Friday, June 29, 2012

I Found My Thrill....

When my children were little, my in-laws gave them a great book by Maine author Robert McCloskey called Blueberries for Sal.

It's about a little girl named Sal and her mother and a little bear cub and his mother who are picking and eating blueberries on Blueberry Hill.  If you have young children, I highly recommend it.  Whenever Sal would put some berries in her little metal pail, it would make a distinctive sound: kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk.

Reading this story was like a step back in time.  I grew up in Upper Michigan where there used to be loads of wild blueberries ripe for the picking.  My Uncle Pete would take us to all of his secret places where we would fill our own little metal pails--kerplink, kerplank, kerplunk--with the blue nuggets.  Wild berries are small but perfectly tart.  Domesticated berries are much sweeter and not quite as intensely flavored, but I love them all!  At this time of year we buy mounds of blueberries because in my mind, it's just not summer without them.

I usually bake up some fabulous double blueberry muffins or make berry, berry extraordinary french toast or even throw some blueberries in a spinach salad, but this time I tried Ina Garten's Blueberry Crumb Cake.  I made it exactly according to her recipe except that I used large eggs instead of extra large and put a few sliced almonds in the crumb topping.  I also baked it in a springform pan so it would have a nice presentation.

Tangy sour cream adds moistness and butter adds incredible richness.  The lemon zest is a zingy counterpoint to the sweet berries.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9 inch spring form pan.  Cream butter and sugar for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy:

Add eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream and mix thoroughly.  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add these dry ingredients plus fresh blueberries to the creamed butter mixture and gently stir in by hand.

Spoon mixture into the prepared spring form pan, and smooth the top.

Make the streusel for the top:

I like to grind my own nutmeg, which lends nice flavor.

Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the top of the batter.

Bake for 40-50 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Cool completely, then unmold.  Garnish with powdered sugar and additional blueberries.

Cut a wedge!

I found my (Blueberry) Thrill!

Linking to:

Cast Party Wednesday

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Big Easy Mango Freezy

When we lived in New Orleans, one of my favorite events was the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival that is held the last weekend in April and first weekend in May.  It's a riotous celebration of all genres of music as well as food and crafts from the different cultures represented in the New Orleans metro area (Cajun and Creole French, Italian, African American, Latino, and Vietnamese, among others).  The music is hot, the people are cool, and the food?  Unforgettable.  Unparalleled.  Seems like I have sampled every one of the Jazz Fest food offerings over the years.

Although held in the Spring, The Fest gets plenty HOT since it's held at the Fairgrounds where there is not a lick of shade.  Some people cope by bringing their umbrellas

But most people just "glisten".  What I used to do to beat the heat was slurp down a wonderfully cooling treat called a Mango Freeze.

Things are heating up in Texas (triple digits tomorrow...Lord, have mercy!), so I decided to try my hand at making Mango Freeze for myself.  Brings back some GOOD memories!  Watch and listen to New Orleans' own Rebirth Brass Band as you scroll through the pics to get the full effect. :)

First you'll need to make a simple syrup with 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar.  Boil down until you only have 1 cup liquid in total, then cool to room temperature.

Next you'll need the pulp from about 3 1/2 lbs. ripe mangoes.  Two of mine were huge and one was smaller.

Mangoes have a flat pit right in the center, and if you don't cut the fruit correctly, the pulp can be stringy and difficult to extract. Here's a little visual on the technique I use:

Cut down one side slightly off center, then do the same on the other side.  Score each section and flip it inside out.  Use your knife to cut away the cubes.  I also use a spoon to scrape as much pulp out as I can.

Put the mango in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  

Juice about 2 small limes (you'll need 3 tablespoons in total).  I only had 1 lime, so I used that and half an orange.

Combine the citrus juice and simple syrup, and slowly pour it through the feed tube of the food processor with the machine running.

You will end up with about 5 cups of mango puree base for the sorbet.  Cover and chill for several hours in the refrigerator.

I used my ice cream maker to churn this because I wanted a velvety smooth result.  My pic may be grainy, but my mango freeze sure wasn't!

I have read that you can freeze the base in ice cube trays and then pulse the frozen cubes before serving to smooth it out, but I haven't tried that personally.

We haven't been to the Jazz Fest since 2005, but  our family is going next year f'sure!

Wanna meet me in the Gospel Tent?  I'll be the woman with the Mango Freeze and a smile of pure joy because I'm soaking up the sights and sounds of one of the most unique places on earth.

Linking to:

Cast Party Wednesday

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

 Ms. enPlace

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fish for Compliments

I bought a mess of catfish at Costco and needed to cook 'em up.  I tried a great but simple recipe for grilled filets that yielded crunchy, slightly smoky fish that was da bomb.  It was as tasty as any deep-fried Southern catfish I have ever had, and probably a whole lot healthier, too.

In my experience, Costco has consistently good-quality fish, but I soaked the filets in milk for a few hours to help reduce any "muddy" flavors (catfish are bottom feeders).

This forum on Taste of Home, gives several other alternatives to this problem, including soaking in aciduated water (water spiked with lemon), buttermilk, mustard, or salt water.  I don't know if the milk helped mine, but I do know that my fish didn't have a trace of muddiness.

Start by preheating your grill to medium and making a smoking packet like described here.  Put the packet on the grill's heating element or directly over the coals if using charcoal.

Combine 2 tsp. seasoned salt, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. celery seed, and 1/2 tsp. celery salt.

Remove the fish (I had about 2 lbs.) from the milk, pat the filets dry with paper towels and season on both sides with the seasoning mixture.

Finely crush a sleeve of buttery flavored crackers (I used Townhouse) and melt a stick of butter.

Dip each filet into the butter, then into the cracker crumbs, and lay on a sheet tray.  I line the tray with foil, then after the fish are cooked, I remove the foil and use the tray for the cooked filets.

Spray a grilling sheet with cooking spray so that the filets don't stick.  Lay the fish on and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

Watch carefully so they don't burn.  You can flip them carefully one time, but we didn't, and they were still fine.

Golden brown, flaky, and delicious!

I served the crunchy fish with cheesy creamed spinach, which was a pleasant contrast.

The whole family complimented the chef on this recipe.  It's a keeper!

Linking to:

Cast Party Wednesday

Miz Helen’s Country Cottage