Tuesday, July 16, 2013

berry season!

Here in Virginia it has been raining like it is going out of style. It’s been a little bit of a drag for summer outings, but it has been GREAT for the wild berries that are suddenly growing absolutely everywhere! Steve, my sister, and I have been picking them like maniacs. We’ve seen neighbors out noshing, and birdies, and no doubt all sorts of nocturnal creatures are indulging in them as we sleep and STILL, there are SO MANY! Nature can be so generous!


Let’s think about how overpriced berries are at the grocery store, huh? High fives all around when we can pick them in the wild! Sure, there’s a lot of sweating… and there are brambles, so you should really wear longer legs and sleeves on your clothes… which is just as well since there’s also a lot of poison ivy around. Still, it’s FREE NINETY NINE!

Here’s the work of, oh, half an hour? (With, yknow, a little of the yield skimmed off the top in the form of snackage in the field)


Shining like beautiful jewels! The raspberries are quite abundant and the blackberries are still coming into season. So. stoked.


Steve and I spent a really adorable afternoon walking in the sunshine picking berries and then getting hilariously soaked when the aforementioned crazy rain appeared once again. Apparently it wetted my camera, which ruined the next few pictures. Blurry though they are, I have to share this fab breakfast.

We begin with:
- Wonderful farmer’s market yogurt
- Whole flaxseeds
-Rolled oats
-Almond butter


Then atop, you guessed it, big handfuls of ripe and delicious raspberries! Note: the berries are delicious but a bit tarter than the ones you’d find at a grocery store. They’re also a little seedier. I think this makes for a wonderful texture in yogurt bowls but I found it unpleasant when I added them to a smoothie. Just FYI.


Hanging out in a bowlful of dry rice restored my camera. Phew!

Something I’ve done twice now with these beautiful berries is make a beautiful pie!

And, shocker of shockers, I have a RECIPE! A legit RECIPE! For the first time in MONTHS! It’s adapted from Mark Bittman, natch, but I put enough tweaks on it that I can call it my own.


Berry-Buttermilk Pie
Adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, by Mark Bittman

1 pie crust (I used a packaged one we had leftover, which is why it looks so BUSTED. The traditional pie crust was great, but you can also do a crumble type crust. See below for variation)
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup half and half
3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup minus 2 T sugar
pinch of salt
heaping 3/4 cup of your choice of berries (I used a mix of raspberries and blackberries)

Generously poke the bottom of the pie crust with a fork, then bake the empty pie crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, until just lightly golden. Let it cool a bit while you prepare the filling.
Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar in a large bowl. [Tip: my pastry chef cousin taught me something important. Don’t dump the sugar on top of the eggs, or it’ll cause the eggs to get all clotty and coagulated. Instead, whisk continuously and gradually add the sugar as you whisk.]
Then, in a saucepan, heat together buttermilk and half and half on low heat until they begin to steam. Remove the pan from the heat. Add a small ladleful of the hot buttermilk mixture into the bowl with the eggs and whisk vigorously until combined. Then pour the egg mixture into the pan with the rest of the buttermilk mixture.
Get your pie crust, and scatter the berries all around the bottom, in an even layer. Then pour the buttermilk filling on top. NOTE: you will have more of the custard mixture than you need for the pie unless you are using a deep dish pie dish. You can put this mixture into ramekins and make custard at the same time as the pie if you wish. Pour the buttermilk mixture into the pie crust, on top of the berries, only until it is about 1/2 an inch under the top of the pie crust. Do not add any more than this or it will be impossible to get the pie in the oven without spilling, plus it’ll rise over the top.
Carefully put the pie in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, until the middle is mostly but not quite set (it will cook a little after you remove it from the oven).


Note that when I made this beautiful fresh pie a second time, I used only raspberries (because the particular field I was picking in that day did not yet possess ripe blackberries). For the filling, I was lazy and out of eggs so I used Bird’s custard powder to make the custard. Howeeeeeeeeever, for the crust I kicked it up a notch and made a homemade crust. I’m kicking myself for not measuring, because it was wonnnnnnderful, but it contained approximately:
- 2 handfuls of walnuts
- 1 big tablespoon of cold butter
- 1 tablespoon or so of white sugar, plus another 1 or so of brown
- say 1/3 of a cup of oats?

I prebaked it in the same manner, then filled it, and WOW it was good. It had the texture and richness of those crumbly raspberry bars, but it wasn’t too sweet and it had the creamy custard and… mmm… Just it was good. Just trust me.

The day I made the pie was a crazy day because I saw not one but two of my friends’ babies! And by my friends, I mean my peers! One I’ve known since 7th grade, one since 9th! First I enjoyed salads at Sweetgreen with my friend Lauren, who had a sweet little girl named Aimee about six weeks ago. Then for dinner, I joined my friend Virginia, whose wedding I posted about in this blog, and her family. She has a 15-month-old named Charlotte (who’s walking and chatting and an absolute joy to be around) and is pregnant with her second child (!!!!!!!!!)

This is all a long way of saying that I told her to eat lots of pie because it had walnuts in them and omega-3’s are good for developing babies.

Back to the original pie. Original piecrust. My family thoroughly approved of this goodness.


It was delicious. Due to it being (vaguely) red, white, and blue, I brought it to the fourth of July celebration with my family. We enjoyed it after this fab dinner:


My once-a-year hot dog, corn on the cob, Georgian beans, a giant pickle, and the most exciting thing to the lower right hand of the plate. I’ve had papas huancaina, a heavenly Peruvian spicy potato and egg dish at La Limena, a Peruvian restaurant in Rockville and then made at potluck by my Peruvian friend David. Well, my aunt tried her friend’s version and loved it too, obviously. So she took a stab at it and PEOPLE OF THE WORLD: you have to try papas huancaina. My aunt is proof positive that one can google it and find a scrumptious recipe.

As usual, this blog post is all over the place with its train of thought. Returning to the wild fruit with which it began, I inquire the group: are these wild grapes?


They were growing on the same path as the berries. We aren’t complete lunatics and didn’t eat any, but we did break them open.


Any horticultural experts out there?

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