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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Blackberry Fool

A few weeks ago, next to some mountains in Utah, two boys and their mom pulled a neighbor's blackberries out of the freezer. They grabbed the cream from the fridge that had been delivered overnight from a local dairy. They consulted the recipe at the end of the picture book they had checked out from the library a few days before.

The boys whipped the cream with an electric mixer. Zzzzzzzh. In just a few minutes: whipped cream. "You should lick the beaters," the woman said to her boys. And they did. Mmmmmmm.

The woman defrosted the berries in the microwave, then the boys enjoyed smashing the berries with a fork. Everyone took a turn pressing the berries through a colander. Then the boys sprinkled sugar over the fruit and together they mixed the fruit into the cream. They placed the mixture in the fridge for several hours.

For their afternoon snack, the family ate the blackberry fool, on their back steps, looking up at their mountains. The baby was napping, but he enjoyed the dessert after dinner that night.

Something wasn't quite right with their fool, though; it was too runny. The mom thought maybe they should have whipped the cream longer, or maybe used fresh berries. And next time she might reduce the sugar. But that's for the next iteration of this fine dessert!

A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat illustrates some ways the world has evolved over the last four hundred years, as viewed through the preparation of blackberry fool. The source of the cream and the blackberries, the people that prepare it, the tools they use, and the people that eat the fool change over the centuries. But everyone licks the spoon and bowl clean!

As I wrote this post I discovered some criticism about the way this book portrayed slavery in 1810 South Carolina. See here or here for more information. I understand the objections, though admit to conflicted feelings since the book is otherwise so lovely. But be aware and use your best judgement as you read it with children.


Blackberry Fool

Source: A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall

2 1/2 c fresh blackberries
1/2 c sugar, divided in two
1 teas vanilla
1 1/2 c heavy cream

Mash the berries with a potato masher, large fork, or food processor. With clean hands, press the crushed berries through a colander or sieve to remove the seeds. Sprinkle the fruit with 1/4 c of the sugar. Stir.

In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 c of sugar, the vanilla and the cream. Using a whisk or whatever kind of beater you have, whip the mixture until it makes soft peaks, but not stiff ones.

Fold the sugared berries into the whipped cream. Taste it to see if it's sweet enough. Add more sugar if you need it. There should be streaks of white and purple.

Refrigerate for 3 hours or more, and then enjoy!

Note: We used frozen berries, which the recipe says you can, but I want to try it again. Our fool ended up too runny. So either we didn't whip the cream enough or there was too much extra moisture in the frozen berries.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Mint and Lemon

This is a simple and easy salad made delicious by the lemon and mint dressing.


Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Mint and Lemon

Serves: 4-5

Use this recipe as a guide. If you like more or less of anything change what you add.

Serves 4-6

2 medium cucumbers (about 1 pd), peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and cut 1/4-in thick slices
1 teas salt
4 ripe tomatoes (about 1 pd) and cut into 3/4-in thick wedges, or halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
8-10 large fresh mint leaves , cut into thin strips
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 T fresh lemon juice
freshly ground pepper

Toss the cucumbers and salt in a large colander set over a rimmed plate or a bowl. Fill a zipper-locked plastic bag with ice water and set the bag on top of the cucumber slices. Allow to drain for an hour. Thoroughly rinse the cucumber slices under cold, running water and pat dry with a towel. The salad will be considerably less watery if you complete this step, but in a pinch you could skip it if you taste for seasoning before serving.

Place the tomatoes into a large bowl and add a tiny bit of salt being careful not to overdo it since the cucumbers will remain salty. Add the cucumbers, onion, and mint and toss gently. Drizzle the oil and lemon juice over the salad and toss again. Season with pepper to taste and serve immediately.