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Slice of Life

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Blackberries taking center stage

Every family has a child who, while just as talented, beautiful and beloved as the rest of the brood, is overshadowed by the achievements of siblings. Such is the fate of the blackberry.

Just as delicious and flavorful as its siblings the blueberry, strawberry and raspberry, it is, nonetheless, usually relegated to the back of the line when it comes to which one we choose to incorporate in our menu.

I say it’s time for the blackberry to take its place alongside the other berries and show the world exactly how wonderful it really is.

Fresh blackberries are best used the day you purchase them, but they may be refrigerated for one to two days without losing flavor. When serving the blackberries fresh, I like to remove them from the refrigerator one to two hours before I serve them. Their full, just-like-fresh-picked flavor is at its peak at room temperature. One last tip: Always buy a pint or two more than the recipe calls for. Why? They are truly irresistible and snacking on a few (which leads to eating a few more) while you’re cooking is inevitable.

Blackberry Soup

1 pint ripe blackberries

1/2 cup sugar

2 small lemons, sliced thin

2 cups cold water

1 one-inch stick cinnamon

2 cups vanilla yogurt

2 cloves

1 can Mandarin oranges, drained, and raspberries for garnish

Put all ingredients except yogurt into a heavy pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until fruit is soft. Remove cinnamon stick and cloves. Put the cooked berry mixture in blender for about 20 seconds. Process the soup until it is smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or until very cold. Stir in the yogurt just before serving. Garnish with raspberries and mandarin oranges. Serves 4.

Poached Chicken Breasts with Blackberry Wine Sauce

2 cups water

1 cup dry white wine

1 bay leaf

1 slice onion, coarsely chopped

1 carrot, coarsely chopped

Leaves from 1 stalk celery, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 chicken breast halves (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)

Blackberry Wine Sauce:

2 cups blackberries

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

3 tablespoons sugar

1 cup dry red wine

For the meat: In a large pot over medium heat, combine the water, wine, bay leaf, onion, carrot, celery leaves, salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Add the chicken pieces and return to pot, bringing back to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes. Turn off heat and let pot stand, covered, until cool.

Lift chicken pieces from cooking stock with a slotted spoon. Skin and bone the breast halves and slice thinly lengthwise, holding them in their original shape as you work. Arrange the sliced breast on a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.

Note: You can strain the stock, refrigerate or freeze it and use it in other dishes. Prepare Blackberry Cabernet Sauce and spoon over chilled chicken just before serving. To serve, fan out chicken slices on individual plates and top with sauce. Makes 6 servings.

For sauce: In a food processor or blender, puree and then strain enough blackberries to measure 1 cup pulp. In a large frying pan, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 5 minutes or until onions are transparent. Add the blackberry pulp, sugar and wine. Simmer sauce until reduced to half the original quantity. Remove from heat and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Peach and Blackberry Streusel Cake

Topping:

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Cake:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups peeled and sliced fresh firm, ripe peaches (about 2 large peaches, 7 ounces each)

1 cup fresh blackberries

Powdered sugar

Garnishes: fresh blackberries, sliced peaches

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the streusel topping by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing to combine. Set it aside.

Grease and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 2 minutes, then add the sugar. Mix to combine; beat for 1 minute, then add the eggs, one at a time, until combined. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix to combine, then add to the butter mixture, alternating the milk, beginning with and ending with flour. Beat at low speed and add the vanilla.

Pour batter into pan. Top with sliced peaches and blackberries. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the fruit and press down slightly. Bake for 70 to 80 minutes or until center of cake is set. (A wooden pick inserted in center will not come out clean.) Cool completely on a wire rack (about 1 1/2 hours). Dust with powdered sugar. Garnish, if desired.

Slice of Life is a food column that offers recipes, cooking advice and information on new food products. It appears Sundays. If you have a question about cooking or a food item, contact Eileen Goltz at eztlog@gmail.com or write The Journal Gazette, 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

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