Blackberry Bars

One of the joys of late summer is blackberries.  I envisioned a simple dessert bar that had a crisp, buttery crust topped with as much blackberry sweetness as crust.

Blackberry Bars

Blackberry Bars

Blackberries are deep purple, with a mellow sweetness and flavor.  The filling has no spices to distract from the blackberriness of the flavor.  And when it’s the middle of winter, and summer feels far away, know that this dessert works quite well with frozen berries.  Enjoy!

Blackberry Bars

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
10 oz (2 cups) unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups fresh or frozen blackberries (may use a frozen berry mix*)
5 TB corn starch
1/3 cup water

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a 9 X 13 pan with parchment paper.

Crust:  To make the crust, begin by setting aside 2 TB butter for the topping.  Soften the remaining butter to a soft but not melted consistency.  (the microwave on low power is my tool of choice for this task).  Blend softened butter, 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt together until loose crumbs form.  Turn out into the parchment lined baking pan and gently pat the crumbs to create a crust.  Don’t worry that it’s perfectly smooth, just eliminate any holes.  Bake at 375 until golden.  (start checking at 22 minutes)

Topping:  While the crust is baking, you will create the blackberry topping.  Place the blackberries and 1 cup sugar in a medium saucepan and place on medium heat.  Mix together cornstarch and water, then stir this into the blackberry/sugar mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and smashing the berries to release the juices.  Bring to a boil, then cook at a gentle boil for one minute.  Remove from heat and stir in the 2 TB butter.  Set aside until crust is golden.

When the crust is done, and blackberry topping is cooked, pour the hot blackberry topping onto the warm crust.  Gently smooth out the topping over the crust and pop into the oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool until at least as cool as toom temp.  May be cooled in the fridge.

Cut into rectangular bars and enjoy.  For best texture, serve within a day or two of baking.  Store airtight in the fridge.

* if you are using a frozen berry mix, consider adding a bit more sugar to the topping.  The blackberries I used in the recipe were quite sweet, so the sugar level is suited for them.

Beets with Tarragon

Sometimes putting a few simple ingredients together creates a bit of magic in the kitchen.  Beets, meet tarragon … you two are meant for each other.

Beets with Tarragon

Beets with Tarragon

Beets

Beets

A simple dressing of lemon and olive oil is gently sweetened with honey to add a floral note to the earthy beets and warm, herbal tarragon.  Tarragon is an easy to grow garden herb, and though it is sold both fresh and dried, I use fresh tarragon.

Tarragon, Lemon, Olive oilThis is both a salad and side dish, best served at room temperature.  This is an excellent make-ahead dish, as it stores well for up to a week in the fridge.  Enjoy!

Beets with Tarragon

2 LB beets
4 TB Extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 TB fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp honey
2 TB fresh tarragon, minced
sea salt – start with 1/2 tsp.

Peel and cube the beets.  Place in a covered sauce pan and add just 1/2 to 1 inch of water.  The water shouldn’t cover the beets, just keep them moist and steamy while cooking.  Place on high heat, covered.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until beets are just tender.  Drain liquid from beets, then cool beets to room temp.

Combine all other ingredients and dress the beets.  Taste for salt and lemon, and adjust seasoning as needed.

 

Lemon Thyme Pesto on tomatoes

Lemon thyme grows beautifully in my garden — a charming, vigorous herb that smells like a cross between fresh squeezed lemon rind and mellow thyme.  It makes a bright, delicious pesto, ideal on fresh tomatoes.

Fresh tomatoes with Lemon Thyme Pesto

Fresh tomatoes with Lemon Thyme Pesto

I had a bounty of tomatoes from my CSA box and wanted a new way to highlight their sweet flavors.  Lemon Thyme Pesto did the trick.  Enjoy!

Lemon Thyme Pesto

1/4 cup lightly packed lemon thyme leaves (rinsed, stems removed)
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup raw pine nuts
2 TB avocado oil or any other neutral flavor oil*
1 clove garlic, crushed
sea salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Taste for salt and lemon juice, and adjust as needed.   Serve on cut fresh ripe tomatoes for a delicious, simple salad.  Also great on other fresh cut vegetables including cucumber, jicama, baby squash.  Also works well on grilled fish or chicken.

*I use good olive oil when I make basil pesto, but for this recipe I wanted a lighter flavor oil to allow the sweet fragrance of the lemon thyme to shine.

If you decide to grow some lemon thyme, know that there are several different cultivars of this herb commonly sold and you may not be able to buy one called simply Lemon Thyme.  Don’t be put off by this.  The key to knowing what you’ll be growing is to lightly rub your fingers on the leaves of the thyme plant and smell.  Does it smell like fresh lemon?  That’s all you really need to know.