Blackberries make summer memories
Summer simmers along, with hot days and warm still nights. This is the sign of a good blackberry summer. The berries hang heavy and ripe on their briers, waiting for eager hands to gather them. Heaving buckets heaped with berries comprise the Mt. Shasta Blackberry Festival’s iconic food – blackberry pie. As the summer days melt away, this end-of-summer staple, sweet tangy blackberries, ease us into the next season.
For our family, the Mt. Shasta Blackberry Festival has been a staple. There is nothing quite like a good ole’ fashioned summer party to push away the back to school blues. The potato sack races, watermelon eating contest and balloon toss contests are often picturesque images seen only in a Martha Stewart magazine but here, in our home away from home, we can capture such memories. Local musicians provide the backdrop to lull you into a happy summer grin. Seemingly endless plates of blackberry pie and brimming cups of blackberry beer are carried back and forth until only a few meager pieces of this treat remain.
In honor of a festival that has carved out a place in our hearts, I have two new blackberry recipes to share. Maybe one or both of them will make it to center stage at the festival someday. Until then, I hope you enjoy these unique twists on some classic recipes.
The Blackberry & Proscuitto Goat Cheese Herbed Pizza has subtle sweet undertones balanced by a savory salty kick. What I loved most about this recipe is how light it is – dollops of goat cheese, wisps of balsamic glazed red onions, tangy green olives, salty prosciutto and delectable blackberries. Once cooked the blackberries make the most gorgeous puddles of red juice that give the pizza a hint of color to an otherwise drab canvas. With a bit of inspiration from our recent guests from France, a heavy sprinkle of ‘Herbs de Provance’ and a bit of orange zest make this pizza a true summer dish. Serve with a salad as a main dish or as an appetizer. If homemade pizza is too daunting, you can opt for the short-cut version, and prepare the pizza in a flash. One of my favorite pizza dough ‘cheats’ is the whole wheat dough from Trader Joe’s.
What goes well with pizza? Well a cocktail of course. Now it is time to get your grin on. I’d like to introduce you to the Shasta ’75 (thanks Regan!). I am not talking about 1975 but rather a spin off on the classic French 75 cocktail. Legend has it that it was created in 1915 at a New York Bar in Paris. It made its way to the USA via returning WWI pilots. So why the ’75? Well that is the fun part – the name is derived from a 75mm French field gun that was said to have the same kick as this drink. So let’s Kick It Up A Notch! Cheers.
Blackberry & Proscuitto Goat Cheese Herbed Pizza
Add in 1+ TBS fresh thyme
red onions, thinly sliced
1 TBS balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups fresh or 2 cups frozen blackberries
6 oz goat cheese
green olives, sliced
1 tsp Herbs de Provance
1/2 tsp orange zest
1 tsp fresh thyme
salt and pepper, to taste
4 slices proscuitto (optional)
Prepare pizza dough crust according to above recipe directions, or if pressed for time use a premade dough.
When you’re ready to bake the pizza, heat the oven to 450 degrees. In a small pan over medium heat, add a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper and cook the onions until softened. Add balsamic vinegar and continue cooking until liquid is evaporated and onion is caramelized. Set aside.
Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Push dough into a rectangular shape trying to get it as thin as possible without tearing it. Lightly drizzle the dough with a tsp of olive oil and top with the blackberries and remaining ingredients. Bake until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted approximately 8-12 minutes. Allow to stand for a few minutes before slicing and serve while still hot.
Makes 1 potent cocktail
4-6 blackberries, save one as garnish
2-3 mint leaves, plus one mint spring as garnish
1 oz gin
1/2 oz Cointreau
1/2 oz lime juice, fresh
2 1/2 oz champagne or Prosecco
In a cocktail glass, muddle blackberries and mint leaves with gin, Cointreau and lime juice. Mix well. Add ice to glass and pour champagne over top and stir again. Garnish with a mint sprig and small blackberry.
Not a fan of gin? Switch it out to vodka and it becomes a Shasta ’76.