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Blackberry Purple Basil Pielets

Last week we were in North Carolina for my brother Ryan’s high school graduation.  We spent a whirlwind 23 hours in Durham seeing family and friends, eating and drinking and laughing and dancing.  One of our last stops out of town was barbeque with my brothers at the famous Allen & Son’s in Chapel Hill.  As a way to pack as much south as possible in our trip, Dan and I had a (very late) breakfast of chicken biscuits about an hour before we were supposed to be at my brother’s farm.  So when we rolled into Reid’s driveway, I didn’t think I was in any position to eat anything, let alone slow cooked pork in a vinegar based sauce topped with cole slaw.  With a side of fried okra.  And sweet tea.

However, it turns out I am always in a position to eat something.  Which is what I realized when I spotted Reid’s blackberry bush, bursting with ripe fruit, and started stuffing my face.  I ate, and ate, and ate, and then I made a few references to children’s books about hungry bears.  And then I ate more blackberries.  And when we left North Carolina, I was unable to think of anything else.

At the Baltimore Herb Festival a few weeks ago I picked up a purple basil plant, something that  is the strangest combination of sweet and a little savory, warming almost.  I spent the drive home from North Carolina daydreaming about blackberries, then blackberries and basil, then blackberry and basil pie.  And ginger whipped cream. So while I was planning the menu for our housewarming party, I knew what was happening for desserts.  It was a give in.  It was all I could think about.

The day before the party I baked off eighteen or so little pie shells.  The pied dough was infused with honey and basil and baked the shells in a cupcake pan, all by their lonesome.  The next morning I hit a major roadblock when I realized (at the farmer’s market) that blackberries aren’t in season yet in Maryland.  So, I adjusted and mixed a pint of North Carolinian blackberries with two pints of black raspberries.  I tossed the berries in honey (that I purchased during our bbq lunch at Allen & Son’s) and minced basil.

And it was so good.  They weren’t very sweet, but the honey was warm and inviting.  The blackberries and raspberries were tart and juicy, and the basil pulled everything together.  I was happy with them, and I think my guests were too.  The real star of the show, however, was the sprinkler.

Blackberry Purple Basil Tart

Pie Dough:

2 1/2 cups flour

3 tbsp sugar

Pinch of salt

Pinch of powdered ginger

5-10 leaves purple basil, minced

1 1/2 sticks butter (cold)

4 tbsp shortening

4 tbsp honey

1/3 cup water, cold

Filling:

3 pints blackberries (or black raspberries)

1/4 cup honey

Handful of purple basil leaves (or regular basil), minced

Whipped Cream:

1 pint heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp powdered ginger

Start with the dough.  In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, sugar, ginger, and basil.  With your fingers, work in the shortening.  Chop the butter into squares and cut that in with your hands, until the texture resembles cornmeal.  Stir in honey and water.  The dough should form a loose ball.  If necessary, add more water/flour.  Wrap the ball in plastic and refrigerate for at leas an hour.

After your dough has chilled, break off pieces the size of ping pong ball and roll them out.  Place the dough rounds into a greased cupcake tin, trimming the edges so that they are neatly sized.  Bake the shells at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool.

About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve these, mix your berries in the honey and the minced basil.  Then, use a beater or stand mixer to whip the cream, sugar, and ginger until stiff.  Serve a scoop of blackberries in the shell, topped with whipped cream.

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Apple Sage Fritters

About a month ago I started a new job at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, working in their education and programming departments.  It’s amazing and I love it.  And, in an effort to keep work life separate, that is all I will say about it.  Except that I love my coworkers because they are sweet and wonderful and on occasion bring sage in from home.  Which, it turns out, I use by frying it.  Because I have to stay true to my roots.

There is something about sage where, when I smell it, I can only pictured it paired with a granny smith apple.  Sometimes that means on top of a burger or a pork chop, and other times that means in pie.  When I first started dreaming up the apple/sage dessert, I was picturing something akin to a hand pie.  Something bite sized but definitely in the realm of pie.  But I kept describing it to people (Dan) as a fritter.  Not because I can’t tell the difference between a pie and a fritter, but because apple sage fritter sounded better than apple sage pie. And because I’m crazy.

So I set out to make fritters.  And they were so good.  And I was in heaven.  And for a brief, fleeting moment (a week or so), I wanted to cheat on pie with fritters.  I’ve calmed down a bit, and now I just want to be polygamous.  Also, ALSO, I fried these on the grill.  Partially because I’m obsessed with my grill and partially because frying things on the grill is THE BEST THING EVER.  Because here’s the deal, internet.  Since I turned 18 and left the comfort of my parent’s house, where there was always pickled okra and tomatoes,  I’ve lived in apartments.  And you know what is NOT fun to do in apartments?  Fry things.  But, as a southerner who requires a quotient of fried food in her diet, I fried in my apartments.  And it was smoky and hot and messy.  But not any more.  Now I will fry ON MY GRILL.

Apple Sage Fritters

2 granny smith apples

1 cup fresh sage leaves

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups flour

2 cups cake flour

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Powdered sugar for sprinkling

Oil for frying

In a medium mixing bowl, combine milk, eggs, and vanilla.  In another mixing bowl combine flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and sugar.  Mince sage and add that.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

Peel and dice your apples.  Fold them into the batter.

Place a large cast iron skillet directly on the grill and heat your oil to 350 degrees.  With a spoon (for a more freely shaped fritter) or an ice cream scoop (for a rounder fritter), drop your fritter into the oil.  The batter should sink and then float to the top.  Fry for 2-4 minutes and then, using a slotted spoon, turn them over.  Fry an additional 2-4 minutes or until both sides are golden brown.

Remove from oil and set on a paper towel.  Douse with powdered sugar.  Let cool, and devour.

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Burgers 101

Recently, a friend and blog reader made a request.  She asked for a how-to post on burgers, not unlike the one I did for steak or slicing an onion.  And because I really appreciate requests, and Erin is awesome (she gave Dan and I internships with her institution and is practically the reason we’re married), here it is.  i know that I’ve posted other burger recipes on this site that include a lot of pop and whiz but usually, when we eat hamburgers, we’re purists about the burger itself.  That means ground beef, usually somewhere in the 80% lean range, with sea salt and pepper.  This is enough for me, it lets the flavor of the beef and the grill speak.  And that’s the flavor I want.

First, you want to season your meat.  In a large bowl, combine ground beef with 1 tbsp of salt and 1/2 tbsp pepper.  Next, it needs to be shaped.  Shaping a burger is a two step process. Start by putting about a quarter cup to a third of a cup’s worth of meat in your palm.  Use your hands to shape the meat into a firm ball, nicely round and totally together.  Then, use both hands to flatten the patty.  The burger should be 4 or 5 inches in diameter, and 1/2″ thick.

Now, get your grill nice and hot.  Once your grill is ready, give your patties a final squish (particularly in the middle where they tend to puff), and throw them on the grill.  For a burger cooked to a medium doneness, which is slightly pink in the middle, cook it for 5-7 minutes each side.  Just like with steak, you only want to flip it once.  Stick it on the grill, put the lid down and walk away.  Resist the urge to press it down with your spatula or hover, it needs to cook.  Flip, and cook an additional 5-7 minutes.  For a burger cooked medium rare, bring the time down to 3-5 minutes per side, and for medium well, bump up to 7-9 minutes.  Let rest a few minutes and enjoy!

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