Smokey Blackberry Barbecue Sauce

Smokey Blackberry Barbecue SauceVery Berry BBQ
I have a reservation this weekend to go berry picking—and I am very excited. There is a chance that the berries: a.) won’t be ripe or b.) might be all gone by the time I get there.
I’m keeping a positive attitude while crossing my fingers.

U-pick is one of my favorite things about this time of year. It starts with berries and cherries and moves into peaches and nectarines. I look forward to this every year starting January first. Since I didn’t get to go last year for obvious reasons, the anticipation has been killin’ me. But, I know this time it will be that much sweeter. (See what I did there?)

The last u-pick haul I had was 10 pounds of blackberries. This sounds like a lot, but once you cook ‘em down for jam and make a pie, there’s not much left over. If the stars align, I am planning to get at least that much again and maybe a bit more. Because I really want to make this sauce for Memorial Day.

I love the combination of sweet fruits and pork and there is no better showcase than pork ribs. My Cherry Cola Ribs are a family favorite. And, they are a perfect example of what I am talking about. Juicy tender ribs covered in a spicy sweet glaze. It just doesn’t get much better. (Unless there’s cake or pie…all bets are off at that point!)

I have tried other rib sauces and glazes that had raspberry or blackberry in them and I have always loved the combination. So, I am going to set aside some of this weekends blackberry harvest and cook up some of this spicy berry awesomeness.

Smokey Blackberry Barbecue Sauce Recipe
Yields enough sauce for about 4 pounds of pork spare ribs plus extra
Adapted from Food & Wine

We are using this sauce on pork spareribs, and it is also delicious on grilled pork, baby back ribs, and chicken. The smoky flavor comes from the grilled berries and also the chipotle chiles packed in adobo. Read more…

Melon Seed Horchata

Horchata de Melon RecipeThe Pecking Order
I knew when I planted my garden this year I was probably just starting the next campaign in the war for supremacy over my chicken. But, I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. Alas, my hopes were dashed. Let me explain…

Anytime we plant in the garden—be it fruits, vegetables, or flowers—we have to figure out how best to keep our remaining chicken from eating everything. Turtle, the chicken named for the ruff of feathers around her neck, is the last remaining member of our flock. She has survived numerous racoon and neighborhood dog attacks. She methodically took out a few of her own personal rivals during her meteoric rise to the top of the pecking order…to the point that she is now the lone survivor. With people though, she is skittish but sweet and will squat down in front of you to get some petting attention. Turtle is actually fun to have around, until she tries to eat my tomatoes. Things get real when she goes after my tomatoes.

The last time we had a big garden, Turtle took out everything. Not just the veggies on the vine, but the vines themselves. So this year, we planted everything in an area she can’t get to. And, so far so good.

However, over the weekend I planted my melon patch. The melon patch is the only area that is in the chicken hazard zone and I had not yet figured out how I was going to chicken-proof it. Sure enough, not quite an hour after planting my cantaloupes and watermelons, there she is taking a dirt bath in the turned-over soil after having pecked at the leaves of the plants themselves. I was livid. Mostly at myself for believing I could actually grow a garden without her interference this year. Thankfully, we had some extra chicken wire hanging around and managed to make a temporary solution to keep her away.

The good news is that I think the plants will survive. I am looking forward to sweet melons this summer—especially for the recipe below. It’s the perfect way to use the seeds that would normally be thrown away. And, since it is Cinco de Mayo and the melons in the market are actually getting better, it is a great option for tonight’s fiesta. The recipe is from the book The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy. It’s a must have for your Mexican cooking library…

Melon Seed Horchata Recipe
Adapted from The Essential Cuisine of Mexico by Diana Kennedy
Yields one serving

This is a great way to use the seeds of a cantaloupe—a part you would normally be discarding. And, it makes a tasty and refreshing drink.

Read more…

Panzanella With Fresh Burrata

Panzanella With Fresh BurrataBreaking Bread
If you like to bake bread, are just learning, or are trying to master a particular technique, chances are you have found yourself with extra bread that goes stale. Fresh, homemade bread is one of life’s great pleasures. But, it doesn’t last very long. So, you either have to eat it all immediately (not a totally awful idea) or find different ways to use it. Throwing all of your hard work away is just not an option.

There are plenty of ways to use stale bread. You can make fantastic croutons for your salad. French Toast is always delicious—depending on the type of bread. Though, I have been known to make French Toast out of anything that will hold its shape after dunking. Also, never underestimate the power of good bread crumbs when making some meatballs.

Now that we are heading into the warmer months where the tomatoes get better and the idea of a big heavy dinner is unappealing, my mind starts to turn towards meals that are light, don’t require heat to prepare them and still have a lot of flavor. And, if they use up any ingredients like say, stale bread, then so much the better. Panzanella is one of those options.

Panzanella is a classic Italian bread salad that comes in many iterations. I recently found the recipe below and my family is excited about it. Good tomatoes are the key to this recipe. So look for the best ones you can find.

Panzanella With Fresh Burrata Recipe
Yields 4 servings
Adapted from Tuesday Night Mediterranean by Christopher Kimball Read more…

Olallieberry Scones

Olallieberry Scones

Berries A-Go-Go
I am a big fan of portable breakfast. I mean I also love pancakes and waffles and French toast. But, there is something about grabbing something personal-sized with a cup of coffee that is just too stress-free to pass up. And really, who doesn’t like a fresh croissant or a well-made scone? Or two…

I try to make muffins, or banana bread, or whatever every Sunday so that there is something to grab that is quick and easy Monday morning when no one in my house is really ready to face the new week. Now that spring has arrived my mind is turning towards the berries that should be available soon, most notably the olallieberries.

I became an olallieberry fanatic while going to school in Oregon. The berries there are ridiculous and you will find them everywhere in everything. I once enjoyed an olallieberry scone that was life-changing while walking to class one morning. I have been trying to reproduce it ever since. And, I’ve come close but haven’t gotten it right yet—but the fun part is in the trying.

As the days get warmer the local berry patches will start opening for U-pick. I plan to be first in line. While they may not be quite the same experience as their Oregon relatives, our local berries are so so good, especially warm from the vine. My mouth is watering just thinking about it—and about my next attempt at those magnificent scones.

This is one time where substituting frozen berries for fresh won’t work. The frozen berries would add too much liquid to the scones. So, it looks like you might just have to spend a beautiful day outdoors in a berry patch (or, yes, you could buy them too). It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it!

Olallieberry Scones
Yields 8 American-style scones Read more…