Local Berries Are Coming!

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

I was jolted awake when I saw a Facebook notice from Flavor Magazine (Virginia) that LOCAL BLUEBERRIES (from Grelen Pick Your Own-near Charlottesville) ARE ALMOST HERE! Wahooo!
“Our blueberries and brambles are much ahead of last year’s ripening schedule. We expect the first blueberries to ripen within the next two weeks, and we have lots of them! Black raspberries should ripen by late May followed by red and yellow raspberries. Blackberries should ripen by mid June.”

It’s nice to have a savory dish to offer as a surprise for berries. Then, of course, come all of the irresistible desserts. Because we can never get enough berries…we’ll continue this berry plethora next week!

Pad Thai Salad with Blackberries

Serves 4-6

If you find a great source of flavorful blackberries, you’ll be amazed how their sweet juiciness enlivens even more the full-bodied recipe. If it sounds odd, have the faith…it’s delightful!

  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut into chunks
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 1 cup bean sprouts, rinsed and trimmed, optional
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce, or more
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste or ketchup
  • (2 teaspoons sugar, if you use tamarind)
  • (1/4 cup lime juice, if you use ketchup)
  • 2 chilies, preferably Thai, stemmed, seeded and sliced, optional
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup fresh sweet blackberries
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

Boil rice noodles in salted water according to directions, stirring occasionally. Test for texture: noodles are done when they are firm but tender (al dente). Rinse noodles in cold water until cool and drain well. Place into a large bowl and toss with the 2 teaspoons oil until all noodles are lightly coated.

Put 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or a large skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium heat. Add eggs and scramble quickly for first minute or so with a fork almost flat against the bottom of pan; you’re aiming for a thin egg crepe of sorts, one with the smallest curd you can achieve. Cook just until set and remove crepe to a cutting board. Cut into 1/4-inch strips and add to the noodles.

Raise heat to high, and add remaining oil. When oil is hot, add garlic and shrimp, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp turn bright pink; transfer to the bowl with a slotted spoon; add scallions and half the bean sprouts; cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Again transfer with a slotted spoon.

Add fish sauce, chilies, tamarind and sugar, (or ketchup and lime juice) and a little water-about 1/4 cup; stir just to combine and deglaze the pan (add a little more water, if necessary), then drizzle warm dressing over salad. Toss, taste, and adjust seasoning, then top with peanuts, arugula and blackberries. Serve with lime wedges on side.


Individual Berry Galettes w/ New Age Pastry (a la Jack Daniels)

Makes 4 galettes

It took me a while to sleuth out the source of this new “drunken” pastry recipe-spiked with vodka. I recently saw the new  recipe in Cooking Light Magazine, but when I googled: Vodka Pastry, all kinds of websites were highlighting it. I now believe Cooks Illustrated started the entire saga and then Cooking Light reduced the fat (butter, in this case) even more.

Well, leave it to me to want to experiment further. I don’t love making pastry but with fresh berries at the ready and a challenging twist on the pastry, I was game! So I decided to try rich caramel whiskey to see if it would impart extra richness (minus extra fat) in the crust. It was great!

The theory of adding liquor is that the liquid replaces a good bit of the fat from the butter. Since too much liquid causes an excess of gluten, the dough can become gummy. Since the alcohol evaporates as the pastry bakes, the result is a flaky light pastry.

Per galette

  • 1 cup mixed berries (or single blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
  • Grated lemon zest
  • Local honey
  • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • whipped cream of Greek yogurt for topping

New Age Pastry

  • 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 9 tablespoons (1 stick + 1 tablespoon) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/4 cup cold Jack Daniels
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). With a rubber spatula, scrape the bowl. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle chilled liquor and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Divide each disk in half and , using extra flour, roll out until about 1/4-inch thick. Place about 1 cup of berries in the center. Sprinkle with lemon zest and a drizzle of honey. Carefully fold edges of dough up to enclose just the edges of the fruit-leaving the center open. Brush with egg wash. With a large flat spatula, lift onto a greased flat baking pan.

Bake for 18-22 minutes-until golden brown. Place on a cooling rack until room temperature. Serve topped with whipped cream or Greek yogurt.