Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Blackberry Pie with Buttermilk Crust

We've had blackberries growing in the back yard for about 3 years now.  The first couple of years, we'd only get enough fruit to eat in small handfuls...not enough to make anything, and certainly not enough to make jam, a coffee cake, or a pie.

But this year we have berries galore.  I'm guessing it's from the relatively cool spring we had, which helped a lot of the blooms set.  David has to go out and pick 'em every other day.  We've already picked at least a couple of quarts...and I probably have 2 quarts in the fridge right now.  These blackberries are not quite as sweet as what you might get in the store...but they taste incredible, especially right off the vine...warm, slightly tart, and bursting with juice the second you bite down. 

So, the only proper thing to do with all these berries is to make a pie, right?  I could make some jam...I did make 16 pints of strawberry jam when we went picking at a local farm last month.  But I just don't have the time right now.  Swim team has taken over my life...literally, since the middle of May.  The kids LOVE it...but we are at the pool every day except Sunday and Monday.  In between then...I am washing towels, swimsuits, children, and picking up flip-flops, crocs, and googles.  Every day between Tuesday and Saturday.   It's exhausting! 

(On the plus side, my tan is coming along nicely. ;-) 

Anyways, here is a blackberry pie with a buttermilk pastry crust, since I had some buttermilk in the fridge to use up.  Fresh berries are a must...I can't vouch for how your pie will turn out if you use frozen berries.

Blackberry Pie with Buttermilk Crust


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 tablespoons buttermilk


5 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 cups sugar
Scant 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice

We'll start with the crust so it has time to chill.  Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. 

Cut the butter into small cubes, and use a pastry cutter, 2 knivers, or your hands (my preferred method) to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. 

Do this gently...a few bits of pea-sized butter is fine.  The rest of the mixture should look like coarse cornmeal. 

Add half of the buttermilk, and stir until the mixture starts to lump together. 

Pour in the rest of the buttermilk and bring all the lumps together.  You should have a nice ball of dough. 

Pat it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refridgerate for at least 1/2 an hour. 

Meanwhile, combine the blackberries, sugar, flour, and cornstarch in another large bowl.  Set aside.

When the dough has chilled enough, remove it from the fridge and divide it in half.  On a well-floured work surface, roll the dough out to fit a 9 inch pie dish. As you can see, it doesn't have to be perfect...any holes, tears, or uneven edges can be patched...and no one will ever know. 

Lay your dough in the pan, pressing gently up on the side, and tucking the excess under the edge.  I know the experts would have you trim it off, but I never do.  I love a thick crust on a pie, and so does everyone else in our house. 

Now take your filling, and pour it into the prepared bottom crust.  The best way to do this is to use a large slotted spoon to get alll the berries, shaking them from the flour/sugar mixture first.  Then when all the berries have been arranged, used a regular spoon to evenly distribute the flour/sugar mixture all over the fruit. 

Place the pie in the fridge while you roll out the top crust.  One little tip about pie crust...make it cold and keep it as cold as possible until you're ready to bake prevents shrinkage. 

Once your top crust is ready, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place the top crust on the pie, fold and crimp the edges, and cut 3-4 holes to allow steam to vent.  Brush the top all over with some cream or milk and sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of sugar.  I had some turbinado sugar, so I used that, but rest assured, regular, granulated sugar is fine.

Bake the pie for about 1 hour, rotating it halfway through the baking time if your oven heats unevenly.  Mine does a bit, so I always rotate everything. 

Allow to cool completely before serving, so the filling has a chance to set up.

My pie looked runny even after it cooled, so I let it sit overnight.  It was still runny-looking.  I put in in the fridge the next day to see what would happen.  Still looked loose, but we cut into it tonight.  As you can see, the filling ran out bit, but the berries were intact, and it tasted GREAT.  Rebecca ate her piece and finished her sister's portion too. ;-)  Next time, I will see about adding more cornstarch, using less flour, adding tapioca, etc.  Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Despite the loose filling, the pie did turn out pretty, and I can't wait to dig into some more recipes using our blackberries.  We should be picking for a couple more long as the kids don't get to them first.

God bless your table tonight!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Wonders of the Asian Grocery Store

Back in April, I made Chinese Dumplings for our parish's first International Potluck Dinner.  I hadn't been to our local Asian market in ages, and decided to take my camera so I could give you a tour. 

When you walk into most ethnic markets (okay...ANY ethnic market), you will find they all have a very distinct aroma.  I say, "aroma," you might say, "smell."  I happen to love the smell of an Asian market.  I remember going shopping with my mother, and begging her to buy some preserved, sugared plums for me.   But in any case, if you can get past that "aroma" will open yourself up to a whole world of ingredients, spices, condiments, produce, and dry goods, not to mention things you never thought you could get in a grocery store. 


All right, here we go!

It was raining the day I went, but here's a shot outside.  I'd like to introduce to you to the Hong Kong Food Market. 

Right as you go in, you'll see piles of dry goods in boxes.  No fancy display shelves here! 

Bear to the right, and we have the produce section.  Some things you'll recognize, and others will seem strange and mysterious.  But's all edible (so I've been told). 

Need an obscene amount of fresh ginger?  You got it.  And did you see the price?  The whole package is only $1.61!  (No...they don't sell itty bitty pieces here, sorry). 

How about a BIG bunch of fresh dill?  I didn't know they sold dill here...but it's only 88 cents!  What a deal!

Continuing on with the tour...just past the produce is the eggs and miso paste.  Don't ask me why there's a neon Bud Light sign over the shelves...I have no idea.  But I bet it looks good at night!

Need a hammock?   Yep, they sell 'em here too!  Or, if you get tired while shopping, you can climb up, and take a siesta with the snap peas. 

Here's the case with all different kinds of tofu, spreadable cheese, butter, and margarine.  Sadly, no one in our household will eat tofu, instead of me.  But I haven't tried serving it deep fried...maybe I should.  Anything deep-fried is good, right?
Some of my favorite snacks...sesame crackers, fried wasabi peas, and shrimp chips. 

Next time you have a cold, get some wasabi peas...they'll clear your sinuses right out.  ;-)

Hong Kong Market sells ordinary canned beans and chicken broth.

And some not so ordinary things, like brined lotus root.  I have no idea how one would use these. 

Let's check out some of the proteins.  Want to roast a duck for your next family gathering? 

If you don't want to make it yourself, you can have one to go, complete with the head and neck.  These are what you know as Peking ducks.  That would make a great presentation on the table, don't you think?

I counted no less that 8 different sizes of fresh shrimp, all raw, head-on and shell-on.  That's the way to buy shrimp people.  Precooked shrimp is like rubber (in my opinion anyway). many kinds, I couldn't even begin to tell you.  Most of them were whole. 

And lobsters, and MORE fish.  Some of those guys were big...really big. 

Last stop...anything you need to serve Asian food.  Bowls, plates, chopsticks, rice cookers, woks... it's paradise! 

I bought this beautiful bowl to put soy sauce in...I couldn't resist. 

Well, there you have it folks...real, honest to goodness Asian grocery.  I spotted a good number of Caucasians in the store that day...and a few stopped to ask me questions.  I tried to tell them I was no expert, but did recommend one particular product over another.  As a general rule of thumb, I try to buy things produced overseas, instead of here in the United States.  Sometimes that's not an option, but I believe certain things are better when they are made in their country of origin. 

I hope you venture out and visit the local ethnic groceries in your area.  Trust me...they're out there...and you never know what you'll find!

God bless your table tonight!

Friday, May 7, 2010

First Harvest

Our garden was a bit late starting this year.  We had a light freeze in March...almost unheard of here in southeast Texas, but everything survived.  Here's what David planted this year. 

He planted 4 different kinds of tomatoes, 2 of which are bearing fruit...


There's a good bit of green leaf lettuce, which I've already picked several times for salad. 

There are two pepper plants.  I haven't picked this beauty yet...I need to ask David if it's a yellow bell pepper plant...and if so, I need to wait until the pepper turns a golden yellow. 

We picked 2 zucchini this week, and I cannot wait to make the Pioneer Woman's Zucchini Cakes (which are actually from her friend, Pastor Ryan).  If you don't make 'em, you're missing out...I'm telling you!  Even my picky 5-year-old who won't eat vegetables likes them. 

David always plants green beans...there were just enough for dinner last night. 

 For the most part, I season fresh green beans with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and roast 'em up in the oven. 

I am nearly ready to give away the vegetable steamer I've had for years...all our kids prefer the flavor of roasted veggies vs steamed. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of just about any vegetable. In addition to green beans, I roast sweet potatoes, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, yellow squash, and tomatoes. Sometimes I will toss the veggies with some dried basil, or a mixture of orange marmalade, ginger, and butter. Minimal fuss, but plenty of flavor!

There's other things growing too, but I didn't take pictures of it all...cucumbers, swiss chard, and lots of herbs..cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme, basil, mint, tarragon, and oregano. 

I am most looking forward to the blackberries coming on...this year, we should finally have enough for a cobbler or two, and maybe even some freezer jam. Yee haw!
 The kids aren't much into harvesting...but they do love going out and looking at the garden with Dad. David has a habit of surveying the garden every day when he comes home from work. More often than not, he'll find a tomato, pepper, or zucchini I missed. Last year, when we were invaded by a million baby yellow tomatoes, the girls did get out and help, thank goodness. We had more than the tomatoes to pick...the whole garden was out of control ;-).

So for all of you gardeners out there...hats off to you.  I cannot claim to be a gardener...I really can't.  David does ALL of the tilling, planting, watering, and weeding.  I harvest...that's it.  Well, okay, I do the cookin' too, but I don't think that counts.  I am hoping to post more often about the garden this summer.  Already, it's starting to look like this year's garden will be exceptional (as long as any hurricanes in the gulf stay away). 

God bless your table tonight!