Monday, May 11, 2009

The Sweet Summer Berries to Come

The abundance of Spring produce that entices us with their fresh, sustaining scents and flavors fills me with unlimited gratitude, especially now that I am able to spend so much of my time on an organic farm here in the Pacific Northwest. Never have I felt so close to the food that I eat: the fresh spinach I had for lunch, my breakfast eggs that had been plucked from the hen house only a day before, the texture of homemade bread baked through with hand-picked rosemary. Each meal and snack is a treat for the senses and a gift to the body.

Living in this area of the country, I am particularly thrilled for berry season. While I love my assortment of vegetables, berries are my weakness. I'm looking forward to days where I consume nothing but fruit and homemade bread, the occasional nibble of cheese thrown in here and there for good measure. This past weekend, I enjoyed a little preview of what berry season can mean to Washington State when my boyfriend and I picked up a 3 pound bag of frozen berries, straight from Remlinger Farm in nearby Carnation, WA. Our initial plan was to make a mixed berry cobbler for dessert, but there was such an abundance of berry delightfulness I was able to put together a whole second mixed berry dessert – Berry Crumb Bars – the next day.

I've always loved the month of June, but this year I'm full of another level of anticipation: strawberry season begins mid-June at Remlinger Farm, with raspberries and blueberries following close after. That, combined with the copious amount of wild blackberry bushed in this beautiful state, stand to guarantee a gloriously colossal array of fruit-filled desserts...assuming, of course, that the berries make it home at all.
Mixed Berry Cobbler

From Cooking Light Magazine

2 cups granola
½ cup milk
2 (12-oz.) packages frozen mixed berries
¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. cardamom
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 350º. Stir together granola and milk in a small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes.
2. Toss together berries and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Spoon berry mixture into a 8-inch square baking dish.
3. Stir granola mixture, and spoon over berry mixture. Lightly coat with cooking spray.
4. Bake at 350º for 1 hour or until bubbly.
Berry Crumb Bars
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. white sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 pinch salt
½ cup butter, chilled and diced
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 ½ cups mixed berries
¼ cup white sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
5 tbsp. butter, softened
½ cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup all-purpose flour
1. Preheat oven to 400º. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the 2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons white sugar, lemon zest and salt. Cut in the 1/2 cup butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat egg and vanilla together; stir into the crumb mixture. Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.
3. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly.
4. Sprinkle berries over the crust. In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 cup sugar and nutmeg; sprinkle over the berries. Make the topping: In a medium bowl, cream together the 5 tablespoons butter and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in the flour until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle over the berry layer.
5. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until browned.

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