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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Desserts

RECIPE: Gouda Cheese With Spicy Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Who but the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (EatWisconsinCheese.com) would come up with this innovative pairing: Gouda cheese with pumpkin seed brittle! Serve it as dessert during “pumpkin season.”

The result, while seemingly simple, is a complex dessert that is creamy, crunchy, spicy and sweet. (If you don’t like spicy foods, leave out the pepper.)

RECIPE: SPICY PUMPKIN SEED BRITTLE

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) hulled spicy roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and/or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Gouda or other favorite cheese
  •  

    A seasonal “cheese course.” Photo courtesy Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.

     

    Preparation

    1. STIR together the baking soda and melted butter; set aside. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper; set aside a second sheet the same size. Butter the parchment on one side.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, water and salt in a heavy 2-quart saucepan; bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; wash down any sugar crystals on sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Simmer the syrup 10 to 12 minutes until it reaches 240°F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat. With a wooden spoon, add the pumpkin seeds and pepper.

    3. RETURN the pan to medium-low heat while stirring; melt again until mixture turns amber brown and reaches 290°F (if the syrup becomes granular during cooking, continue to cook until it remelts). Remove from heat; stir in butter-baking soda mixture with wooden spoon.

    4. POUR the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet; cover with the second parchment sheet. Press the mixture with a rolling pin to 1/4-inch thick. Remove the top layer of parchment; cool completely; crack brittle.

    5. STORE the brittle between layers of parchment in a sealed container for up to two weeks. Plate with a wedge of Gouda cheese, or serve alongside a platter of assorted cheeses.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Apple “Jell-O” With Caramel Crème Fraîche

    For sophisticated palates, here’s a riff on the Halloween caramel apple: apple gelatin with a cloak of caramel crème fraîche.

    It’s from CookTheStory.com, the website of Christine Pittman, a recipe developer and photographer. Check out the website for more delicious recipes.

    “For this recipe,” says Christine, “you combine apple juice and gelatin and then divide it among small jars before putting it in the fridge to set. Then you mix crème fraîche with caramel sauce and whipped cream and slip it on top of the jello. There’s a layer of nuts and caramel between the jello and the crème fraîche. Oh my!”

    Note that while many people use the term Jell-O generically, it is a trademark of Kraft Foods, and refers only to the Jell-O brand. Everything else is properly called gelatin.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE APPLE GELATIN WITH CARAMEL CRÈME FRAÎCHE

    Prep time is 25 minutes. The recipe can be made up to two days in advance.

    Ingredients For 8 Servings

  • 4 cups apple juice, divided
  • 3 packets (0.25 ounce each) gelatin powder (2.5 tablespoons powder)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • ½ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1½ cups caramel sauce, divided
  • 8 ounces crème fraîche (store-bought or homemade)
  •    

    apple-jello-caramel-creme-fraiche-cookthestory-230

    Photo courtesy CookTheStory.com.

  • 1¾ cup whipped cream (store-bought or homemade from 1 cup whipping cream)
  •  

    Preparation

    1. POUR 3 cups of the juice into a medium sauce pan. Bring it to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile…

    2. POUR the remaining cup of cold apple juice into a large bowl. Sprinkle the cold juice with the gelatin powder. Let stand for 1 minute. Add the boiling juice to the cold juice. Stir continuously for 3 minutes and then stir in the maple syrup or honey.

    3. DIVIDE the apple juice mixture among 8 jars, glasses or dessert bowls with an 8-10 ounce capacity. Refrigerate until set, about 3-4 hours. Once the jelly has set…

    4. COMBINE the walnuts with the cinnamon and ¾ cup of the caramel sauce. Divide evenly among the 8 containers. (Up until this point the recipe can be made up to 2 days ahead. Keep the containers refrigerated). When ready to serve…

    5. MIX the remaining ¾ cup caramel sauce with the crème fraîche in a large bowl. Add about 1/3 of the whipped cream and stir it gently. Add the remaining whipped cream and gently fold it in just until it is combined (it’s alright if there are ribbons of caramel color through the cream). Divide the caramel cream among the containers.

     

    creme_fraiche_vbc_230

    Crème fraîche. Photo courtesy Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery.

     

    THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CRÈME FRAÎCHE & SOUR CREAM

    These two fresh dairy products are similar, and sometimes can be substituted for each other.

    Sour cream is:

  • Tangier than sour cream.
  • Made by thickening cream with lactic acid cultures.
  • Has a fat content of about 20%, and more protein—which is why heating it results in curdling.
  • Can include stabilizers and thickeners, such as gelatin, rennin (a protein-digesting enzyme that curdles milk) and vegetable enzymes.
  •  
    Crème fraîche is:

  • Thicker and richer than sour cream, with a fat content of about 30%.
  • Made traditionally made (in France) from unpasteurized cream that naturally contained the right bacteria to thicken it. In the U.S., which has pasteurized cream, crème fraîche is made by adding the bacteria with other fermenting agents.
  • Does not contain added stabilizers or thickeners.
  •  

    THE HISTORY OF JELL-O

    Gelatin (also spelled gelatine) has been made since ancient times by boiling animal and fish bones; aspic, a savory, gelatin-like food made from meat or fish stock, was a French specialty centuries before the day of commercial gelatin, and was very difficult to prepare, relying only on the natural gelatin found in the meat to make the aspic set.

    Powdered gelatin was invented in 1682 by Denis Papin. The concept of cooking it with sugar to make dessert dates to 1845 and an American inventor named Peter Cooper. Cooper patented a product that was set with gelatin, but it didn’t take off.

    In 1897, Pearle Wait, a carpenter in Le Roy, New York (Genesee County), experimented with gelatin and developed a fruit flavored dessert which his wife, May, named Jell-O. The first four flavors were orange, lemon, strawberry and raspberry.

    He tried to market his product but lacked the capital and experience, and in 1899 sold his formula to a fellow townsman and manufacturer of proprietary medicines, Orator Frank Woodward, for $450. Jell-O was manufactured by Andrew Samuel Nico of Lyons, New York.

    Alas, sales were slow and one day, Wait sold Sam Nico the business for $35. In 1900, the Genesee Pure Food Company promoted Jell-O in a successful advertising and by 1902 sales were $250,000. In 1923 management created the Jell-O Company, Inc., which replaced the Genesee Pure Foods Company, the purpose of which was to protect the Jell-O trade name and to keep it from becoming a generic term.

    That same year, the Jell-O Company was sold to the Postum Cereal Company, the first subsidiary of a large merger that would eventually become General Foods Corporation. Lime Jell-O was introduced in 1930.

    Today Jell-O is manufactured by Kraft Foods, a subsidiary of Phillip Morris, which also acquired both Kraft and General Foods in the 1980s and ultimately merged the two companies. There is a Jell-O Museum in Le Roy, New York.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Grilled Grapes With Burrata

    Here’s something we’d never have thought of, and we’re grateful to the folks at GQ for sending us the recipe.

    It’s a showstopping appetizer or cheese course that takes literally one minute to cook: red grapes with burrata cheese. Developed by chef Jeff Mahin, the dish has become a staple at his Stella Barra Pizzerias in L.A. and Chicago.

    “While using gas or charcoal to make it is fine, I prefer a screaming-hot wood grill,” says Jeff. “Just remember that when cooking with wood, you want to cook over glowing ruby red coals rather than the flame itself. Cooking directly over an open flame can impart a sour and soot-like flavor, which is never a good thing.”

    Note that since grapes will invariably fall off the bunch while you’re grilling them, a vegetable grilling basket will come in handy.

    RECIPE: GRILLED GRAPES WITH BURRATA

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 1 pound bunch seedless red grapes
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 2 balls burrata cheese
  • Sea salt and olive oil
  • Rustic bread
  •  

    grilled-grapes-Peden+Munk-GQ-230r

    So simple, and unbelievably delicious. Photo courtesy GQ Magazine.

     

    Preparation

    1. WASH the bunch of grapes carefully under cold water and allow them to dry.

    2. WHISK together in a bowl: olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, chile flakes, garlic cloves. Add grapes and toss until coated. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

    3. PLACE bunch of grapes onto the center of a hot grill, using tongs. Grill for 30 seconds. Turn. Grill for another 30 seconds.

    4. RETURN grapes to marinade to cool for at least 10 minutes, coating them periodically.

    5. CUT grapes into small bunches. Plate. Drizzle on 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar. Serve with grilled bread and a half ball of burrata (or fresh mozzarella) seasoned with sea salt and olive oil.

    Find more delicious recipes in the GQ Grill Guide.
     
    ABOUT BURRATA CHEESE

    Somewhere around 1920 in the town of Andria in the Puglia region of southern Italy, a member of the Bianchini family figured out how to repurpose the curds from mozzarella making. Burrata was born, a ball of mozzarella filled with creamy, ricotta-like curds. Cut into the ball and the curds ooze out: a wonderful marriage of flavors and textures.

    Their burrata was premium priced, made in small amounts, and remained the delight of the locals for some thirty years.

    In the 1950s, some of the local cheese factories began to produce burrata, and more people discovered its charms. Only in recent years, thanks to more economical overnighting of refrigerated products, did we find it in New York City’s finest cheese shops.

    It was love at first bite…and enough Americans thought so that burrata is now made domestically. You can find it at Trader Joe’s.

    For dessert, here’s a delicious burrata and fresh fruit recipe.

      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Vanilla Custard Day

    Creme Brulee served in ceramic bowl.

    Baked vanilla custard. Photo © Xiebiyun |
    Fotolia.

     

    We looked for a custard recipe to tweet today, National Vanilla Custard Day.

    But, zut alors, we didn’t have one. How can that be? It’s one of our favorite comfort foods (our mother always baked a batch when we were under the weather, scented with nutmeg).

    So, here’s a remedy: Mom’s recipe—although as you can see, it’s a pretty basic recipe. You can use nonfat, 1% or 2% milk for a less rich custard.

    Originally, all custard was flavored with vanilla, but simply called “custard.” Now there are chocolate custard, coconut custard, green tea custard, lemon custard, maple custard, pumpkin custard—any flavor can be added to, or infused into, the custard.

    Custard is typically prepared in individual porcelain ramekins or glass custard cups. But you can use whatever size-appropriate, individual oven-safe dishes you may have; or prepare the custard in a single casserole size.

    Note that most recipes are for a plain custard, garnished afterward with cinnamon or nutmeg. We love a nutmeg-infused custard, so mix it right into the custard prior to baking.

     
    If you want more fruit and less cholesterol, check out this beautiful recipe from Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

    You can also use the custard as a shell filling, to make custard pie, custard tarts or mini tarts.
     
    RECIPE: BAKED VANILLA CUSTARD

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg*
  • Optional side: fresh berries
  •  
    *Or, instead of mixing it into the custard, use the cinnamon or nutmeg as a garnish only.

     

    Preparation

    1. BEAT together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl, until well blended.

    2. HEAT milk in a saucepan until very hot (but not boiling); stir into the egg mixture.

    3. PLACE 6 lightly greased 6-ounce custard cups or one 1-1/2-quart casserole in a large baking dish. Pour egg mixture into cups or casserole. Place pan on rack in preheated 350°F oven.

    4. POUR very hot water into pan to within 1/2 inch of top of the cups or 1 inch of top of the casserole. Bake until a knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 30 minutes for cups or 40-60 minutes for casserole. Remove promptly from hot water. See the next section, “When Is The Custard Done?”

    5. COOL on wire rack about 5-10 minutes. Serve warm or refrigerate and chill thoroughly to serve cold. Garnish with ground cinnamon or nutmeg.

     

    84-0109-110-aeb-custard-cups--230

    Pouring the water into the bain-marie. Photo courtesy American Egg Board.

     
    When Is The Custard Done?

    Baked custard should be removed from the oven (and water bath) before the center is completely set. The center will jiggle slightly when the dish or cup is gently shaken.
    Custard will continue to cook after it’s removed from the oven, and the center will firm up quickly. Overbaked custard may curdle.

    The knife test: Test for doneness with a thin-bladed knife. Insert the knife about 1 inch from the center of a one-dish custard, or midway between center and edge of custard cups. If the knife is clean when pulled out, the custard is done. If any custard clings to the blade, bake a few minutes longer and test again.

    CUSTARD TIPS

    These tips are from the American Egg Board, IncredibleEgg.org.

  • Bain-Marie. Don’t skip the bain-marie, or hot-water bath. It insulates the custard from the direct heat of the oven and promotes even cooking so the edges don’t overcook before the center is done. Very hot tap water will do.
  • One-Dish Custard. The recipe can be baked in lightly greased 1-1/2 quart soufflé or baking dish. Pour hot water to within 1 inch of top of dish. Increase baking time to 35 to 40 minutes.
  • No-Mess Pouring. Make the custard in a bowl with a pouring lip, or transfer it to a large glass measure. This makes filling the custard cups easier and neater.
  • Perfectly Smooth Custard. Strain the custard through a sieve when filling the custard cups or baking dish. This removes any tough egg strands.
  •  
    WHAT IS CUSTARD?

    Custard is semisoft preparation of milk or cream and eggs, thickened with heat. It can be cooked on top of the stove or baked in the oven.

    Custards can be sweet or savory, from desserts and dessert sauces to quiche and savory custard tarts.

    What’s the difference between custard, crème caramel, flan and panna cotta?

    Check out the different types of custard in our Custard Glossary.

    The difference between custard and pudding:

    American pudding is a sweetened milk mixture thickened with cornstarch, then cooked. It has no eggs in it. In the U.K. and Europe, it is also known as blancmange, and is thickened with starch.

      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Panzanella & Fruit Salad

    mixed-fruit-panzanella-salad-kaminsky-230

    Fruit salad with bread (panzanella salad).
    Photo © Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet
    Blog.

      Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky spent the summer in California, enjoying the wealth of produce that sunny state provides.

    “As a little ode to my Californian summer, it was only fitting to gather up a small sampling of what I had on hand, along with the famed sourdough bread that beckons irresistibly from the windows of every bakery. Fresh mint plucked straight from my tiny windowsill garden completed this little love note to my temporary, adoptive home state.

    “Light, fresh, fast, it’s the kind of recipe that depends entirely on the quality of your ingredients. Consider it as a serving suggestion; more of an idea than a specific schematic, to be tailored to whatever fruits are fresh and in season in your neck of the woods.”

    She calls this recipe California Dreamin’ Panzanella: a creative interpretation of the classic bread salad with ripe California fruit.

    RECIPE: PANZANELLA FRUIT SALAD

    Ingredients For 6-8 Servings

  • 5 cups cubed sourdough bread
  • 2 cups pitted and halved cherries
  • 2 cups seedless grapes
  • 1 cup blackberries
  • 1/4 cup regular or light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped walnuts
  • Fresh mint leaves, thinly sliced
  • Garnish: crème fraîche, mascarpone, whipped cream
  • Preparation

    1. PREHEAT oven to 350°F. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet in one even layer and bake for about 15 minutes, until golden and lightly toasted all over. Let cool completely before proceeding.

    2. WHISK together the sugar, olive oil, lemon juice and pepper in a large bowl. Add all of the fruits and remaining ingredients (walnuts, mint).

    3. ADD in the toasted bread right before serving, to ensure that it stays crisp. Toss thoroughly so that everything is well distributed and entirely coated with the sugar dressing.

    3. SERVE immediately with a dollop of whipped cream.

     

    ABOUT PANZANELLA

    Panzanella is a savory Tuscan-style bread salad, made with a loaf of day-old (or older) Italian bread, cubed into large croutons and soaked in vinaigrette to soften it. Chopped salad vegetables are added.

    The translation we have found for “panzanella” is “bread in a swamp,” the swamp being the water or vinaigrette in which it is soaked.

    Here’s a classic panzanella salad recipe, with summer tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and fresh basil.
     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

    cheesecake-bites-driscolls-230

    How about some cheesecake-stuffed
    strawberries? Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     

    Here’s another no-bake recipe from Driscoll’s berries. Strawberries filled with a simple cheesecake filling are a bite-sized treat and better-for-you option than, say, a slice of strawberry cheesecake.

    For ease of preparation, make the filling and prep the strawberries ahead of time; then assemble just before serving.

    Prep time: 20 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.

    RECIPE: NO BAKE CHEESECAKE STUFFED STRAWBERRIES

    Ingredients For 20 Pieces

  • 2 packages (16 ounces each) fresh strawberries
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon graham cracker, vanilla wafer or shortbread
    cookies
  •  

    Preparation

    1. LINE a baking sheet with waxed paper. Cut the top off each strawberry and core out the center with a melon baller. Place on the baking sheet and set aside.

    2. BEAT the cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, vanilla and salt with an electric mixer until creamy and evenly blended. Place the cream cheese mixture in a pastry bag or a self-sealing plastic bag with a corner cut off. Pipe the cream cheese mixture into the strawberries.

    3. MELT the chocolate chips in microwave on 50% power or in a bowl set over simmering water. Place the melted chocolate in a pastry bag or a self-sealing plastic bag with a small hole cut in the corner. Pipe the melted chocolate over the strawberries. Chill in the fridge to set, at least 15 minutes.

    4. TOP with cookie crumbs and serve on a plate or tray.
     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Burrata & Fruit Dessert

    We love burrata, and love it all the time since our local Trader Joe’s always has it in stock.

    In this recipe from EatWisconsinCheese.com, burrata provides a different take on a fruit and cheese dessert. It’s more special than simply putting out a platter of cheeses and fruits, but not much more difficult.

  • Using lush summer peaches or nectarines.
  • Instead of burrata, you can substitute fresh goat cheese, mascarpone or ricotta—or a bit of each!
  •  
    RECIPE: BURRATA & FRUIT

    Ingredients

  • Burrata
  • Granola
  • Sliced fresh fruit
  • Honey
  • Optional garnish: pistachio nuts
  •    

    burrata-peaches-eatwisconsincheese-230

    A simple dessert with delicious, fresh flavors. Photo courtesy EatWisconsinCheese.com.

     

    Preparation

    1. SCOOP granola into an individual bowl or onto a dessert plate.

    2. SLICE fruit and arrange atop granola.

    3. TOP with two quarters of a burrata.

    4. DRIZZLE with honey and garnish with chopped pistachio nuts.

     

    sliced-whole-230

    Burrata: a shell of mozzarella with a
    creamy center. Photo by Elvira Kalviste |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    WHAT IS BURRATA

    Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, creamy and luscious, made in the Apulia region of Italy. The name means “buttery” in Italian. It’s a hollow ball of mozzarella di bufala, filled with panna, cream that contains scraps of mozzarella left over from mozzarella-making.

    How Burrata Is Made

    Small pieces of mozzarella curd are soaked in a bath of hot water and sea salt. The cheese is then cooked and stretched with a wooden spoon until the curds can be stretched to create a pouch. The pouch is filled with a combination of mascarpone cheese, ricotta cheese and heavy cream, and tied off with a knot.

    Some cheese makers use different recipes, but the center is always a rich, oozing cream. When you cut into the ball, the cream oozes out.

    In Italy, the cheese is packed into plastic bags with a bit whey to keep it moist, and the bag is tied with a fronds of an Italian plant called asphodel, a relative of the leek. The cheese is highly perishable, and the leaf is an indicator of freshness. As long as the leaf is still fresh and green, the cheese within is still fresh. Dried-out leaves mean a cheese is past its prime.

    This addictively good cheese was created by a mother (or father) of invention, in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Cheesemakers had curds left over from making mozzarella.

     
    Who Invented Burrata

    Somewhere around 1920 in the town of Andria, a member of the Bianchini family figured out how to repurpose the curds, and burrata was born. It was a local product, premium priced, and remained the delight of the townspeople only for some thirty years.

    In the 1950s, some of the local cheese factories began to produce burrata, and more people discovered its charms. Only in recent years, thanks to more economical overnighting of refrigerated products, did we find it in New York City’s finest cheese shops.

    It was love at first bite.

    Burrata Today

    When we first wrote about burrata seven years ago it was hard to come by, made only in Puglia and flown to the U.S. The limited amount that was imported went straight to top cheese stores; the minute it appeared on store shelves, it was snatched up by burrata lovers on the prowl. (We knew what day of the week the plane set down.)

    But that’s old news. Since then, American cheese makers have been making burrata, and much of it is just as delicious and creamy as the Apulian product.

    Burrata works with sweet or savory pairings. In addition to fruit (figs, pears…any fruit, really), serve it as a first course, cheese course, light lunch or snack:

  • With crusty bread and tomatoes
  • With prosciutto
  • In a “deluxe” Caprese salad
  • With a salad garnished with beets and toasted pecans or walnuts
  •  
    Once, at the end of a trade show, we were given several burratas to take home. We used three of them to top a pizza: a memorable luxury.

    For breakfast the next day, we married the burrata with pan-fried slices of herbed polenta and sundried tomatoes, but it could just as easily have been fruit and honey.

    The memories still resonate happily, whenever we pass a cheese case.

      

    Comments

    NO-BAKE DESSERT: Mascarpone Spread & Basil Blackberries

    This fresh blackberry dessert is sophisticated yet so easy to make and serve.

    A tub of mascarpone turns into a sophisticated spread when topped with a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, blackberries and basil.

    Serve it with biscotti, cookies/biscuits or unsalted crackers, and guests will be asking for the recipe.

    This recipe is from Driscoll’s. Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 5 minutes.

    RECIPE: MASCARPONE DIP

    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/3 cups balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1 package (6 ounces or 1-1/2 cups) fresh blackberries
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • Large pinch of fleur de sel or other sea salt
  • 1 container (8 to 8.8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
  •    

    mascarpone-basil-blackberries-driscolls-230

    Mascarpone spread, a delicious no-cook, no-bake dessert. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

  • Biscotti, plain cookies or non-salty crackers/biscuits*
  •  

    http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-ripe-blackberries-bowl-food-close-up-image33432102

    We love finding new ways to enjoy
    blackberry season. Photo © Olha Afanasieva
    | Dreamstime.

     

    Preparation

    1. BRING vinegar and brown sugar to a boil in a nonreactive small saucepan over high heat. Boil until reduced to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a medium bowl. Let cool.

    2. GENTLY STIR in blackberries, basil, pepper and salt.

    3. FILL a bowl with hot water. Dip bottom of the mascarpone container in water for about 5 seconds. Using a rubber spatula, unmold mascarpone onto a serving platter.

    3. SPOON blackberry mixture over mascarpone, being sure to scrape all juices out of the bowl, and letting berries fall randomly. Serve with biscotti, cookies and/or crackers.

    It’s that easy!
     
    *Examples: almond cookies, butter cookies, cream crackers, digestive biscuits, graham crackers, ginger snaps/ginger bread, ladyfingers, Moravian cookies, pizzelle, shortbread, speculos, springerle, stroopwafel, tea biscuits, water biscuits, wafer cookies, wheatmeal.

     

    ABOUT BLACKBERRIES

    Blackberries grow wild around the world, and in most places they are picked in season, not cultivated. Cultivation is relatively modern and done mostly in America [source].

    The blackberry is a member of the Rosaceae family of flowering plants. The largest genus in the family is Prunus, which includes almonds, apricots, cherries, peaches and plums.

    The blackberry is a member of the Rubus genus, which also includes dewberries (which look like raspberries to the untrained eye), raspberries and hybrids such as boysenberry, loganberry and tayberry.

    The blackberry isn’t black, per se, but a very deep purple. It is not the same as a black raspberry, Rubus occidentalis, a raspberry grown on a limited basis*, primarily in Oregon.

    What distinguishes the blackberry from the raspberry genus is that its torus (receptacle or stem) “picks with” the fruit. When picking blackberries, the torus comes along with the berry (as you get with strawberries). With raspberries, the torus remains on the plant, leaving a hollow core in the raspberry fruit.

    Blackberries typically peak during June in the South, and in July in the North. You can enjoy a simple bowl of berries at breakfast, lunch (add them to green salads, enjoy them for dessert), dinner or for snacking; for drink garnishes on a cocktail pick; or use them in recipes.
     
    *Black raspberry plants yield significantly less fruit than red raspberries, and also commonly suffer from a disease complex that gives them shorter lifespans. They are more costly to produce on a large scale.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Fruit Soup

    You don’t have to turn on the stove or the oven to make this refreshing dessert: fruit soup.

    Made from fresh or dried fruit, served hot or cold, fruit soups are underrepresented on American menus. Yet, they offer variety year-round.

  • Cold soups tend to be made with seasonal fruit and are thus served in warmer weather.
  • Soups made of dried fruits, such as Norwegian fruktsuppe (made of raisins and prunes), can be served hot or cold in any season.
  • Fruit soups can be cream soups or purées with or without the addition of fruit juice, and can include alcohol such as brandy, champagne, Port or wine.
  • Sweet fruit soups can include meat; and in at least one instance, a fruit soup can be completely savory, like \Chinese winter melon soup.
  • While fruit soup can be served for dessert, it also can be a first course or an intermezzo between fish and meat courses.
  •    

    blackberry-gazpacho-driscolls-230sq

    Fruit soup in a footed bowl. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     

    Here’s a no cook light summer dessert dessert recipe from berry king Driscoll’s. Made primarily of blackberries, it adds red wine for a sophisticated layer of flavors (some red wines are often described to have hints of blackberry flavor).

    Prep time is 5 minutes. Serve with a piece of shortbread on the side.

     

    http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-blackberries-image11753307

    Fresh blackberries. Photo © Ninette Luz |
    Dreamstime.

     

    RECIPE: BLACKBERRY FRUIT SOUP

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 2 packages (6 ounces each) blackberries
  • 1 cups dry red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir, or substitute a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cups sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 package (6 ounces) Driscoll’s Raspberries
  • 1 package (6 ounes) Driscoll’s Blueberries
  • Fresh mint for garnish
  • Optional topping: crème fraîche, thin lime slice, mascarpone, sour cream, toasted sliced almonds, vanilla yogurt or frozen yogurt
  • Optional: shortbread or other cookie
  •  

    Preparation

    1. PURÉE blackberries, wine and sugar in blender or food processor until smooth. Press through a strainer to remove the seeds. Discard solids.

    2. STIR in lemon juice; season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and chill several hours or overnight.

    3. LADLE soup into chilled bowls, footed glasses or wine goblets. Drizzle or spoon sour cream on top, and scatter with raspberries and blueberries.

    4. GARNISH each serving with a mint sprig or coarsely chopped mint.
     
    MORE FRUIT SOUP RECIPES

  • Chilled Papaya and Watermelon Soup Recipe
  • Chilled Raspberry Yogurt Soup Recipe
  • Diet Fruit Soup Recipe
  • Simple Fruit Soup Recipe
  •   

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    NO-BAKE DESSERT: Strawberries & Mascarpone

    If you’re a fan of no-bake summer desserts, here are two of our favorites from Driscoll’s, a California-based marketer of berries.

    In both bite-size recipes, lush summer strawberries are filled with a mascarpone whipped cream, a combination of rich mascarpone and heavy cream. Mascarpone cheese gives the whipped cream filling extra body and flavor.

    The strawberries are easy to fill and decorate.Prep time is just 15 minutes. Add some blueberries for a red, white and blue dessert.

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRIES & MASCARPONE WHIPPED CREAM

    Ingredients For 4 Servings

  • 16 large strawberries
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Optional garnish: almond sliver, chopped pistachios, blueberry
  •    

    strawberries-mascarpone-driscolls-230

    Strawberries filled with mascarpone whipped cream. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     

    Preparation

    1. CUT stems off of the strawberries and place stem-side down on on cutting board. You have two choices to proceed: (1) Cut the berry into three, including a “hat,” as shown in the photo; or cut off the pointed end and scoop out a bit of the strawberry pulp to create room for more filling. Both versions are shown in the photo.

    2. PLACE the mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until thickened and smooth.

    3. PLACE the mascarpone mixture in a piping bag with a star tip attached or in a plastic bag with one corner cut off. In option 1, slowly pipe the mascarpone cream atop the bottom and middle thirds of the berry and top with the “hat.” In option 2, pipe the mixture into the center of the berry, and create a rounded mound on top, and top with optional garnish.

    4. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.

     

    Lemon-Mascarpone-Strawberry-Tulips-driscolls

    Strawberry “tulips” filled with lemon
    mascarpone. Photo courtesy Driscoll’s.

     

    RECIPE: LEMON MASCARPONE STRAWBERRY TULIPS

    Here, the simple yet elegant strawberry treat is enhanced with with a lemon-flavored filling and a tulip shape. Prep time is 15 minutes.

    Ingredients For 16 Pieces

  • 16 large strawberries
  • 1/2 package (6 ounces) fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon curd
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Garnish: grated lemon zest
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT stems off of the strawberries and place stem-side down on cutting board. Cut each strawberry lengthwise into quarters, stopping just before knife hits cutting board, so berries stay intact. Place on a serving platter.

    2. COMBINE mascarpone cheese, heavy cream, sugar, lemon curd and vanilla in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until cream is thickened and smooth. Place mascarpone mixture in a piping bag with a star tip attached or a plastic bag and cut off one corner of the bag to pipe.

    3. PRESS one small blueberry down through the center of each strawberry, taking care to keep berries intact. (It’s a blueberry “surprise.”) Slowly pipe the mascarpone cream into the strawberries until filled. Top berries with a single blueberry and garnish with lemon zest.

    4. REFRIGERATE until ready to serve.
     
    WHAT IS MASCARPONE

    Mascarpone is sometimes referred to as “Italian cream cheese.” It’s softer and richer than American-style cream cheese, with less of a tang.

    Mascarpone has an extraordinarily high butterfat content, unsurprising given that it’s made from the cream skimmed from cow’s milk. Truly fresh mascarpone has almost a sweet flavor, and this is a cheese with very low or no sodium. It’s highly perishable and must be kept cold.

    In Italy, mascarpone is often served with fresh fruit instead of the American preference for whipped cream. It is what gives tiramisu its creaminess. While some think mascarpone is the chief component of cannolis, it is actually ricotta. Mascarpone or ricotta is used in Italian cheesecake.

    Mascarpone is believed to have originated in the Lombardy region of Italy, most likely in the late 1500s or early 1600s. The name “mascarpone” may come from the Spanish “mas que bueno” (“better than good”), a holdover from the days when the Spanish ruled Italy.

    Another possibility is that the name derived from “mascarpia,” the local dialect term for ricotta, because both ricotta and mascarpone are made by very similar processes.

    Look for American-made mascarpone from Crave Brothers or Vermont Creamery. Try eating it from the container with a spoon!

    More about mascarpone.

      

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