Today’s Recipes: Blackberry Cobbler Cocktail, Savory Goat Cheese Tartlets with Fresh Blackberries, Roasted Fennel Salad with Bleu Cheese and Blackberries, Pancetta-Wrapped Pork Roast with Blackberry-Sage Compote, and Pumpkin Blackberry Cake with Blackberry Pear Cobbler and Almond Granola Topping.
Last night I had the pleasure of joining a crowd of food bloggers at an event hosted by Driscoll’s, the growers of all those delicious berries you see in grocery stores. It was a rare opportunity to learn about professional food styling and photography from two of the best, Chef Rick Rodgers and Photographer Caren Alpert.
They set up a mock cookbook photo shoot with Rick making the food in front of us and plating it while Caren and her team set the “stage” and shot a variety of photos. She had her Mac tethered to the camera, and working with Capture One, she displayed her photos on a large screen as she took them. We were able to witness the choices made in lighting, positioning, focus, depth of field and accessorizing.
Rick and Caren have worked on cookbooks together and have a wonderful working relationship, which is delightful to watch. They anticipate each other’s needs and requests, understand the other’s esthetic and artistic “voice,” and are good at finding a happy medium when there is a difference of opinion. Their on set relationship seems as effortless as a pas de deux ballet.
Rick gave us some hints about the different kinds of things you can do to make food more photogenic. The biggest hint was when you are doing a professional shoot, don’t plan on eating the food props because they may have been “enhanced” with non-food-safe products, such as using a glass cleaner to remove food smudges or fingerprints.
It was fascinating to see the differences between how a food blogger approaches photographing our food and how a pro does. We obviously are usually making something that will then be consumed by our family, so we are always in a hurry to get it plated, shot, and served before it gets cold.
One trick is to completely set up your photo area with stand-ins for the foods. A crumpled piece of paper towel can represent a scoop of mashed potatoes or ice cream for example. If you need to remove the dishes to fill them in the kitchen, mark where they were with toothpicks. Try different backdrops, add a colorful napkin and some utensils in the background, adjust the lighting. Move things around until you are pleased with the look. Put your camera on a tripod and hang a sandbag from the hook on the bottom of the center rod so that no matter how many times you bump into it as you move around, it will stay put. Now you can get in the kitchen and make your items, swap them into the “scene,” take your shots and get them on the dinner table while they are still piping hot. Your family will think you are a rock star!
Before the “photo shoot” we had an opportunity to mingle, getting to know some of the folks from Driscoll’s and the other bloggers. It is always nice to see some of the same faces at events like these. Three of my favorites that also attended were Amy Sherman, Irvin Lin, and Sean Timberlake. It is one of the few times we actually see one another because we are usually tied to our computers and kitchens preparing blog posts and recipes for you.
The event was held at Hands On Gourmet, a professional kitchen and classroom in San Francisco. If you are interested in a team-building event, hosting a cooking class, or just improving your skills with their talented teachers, Hands On Gourmet is a wonderful place for a party. Their team met us at the door with a glass of wine and there were light hors d’oeuvres while we circulated before we took our seats for the presentation. Then we were served a beautiful buffet dinner featuring the recipes Rick had developed to showcase Driscoll’s blackberries. And lucky you, they gave us all of the recipes so we could share them with you!
We started with a delightful cocktail made with muddled blackberries, gin, crème de cassis and a splash of sparkling wine. Bright and refreshing, it would be wonderful any time of the year. This was served with mini tarts made with a goat and cream cheese filling then topped with a fresh blackberry. Faaaabulous!
Dinner was a stunning pancetta-wrapped pork loin roast, sliced thickly and topped with a luscious blackberry-sage compote. I want to assure you that it is no longer necessary to cook pork to death. This roast was cooked to 145°F and was tender and incredibly moist. This was accompanied by whipped sweet potatoes and a lovely roasted fennel salad with bleu cheese and fresh blackberries. Are you sensing a theme here? :o)
And finally, dessert …. Ahhhh, so lovely. It was actually two desserts, but in a moment of generosity they combined them onto one plate for us. Either of them would have been delightful, but together they really enhanced one another. The first part was a rich and unquestionably autumnal treat, pumpkin cake with blackberries, drizzled with a light glaze. Paired with that was a baked blackberry and pear cobbler, one of this country’s ultimate comfort foods. In an interesting twist on this classic dessert, the topping is a granola-like combination of ingredients baked separately from the fruit and sprinkled on just before serving. It remains incredibly crunchy and adds a nice textural contrast to the softly baked fruits. And if that wasn’t enough, they also popped a scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream on top of the cobbler before sprinkling with the topping. I could have eaten several plates if I had had the room.
Thank you Driscoll’s for a lovely evening. I know that I learned a lot and hopefully my blog will reflect that knowledge in the near future. Now everyone, go out and buy their juicy ripe fruits and get cooking!!
- 5 ripe blackberries, plus extra for garnish
- 10 ripe blueberries
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- 1 oz simple syrup
- 1⁄2 oz Bulldog Gin
- 1⁄2 oz Crème de Cassis
- Splash of Yellow Tail Bubbles (Champagne)
- In a mixing glass, muddle 5 of the blackberries with the blueberries, lemon juice and simple syrup.
- Add the Bulldog Gin and Crème de Cassis. Top with ice and shake vigorously.
- Pour into a tall glass and top with the Yellow Tail Bubbles (Champagne). Stir from the bottom up.
- Garnish with the remaining blackberries.
- Yield: 1 cocktail
- 5 oz rindless goat cheese, at room temperature
- 3 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp honey, preferably full flavored, such as chestnut or thyme, warmed
- Cream Cheese Dough
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch of salt
- 7 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into tbsp, at room temperature, plus more for pans, if needed
- 3 oz cream cheese, cut into tbsp, at room temperature
- Combine flour and salt in a food processor fitted with metal chopping blade and pulse to combine. Add butter and cream cheese and pulse about 10 times, until mixture begins to clump together. Gather up dough and shape into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and easy to handle (about 2 hours).
- Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Have ready two 12-cup miniature muffin pans (each cup measuring 1-7/8 inches across the top and 7/8 inches deep), preferably nonstick. If the pans are not nonstick, lightly butter them. (NOTE: using the designated size muffin pans is very important.)
- Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Place one piece in each muffin cup. Using your fingers, a wooden tart tamper, or the handle of a large wooden spoon, press dough firmly and evenly up sides to make a pastry shell. Freeze 5 minutes.
- Beat goat cheese and cream cheese together in a medium bowl until smooth. Add egg, yolk, minced thyme, salt and pepper and whisk until combined. Spoon equal amounts of filling into chilled pastry shells.
- Bake tartlets until crust is golden brown and filling is puffed (about 25 minutes). Let cool for 10 minutes in pans. Remove tartlets from pans and transfer to a wire cake rack to cool completely.
- Just before serving, lightly brush tops of tartlets with about 1 tbsp of honey. Arrange berries on top as desired. Drizzle with the remaining honey. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.
- Yield: 24 tartlets; 8 to 12 servings
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
- 3 bulbs (12 to 14 oz each) fennel
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pkg (6 oz or 1-1/2 cups) Driscoll’s Blackberries
- 2 oz Gorgonzola or Danish Blue crumbles
- 6 fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish
- Honey Balsamic Dressing
- 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Roast Fennel: Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a large rimmed baking sheet.
- Quarter each fennel bulb, cut out tough core, then cut lengthwise into 1/4 to 1/2 inch-thick slices, keeping the slices as intact as possible. Arrange fennel on baking sheet, overlapping as needed. Season fennel with salt and pepper to taste.
- Roast, without turning fennel over, until lightly browned around the edges and just tender (about 20 minutes). Let cool.
- Make Dressing: Whisk together vinegar, honey, chopped rosemary, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil until blended.
- To Assemble: Add cooled fennel to bowl with dressing and toss gently. Gently fold in blackberries. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
- Divide salad among 6 plates. Top each with equal amounts of Gorgonzola and a rosemary sprig. Serve at room temperature.
- Pork Roast
- 1 (2-1/2 to 3 lb) boneless pork roast, excess fat trimmed
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
- 1 tsp minced fresh sage
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 14 to 16 slices pancetta (about the thickness of bacon), about 4 oz
- Blackberry-Sage Compote
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp finely chopped shallots
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
- 2/3 cup hearty red wine, such as Shiraz
- 2/3 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 pkg (18 oz) Driscoll’s Blackberries
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1-1/2 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
- 1/4 tsp coarse salt
- 1/8 tsp crushed hot red pepper flakes
- 1-1/2 tsp cornstarch (optional, if needed)
- Prepare Pork Roast: Brush the pork all over with the oil. Mix the rosemary, sage, salt and pepper together in a small bowl and rub all over the pork. Unroll each strip of pancetta – it will look like curved bacon. Arrange half of the pancetta over the top of the roast. Using kitchen twine, tie the pancetta in place crosswise, leaving the ends of the roast uncovered. Turn the roast over (don’t worry if it doesn’t look neat). Repeat with the remaining pancetta, trying the roast and tucking in the pancetta as needed. (The roast can be prepared to this point and refrigerated up to 1 day ahead.) Let stand at room temperature for 45 minutes.
- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350ºF.
- Place the pork roast on a roasting rack in a metal roasting pan. Bake, rotating the roast every 20 minutes or so for even browning, until the pancetta is browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the pork reads 145ºF (about 1-1/2 hours). If the pancetta is getting too brown, tent the roast with aluminum foil.
- Transfer the roast to a carving board and let stand for 10 minutes before carving. Pour the fat out of the roasting pan and reserve the pan; do not wash it.
- Make Blackberry-Sage Compote: While the pork is roasting, make the compote. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring often, until golden (about 3 minutes). Add the wine and broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until the liquid is reduced to about 3 tbsp (about 7 minutes).
- Add the blackberries, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, sage, salt and hot red pepper and cook over high heat, stirring often, until the berry juice has big bubbles (about 7 minutes). The compote should have some whole berries. Set aside.
- Heat the roasting pan over high heat until sizzling. Add the compote and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits in the pan with a wooden spatula or spoon. If the compote seems thin, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tbsp water, stir into the boiling compote, and cook just until lightly thickened, about 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Adjust the seasoning with balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, salt, and hot red pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl.
- Snip off and discard the string from the roast. Carve crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Serve hot, with the warm compote.
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter (1-1/2 sticks), at room temperature, plus more for pan
- 2-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, beaten, at room temperature
- 1 can (15-oz) solid pack pumpkin (1-3/4 cups)
- 3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans, divided
- 1 pkg (6 oz or 1-1/3 cups) Driscoll's Blackberries
- 1 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp whole milk, as needed
- Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter a 12-cup fluted tube cake pan (preferably nonstick).
- Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer set at high speed for 1 minute or until creamy. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat until light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Scrape sides of bowl and gradually beat in eggs. Reduce mixer speed to low. Beat in flour mixture, in thirds, alternating with two equal additions of pumpkin, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Mix just until smooth. Carefully fold in 3/4 cup pecans.
- Spread 1/3 batter into pan. Arrange half of berries in the batter, being sure that they do not touch the pan. Spoon and spread half of remaining batter over berries, and repeat with remaining berries. Spread remaining batter on top.
- Bake until cracks in top of cake look dry and a long bamboo skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Invert cake onto rack, unmold, and cool completely.
- Make the Icing: Sift confectioners' sugar into a small bowl. Gradually stir in vanilla and just enough milk to make a pourable icing.
- Place cake on a rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle icing over cake, letting excess drip down sides. Sprinkle with remaining pecans. Let icing set, about 30 minutes. Slice and serve. (The cake can be covered with plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.)
- Yield: 10 to 12 servings
- Granola Topping
- Vegetable oil for the baking dish
- 2 cups old-fashioned oats
- 1 cup natural (unpeeled) sliced almonds
- 1/2 cup honey, such as orange blossom
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 8 firm-ripe Bartlett pears, (about 4 lb), peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut up, plus more for the baking dish
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- 4 pkg (6 oz) Driscoll’s Blackberries
- Vanilla ice cream for serving, optional
- Make Granola Topping: Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil a 12 by 19-inch baking dish.
- Mix the oats and almonds together in the baking dish. Whisk the honey, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon together in a small bowl. Pour over the oat mixture and mix well. Bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until deep golden brown and fragrant (about 30 minutes). Transfer to a bowl and let cool. The topping will be crisp when cooled. (The topping can be stored at room temperature in a covered container for up to 3 days.)
- Make the Cobbler: Lightly butter the same baking dish. Toss the pears, brown sugar, butter and cinnamon in a large bowl. Transfer to the baking pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the pears are juicy (about 30 minutes).
- Dissolve the cornstarch and 2 tbsp of water in a large bowl. Add the berries and toss gently to coat. Remove the baking dish from the oven. Add the berries and dissolved cornstarch and mix gently. Return to the oven and continue baking until the blackberries are warm and softened (about 20 minutes). Sprinkle with granola topping and bake for 5 minutes to heat the topping.
- Let cool for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls, top with ice cream and serve.
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