Thursday, August 26, 2010

Wild Blackberry Tart

{Dessert for the Woodswoman}

The island just happened to be experiencing a bumper crop of sweet wild raspberries and plump, tart blackberries when we arrived. And so every walk and wander became an exercise in stealthy trespassing and berry-looting. Nothing beats handfuls of wild berries straight from the bush, but if you’re going to tame them with a tart you must at least honor their savage provenance by making it a rustic, unfussy tart, and not too sweet. This simple hand-formed tart, called a galette, is a perfect way to do just that. It needn’t be symmetrical nor particularly beautiful; it disappears so fast it hardly matters. The white wine-marmalade syrup is optional, but delicious. Serve with ice cream or sweetened crème fraîche and die and go to heaven.

Wild Blackberry Tart
This is a good all-around galette dough recipe to keep handy; it's pleasantly forgiving and always comes out flaky and delicious. As for the filling, any berry or stone fruit will work splendidly; experiment with the amount of sugar for the right balance of tart and sweet.

Ingredients for Crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 heaping teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons ice water, plus more if needed
1 large egg yolk, beaten (for glaze)

Ingredients for Topping*:
3 heaping cups blackberries and/or raspberries (I used both)
a splash of white wine
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
a dollop of good marmalade or jam
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
squeeze of lemon juice

Directions for Crust:
Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Roll up your sleeves like a milkmaid and add butter; rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add 2 tablespoons ice water; stir until dough clumps together, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic and chill at least 2 hours. Can be done with a mix-master, but much more fun to do by hand. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften 10 minutes at room temperature before rolling out.

Directions for Topping:
As your dough is defrosting, make syrup: whisk butter, a splash of white wine, sugar and marmalade to taste, and 1 teaspoon corn starch together in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it thickens and froths and tastes outstanding. Pour syrup over berries and gently mix, adding a squeeze of lemon juice if desired, then set aside. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Place large sheet of parchment paper on work surface; sprinkle parchment with flour. Roll dough out on parchment to 12-inch round. Transfer dough (still on parchment) to large baking sheet. Starting in center of the tart, heap berries onto dough with a slotted spoon, leaving most of the liquid behind in the bowl. Leave 2-inch plain border at edge of dough. Gently fold dough border up over outer edge of berry topping, folding and crimping dough to create decorative edge. Brush folded dough edges with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle generously with 1 tablespoon sugar.

Bake tart until dough is golden and juices are bubbling, about 55 minutes. Cool at least 15 minutes before serving. Cut tart into wedges, drizzle leftover syrup over sweetened crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream and serve. BAM.

*If you forgo the syrup just add half a tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of corn starch to the blackberries to sweeten and keep the tart from getting too runny.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Salt Air

{Little Cranberry Island, Maine}

We left the Scamp on the farm and sped up through New England to our final destination: Little Cranberry Island, Maine. P's extended family still owns the marvelous, ramshackle cedar shingle house his great-great grandfather built there in 1904, and save for wifi and a washing machine, not much has changed. Not much changes on the island, period. Little Cranberry is one of the last year-round fishing community islands in Maine, and it's the hardscrabble island existence that makes it as romantic as it is rough.

P's childhood friends from the island are lobstermen now with their own boats, their own families. They keep Dominique chickens so that when the channel freezes over in January and the island is cut off from the rest of the world, there are still eggs for breakfast. It is a hard place to live. But in the summer the island is vibrant, virile; the fishermen's co-op is humming, the little lanes are abuzz with barefoot children racing ten-speeds, and the backyard vegetable gardens are overgrown jungles of squash and tomatoes. August on the island is, quite simply, magical.

I wandered the island with the dogs, picked armloads of queen anne's lace, devoured my father-in-law's anadama bread straight out of the oven, and finally did some reading. P. and I woke to the gulls calling the lobster boats out into the morning fog, out into the cold, black Atlantic. We went to bed with full, hot bellies after enormous meals of chowder and haddock around the spirited dinner table. It was the end of the Scamp adventure, the closing parenthesis on our Great American Road Trip. We were surrounded by family, and we were very, very grateful and very, very happy.

Next chapter: India.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Farm


We finally made it home, Scamp intact and all dogs and husbands accounted for. Real-home, where my family lives on a little green swatch of farmland in New Jersey. Where we go swimming and pick blueberries and eat splitting heirloom tomatoes off the vine. Where we are our parents' children, and where it is always safe, boisterous, and full of barking dogs and bossy sisters.

The garden was marvelously overgrown with my favorite late-summer hussies: zinnias, raggedy bee balm, leggy phlox and thickets of beetle-eaten echinacea. Barn swallows warbled and chattered above the din of cicadas. The hay wagons were parked in a row, ready for the second cutting of timothy, and the barn floor was cool under our bare feet. This is how it always is in August on the farm. And it's always *really* hard to leave.

P.S. Remember when it looked like little Lemon might not make it? As you can see she's miraculously alive and as healthy as she's ever been in her thirty-something years.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


{Urban Beekeeping & Other Newlywed Endeavors}

From Nashville we crossed the Great Smokies and descended into the buzzing green canopy of North Carolina, where we met up with the Cowgirl Bride and her huz in their new digs in Durham. Our time with them included a crash course in beekeeping, picking misshapen produce from their garden and exploring the newly revamped tobacco campus in old Durham. Which is a marvelous feat of tasteful urban renewal.

In other news, our flight to Delhi leaves tonight. Hopefully with us on it- I just barely finished my last commission this morning, but at least we're packed. I still have a few more posts from our Scamp road trip, and then, my friends, bigBANG will be featuring heavy doses of elephants, monkeys, camel carts, and curry.

India, here we come.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Nashvegas Guide

{24 Hours with Friends in Nashville, Tennessee}

Dinner: The Family Wash. It used to be a car wash. Now it's an East Nashville hangout with live music, rad vegetarian shepherd's pie and an excellent, eclectic beer selection.

Dessert: Popsicles at Las Paletas. Try the plum mascarpone or the basil. Or, in my case, plum mascarpone and basil. But in my defense the Nashvillian we were visiting said it was ok on account of the hot weather.

Honky-tonk: Robert's Western World downtown. Old school Nashville sound and spectacular people-watching. Gives our beloved desert watering hole a run for its money.

Breakfast: Marche Artisan Foods in East Nashville. Get the peaches with homemade ricotta on whole wheat boule with honey.  Then help the person on your right with their buttermilk griddlecakes and bacon.

Panic: When I got a call from a good Samaritan saying he'd plucked Biscuit up from four lanes of traffic in downtown Nashville and found my cell phone number on his collar. That slippery homefry found a hole in our friend's fence and took himself on a walk while we were out. NAUGHTY BISCUIT. Thank heavens he's ok. And thank heavens for good Samaritans with soft spots for corgyn.

The Heads, Etc.

{South Dakota Lite}

P. and I had three days to cover two thousand miles between Bozeman, Montana and Nashville, Tennessee. Which meant we didn't have time to meander through the Badlands whilst listening to Springsteen's eponymous album (which is rough-cut, haunting and absolutely beautiful- download the whole thing). But we did stop by Mount Rushmore, or, as my Aunt calls it, "The Heads." And the Mitchell Corn Palace. Which is not a palace at all, but is indeed covered in corn.

I'm not saying who, but someone in our vehicle had a small meltdown when we whizzed past the exit for De Smet, South Dakota and the chance to see the historic home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. But certain husbands said we had places to be and that we can't stop EVERYWHERE, and it's a long way from Bozeman to Nashville when you're towing a Scamp. So we drove on towards Nebraska. With no anthemic Springsteen moments. And no Little Town on the Prairie memorabilia.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Home Away From Home

{Not Enough Time at Elkhorn Ranch}

Real home is with my family on the farm where I grew up in New Jersey, but spirit-home, the place where my soul is most at ease, is a river valley in southwestern Montana called the Elkhorn Ranch. When P. and I finally arrived we ditched the Scamp by the corrals and spent three glorious days in the saddle. Serious fodder for a Peak Life Experience, if you ask me.

A little personal history: I spent many summers and one entire year at Elkhorn, living in a one-room log cabin called the Snakepit and working as a wrangler leading trips into the backcountry. When the dude season was over I passed my days in the saddle wrangling horses in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, packing mules, logging, and fixing fence. At night I worked my way through Steinbeck's East of Eden and learned to knit by the heat of my potbelly wood stove. It was in the LBP chapter (Life Before P.) and the company of a good horse was company good enough.

Years later I was working my way up the assignment desk at ABC News in New York City, but Elkhorn was always on my mind.  So when I got the thumbs-up from my producer to shoot a story on the annual 40-mile wrangle to bring the horses to their winter pasture, I happily traded my New York heels for my Montucky shit-kickers, hopped on a plane to Bozeman and spent a weekend doing what tiggers do best: riding horses and drinking whiskey. And shooting video of other people riding horses and drinking whiskey. These are highly valued skills at Elkhorn, you see.

Somehow the short documentary piece on the wrangle found its way onto Charlie Gibson's desk and that night, people all across America watching the news got to see a glimpse of life at Elkhorn Ranch. Which pretty much put me (and the cowboy in the story, my old friend Greg Fields) over the moon.

You can watch the video and read the accompanying story here