle 2 lime wedges, mint sprigs and syrup together in a sturdy highball glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour rum over ice. Top with sparkling water to taste. Garnish with whole blackberries, remaining lime wedges and mint.

 

Watermelon, Feta and Bulgur Salad

Watermelon fetaPosted by Lynda Balslev

Watermelon is a staple in the heat of summer. Juicy, refreshing, nourishing and thirst quenching, it satisfies on many levels without filling you up. It’s served for breakfast in the Mediterranean climates and is a great addition to salads. It’s mellow sweetness is perfectly complemented by salty feta. This salad is a mini-meal with the addition of bulgur, and a perfect lunch stop on a hot summer day. It’s also a great addition to a barbecue.

Watermelon, Feta and Bulgur Salad
This recipe provides for a large salad. Feel free to halve the bulgur and use the extra ingredients to your taste. Serves 4

1 cup bulgur
Salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small seedless watermelon, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes, about 3 cups
2 handfuls sugar snap peas, stemmed, halved
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 ounces feta, crumbled
1/4 cup Italian parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the bulgur in a bowl. Add 2 cups boiling water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and let stand until bulgur is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain any excess water and fluff with a fork.
Whisk the oil, lemon juice, cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dressing to the bulgur and stir to combine. Taste and add a little more dressing if desired (the rest will be drizzled over the salad).
Transfer the bulgur to a serving platter. Scatter the watermelon, snap peas and red onion over the bulgur. Top with the feta and parsley. Drizzle with remaining dressing. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

Summer Reflections: Clam Chowder

Summer Reflections: Clam Chowder

Posted by Lynda Balslev 

This week I am traveling in Stockholm and its surrounding archipelago. While I’ve visited the beautiful capitol before, I have never ventured into Stockholm’s surrounding archipelago which consists of some 24,000 islands. Within an hour you can find yourself on a tiny island surrounded by nature, and feel as if you are light years from the maddening crowd. More on that later, but in the meantime, I post this from the small island of Grinda.  With the outside air cool and fresh and a fire crackling inside the Grinda Wardshus great room, I can’t help but think of Clam Chowder. Blame it on my New England roots, all right, but a bowl of chowder sings summer to me – no matter if it’s a sunny day at the beach or an afternoon cloaked in fog.

Clam Chowder
Use the smallest clams you can get your hands on, such as little necks, middle necks, or, if you are on the U.S. west coast, manila clams. Serves 4 to 6.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced
1 small celery root, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 pound small fingerling potatoes, cut in 1/4-inch coins
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chicken stock
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
12 manila or middle neck clams or 24 little neck clams
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and fry until the fat is nearly rendered (it will continue to render as the vegetables cook). Add the onion and leek and sauté until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the celery root and potatoes. Sauté until the vegetables being to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the milk, cream, stock, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the clams. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until clams open, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any unopened clam shells. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot garnished with fresh thyme sprigs.

Lemony Mixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint

fava green saladIt was tempting to fiddle with this salad, but I am happy I didn’t. The beauty of this plate of greens is its simplicity. Bright fava beans, mint, spring greens and napped with lemon and olive oil. Favas are a bit of work to prepare, but well worth the effort. A good idea is to prep more than you need, then freeze the leftovers for easy use later. Feel free to mix the greens to your liking. Peppery arugula is a must, on its own or combined with mizuna, baby spinach, watercress – they all work. If you can get your hands on fresh chervil, that will add nice flavor as well.

Lemony Mixed Greens with Fava Beans and Mint
Serves 3 to 4

1 pound fava beans in the pod
5 ounces (about 5 cups) mixed greens
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, shredded
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Shuck the fava beans. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the beans and blanch until bright green, about 1 minute. Drain and rinse under cold water. When cool enough to handle, remove the shells.
2. Whisk the olive oil,  lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt in a small bowl.
3. Combine the fava beans, greens and mint in the salad bowl. Drizzle with half of the dressing and toss to coat. Add more dressing to taste. Scatter the cheese over the salad and garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp

bloody mary gazpacho tastefood

Posted by Lynda Balslev

This chilled and refreshing summer soup is spiced with all of the necessary accoutrements for a great Bloody Mary, minus the vodka. (Of course, who says you can’t add a splash of spirits for an adult appetizer?) So, depending on your mood, the time of day – and your age – you might call this a spicy gazpacho, an inspired shrimp cocktail, or even a substantial bloody mary, heavy on the garnishes. Serve for brunch or lunch, or in small glasses as a party starter.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho with Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

4 cups tomato juice
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 celery stalks, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 English cucumber, seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 small red onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery leaves

Optional garnishes:
Celery stalks
Italian Parsley stalks
1 pound large (15/20) shrimp, deveined and shelled with tails intact, cooked and chilled
Splash(es) of vodka

Combine all of the gazpacho ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour and up to 4 hours to let the flavors develop. Serve in bowls or cups. Garnish with celery, parsley and shrimp if using. For an adult version, stir in a splash of vodka.

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel

Plum Pear Blueberry Crisp

~
Nothing says summer better than a fruit crisp which effortlessly absorbs the season’s bounty. Let the market dictate your choice of fruit. Then fold the ripest gems – winey plums, tender pears, juicy blueberries – into your well loved and slightly worn ceramic dishes. Sprinkle with a little sugar and spice and crown it with a nutty streusel topping.

Plums Market

For this fruit crisp, I let the St. Helena farmers’ market do the talking.

Pears market

and ended up with this:

Pear, Plum and Blueberry Crisp with Walnut Streusel
and Armagnac Whipped Cream 

Serves 8 to 10

Streusel:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Armagnac Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Armagnac

Filling:
1 pint blueberries, divided
6 ripe but not too soft pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou, cut in 1-inch chunks
6 plums, pitted, cut in 1-inch chunks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Prepare the streusel:
In a large bowl, whisk together all the ingredients except the butter and walnuts. Add butter and work into the topping with your fingertips until the it resembles coarse meal. Stir in the walnuts. Cover and refrigerate until use.

Prepare the whipped cream:
Beat cream in bowl of electric mixer with a wire whisk until thickened. Add sugar and armagnac. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. Refrigerate until use. (May be made up to 4 hours in advance.)

Prepare the crumble:
Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C) Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish.
Place half of the blueberries and the remaining filling ingredients in a large bowl. Gently stir to combine. Pour into the baking dish. Scatter the remaining blueberries over the filling. Spoon the streusel evenly over the top. Bake in the oven until the crisp is bubbly, the pears are soft, and the topping is golden brown, about 50 minutes. Remove and cool slightly. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Plum Galette

plum crostata tastefood

When life hands you plums, make a galette

I am the queen of imperfect desserts. When I feel nonchalant I call them “rustic” but frankly they can look like a mess. The good news is that there is plenty of room for imperfect, rustic and messy desserts in our repertoire. In fact most cuisines tout their own version of bubbly, squidgy desserts cobbled together with crumpled and crinkled borders oozing juices like a ruptured pipe. They’re supposed to do that, and more importantly, they taste really good. And when one lacks a certain gene for patience (moi) these desserts are just right. They relieve all pressure to be exacting, methodical and, well, perfect. Once that pressure’s removed there is plenty of space to simply relax, bake and eat. Just be sure to pass the napkins.

Plums

Plum Galette

If you’re feeling Italian, you can call this a crostata. Serves 6.

Serves 6

Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
2 to 3 tablespoons ice cold water

Filling:
6 large plums, halved, pitted and sliced or 12 small plums, halved, pitted
6 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Pinch of salt

Prepare the pastry:
Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and work into flour with your fingertips until the dough resembles coarse meal. Add enough water to bind the dough. Form the dough into a ball and flatten into a disk, then wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least one hour.

Prepare the galette:
1. Heat the oven to 375°F. Toss the plums in a large bowl with 4 tablespoons sugar, the flour, lemon zest, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt.
2. Roll out the dough on parchment paper into a 12-inch circle. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Mound the plums over the sugar. Sprinkle the plums with 1 tablespoon sugar. Fold the border of the dough up and around the plums. The center of the galette will be exposed.
3. Slide the parchment onto a baking sheet and transfer to the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the fruit is bubbly and the crust is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove and cool slightly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.