Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Boysenberry Bonanza: Ice Cream and Macarons

What a difference 4 days make! We made a quick trip to watch our nephew compete in the Junior National Volleyball Championships and came home four short days later to a bounty of boysenberries. This is our first year of full production off our 3 thornless boysenberry plants, staked up to the fence along our driveway (making it a bit difficult to park during the blooming summer months!). They were just dripping with berries, yielding 8 pints upon our return. Every two days since then I am able to pick another 3-4 pints. So I have been getting creative with this boysenberry bonanza.

Not one to waste such deliciousness, and being short on time initially, I processed the majority of that first batch berries using the IQF method. IQF stand for individual quick freeze and involves placing the berries in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freezing them until hard. This allows you to pack them in a large Ziploc bag without them sticking to one another.

I also combined the berries with Blenheim apricots that I picked up at LJB Farms to make an apricot-boysenberry crisp for a 4th of July fete. Every year I get one lug of Blenheims and make the most wonderful apricot-vanilla jam. Blenheims ripen and have a limited window of time of about 10 days each June/July, so I have to watch closely for their availability. (I think someone needs to figure out a way to lengthen that season!!!)

But the real winners so far in my boysenberry fest were served at last Sunday’s family dinner. I made homemade boysenberry ice cream and boysenberry macarons. Not sure what got into me, as the weather was very hot and baking wasn’t really the smartest thing to do, but I had a yen for macarons, so there you go. I can think of worse things to do on a hot day but the end result, and a grateful family, made it all worth it.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Sundried Tomato Tapenade

Godmothers are wonderful creatures. They are an endless supply of love, wisdom, and wonderful recipes. My godmother, Joyce, has been exceptional on all points. Last year, she guided my attempt at sweet potato gnocchi that was a rousing success. Soft orange pillows bathed in brown butter and sage, they have become part of my permanent repertoire. More recently she sent me a recipe for a tapenade, that wonderfully salty olive mixture that pairs perfectly with a fresh baguette or tossed with pasta. Of course, I couldn’t help but tinker with the recipe, fine-tuning it to my own tastes and pantry.

This take on tapenade features sundried tomatoes and sautéed onion, adding some heft and flavor to the chunky mixture. The end result was fantastic, with the family mounding spoonfuls onto thick slabs of bread, being completely devoured in a matter of seconds. The preparation is simple, and makes enough for a cocktail party or, in our case, two family Sunday dinners. Ingredients are available year-round, so no need to limit it to one season. Take it on a picnic, serve it at the holidays, and pair it with a hearty red wine. You won’t be disappointed.

Sundried Tomato-Olive Tapenade

1 medium red or purple onion, minced
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 8.5-ounce jar sundried tomatoes (packed in oil)*
1/2 cup large green olives (manzanilla, sevillano, or similar)
1/2 cup cured black olives (kalamata, nicoise, etc.)
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
Approximately 1 3/4 cups extra virgin olive oil
fresh cracked pepper
Optional: 1 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes

Heat one tablespoon each of butter and vegetable oil in frying pan over medium heat. Add minced onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until just turning brown. Add balsamic, scraping up any brown bits stuck to the pan. Remove from heat.

Drain sundried tomatoes, reserving oil. Roughly chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Pit olives, if necessary, and roughly chop, adding to the tomatoes. Mince the fresh basil leaves and add to the bowl. Stir in the onion mixture. Add 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper, stirring well. (If you like a spicier tapenade, you can add cracked red pepper flakes.)

Pour reserved oil from tomatoes into a measuring cup. Add olive oil to make 2 cups total. Add to tomato-olive mixture and stir well. Pour into large jar or Tupperware and allow to sit overnight.

The following day, using a food processor, stick blender, or traditional blender, process the mixture with a few quick pulses. Do not over-blend, as you want a somewhat chunky texture. Add additional black pepper to taste. Serve with slices of sourdough, rustic country, or french bread for dipping. 

*Trader Joes makes a julienned version that works perfectly