Thursday, August 11, 2016

Blue Willow's Bruschetta


If you grew up in the 90s like me, then much of the recipes in your recipe binder are printouts of emails in small Courier font with the title of the recipe highlighted so you know to skip over Grandma's play-by-play of last month's book club meeting and you can skip straight to the good stuff. This recipe is no exception.

Confession time: I was a very picky eater as a kid. In some ways I still am. I had an anxious relationship with many basic ingredients. Tomatoes, I'm talking about you. I would dip my plain penne into the sauce (on the side) so as not to accumulate tomato chunks on my precious pasta until about age 12...okay 13. You'll notice from my Blackberry Jam post that this was right around the same time that I started my first recipe binder. Parents of picky kids: there is hope for you.

These days, my tomatoes are de-pulped and cut to 1/4 inch precision before being mixed into the 90s email Bruschetta recipe. Why? Because it looks nice.

Thanks Frank!
The stars aligned this week for bruschetta. Momcierge sent me home with 5 Roma tomatoes from her garden. August in Jersey is the time of year your home-gardening neighbors start trying to give you produce. Neighbor Frank offered me access to his A+ basil plant. (Mine is more like a C-, I'll get the hang of this plant parenthood thing eventually.) Earlier the same day, I bought a fresh baguette (90 cents, coupon, cue Snoopy dance.)

So for lunch today, I will be lightly toasting my baguette slices before topping with an herbed cheese spread and then with my homemade bruschetta. The only thing that would make it better was if I spent all afternoon reducing a bottle of balsamic vinegar to a glaze and drizzling that on top.


1 cup Roma tomatoes, no pulp, ¼ inch diced
½ cup red onion, ¼ inch diced
1 T. minced garlic
2 T. olive oil
2 T. balsamic vinegar
½ t. salt
½ t. pepper
1 T. fresh basil, chiffonade

Combine all ingredients, prepared as directed, into a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve on toasted baguette slices.

Spread toasted baguette slices with an herbed cheese spread before topping with bruschetta. Alternatively, dice up mini fresh mozzarella balls from your grocery store's olive bar and mix them in with the bruschetta. You can also grate fresh parmesan cheese on top before serving.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Seedless Blackberry Lime Jam

I went blackberry picking with Momcierge yesterday at the Lee Turkey Farm in East Windsor, NJ. Big shout out to the owner telling us where the best pickin' was. “Go further down!...keep going!”  

After a 3 quart haul, I thought I’d turn one of my Grandpa’s recipes into a blackberry seedless version. I picked way too many berries for this recipe, so after washing them, I dried them on a sheet pan lined with paper towel, weighed out 8 oz. bags of them and popped them in the freezer. They’ll be great for assembling smoothies later.

My grandpa in Utah was known for his Strawberry Freezer Jam. The recipe for it has been in the back of the “Sauces” section of my recipe binder since I first assembled it at the age of 13...ish. In the margins of the original recipe I wrote Grandpa’s specific instructions: “follow ingredients in order” and “let the mixture sit out until the sugar dissolves... or else.”  The trouble with the recipe is, it doesn’t mention heat at all, and I thought that he cooked it over a stove. Confused, I called Momcierge on FaceTime hoping for some clarity. “Momcierge is unavailable for FaceTime.” Insert McKayla Mahroney-style “not impressed” face here.

Fast forward 30 min. “There is no heat, Girly,” and she explained what the notes meant.  What. The. What.

I like blackberry jam more than a strawberry or raspberry because of its toned-down tartness. Not that a berry jam should be totally void of tart flavor, this recipe uses lime juice instead of lemon for a more mojito vibe. See “Variations” at the end of the recipe.

A note of warning: Your garbage can will look like an episode of True Blood at the end of the de-seeding process. Also, when you walk by a mirror waiting for the sugar to dissolve, don’t freak out at the violently purple smudge on your forehead. It’s just blackberry goop. Trust me.

2 lb. cleaned, crushed blackberries
¼ cup fresh lime juice
1 (2 oz.) pkg. pectin  +   ¾ tsp pectin powder
1 cup light corn syrup
4 ½ cups white sugar

Prepare all of your ingredients ahead of time. Wash all of your berries, no need to be extremely gentle since they’re getting crushed anyway. Check for any stem pieces, leaf parts, or (if you went picking like me) any little critters that stowed away in your pints. Let dry on sheet pan with a few paper towels.

Pulse the blackberries in a food processor to crush the berries. (I tried to use a potato masher, and after 4 seconds, I said “screw that” ). Then, weigh out 2 lbs. of blackberry pulp with a kitchen scale.

Stir together the crushed berries and lime juice in an 8-cup glass measuring bowl. Stir in all of the pectin powder until well-mixed. Stir every 5 minutes for a half hour.

Add in the corn syrup and sugar and stir together. Keep the mixture in a warm place, mixing occasionally until the sugar completely dissolves. If you’re in a hurry, you can cheat by putting it over super-low heat on the stove for a minute or two. To test to see if it’s done, taste and check for any sugar “crunchiness.” This process should take about 2 hours. Meanwhile, get your canning assembly line prepped.

Pour mixture into a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Press through with a spatula until you get most of the liquid out. Twist up the cheesecloth and squeeze by hand (messy) for the last little bit. Your jam is now ready to can. Leave enough headspace for expansion in jars.

Makes 2 pints.
Start to Finish: about 3 hours.

The most important thing is to patiently wait for the sugar to dissolve itself.
There is an opened box of pectin powder in my pantry for the sole purpose of being the ¾ tsp. extra needed for this recipe.
Can you freeze it? Absolutely.

You can leave your jam the way it is, or whiz it  with a hand blender instead of running it through a cheesecloth/strainer if you prefer seeds and pulp in your jams. This recipe is great for ingredient substitutions. Example: lemon instead of lime juice, strawberries or raspberries instead of blackberries.

Tools & Gadgets: