Mulled Berries with Warm Brie

This is the time of year when I begin to think about summer again. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I miss it. But I do begin to pine… just a little bit. For awhile I try to ignore the notion that greens and root vegetables aren’t enough. After all, aren’t I spoiled by even having fresh greens in almost-February? I should chop up some kale and sweet potatoes and just be happy.

When the yearning for vibrant juiciness finally grows strong enough that I have to take it seriously, I break out the berries I’ve squirreled away in freezer. (And it really is squirreling. I often forget they are there until the next berry season comes around.)

Most of the berries I eat during the summer rarely make it to any kind of cooking device save a bowl and, maybe, a spoon. There just never seems to be quite enough of them to slake my lust and make a pie. Honestly, I don’t understand these people who come to the farm and buy just a quart of strawberries to last them the week. Part of the sweetness of eating seasonally is have the privilege (some would say excuse) of eating what’s in season until your heart is content.

Therefore, winter is the time I get to cook with berries. After being frozen, they are not satisfying out of hand eating. So into blueberry muffins they go. Or smoothies. Or upside down pancakes.

Instead of trying to recreate the fruit salads of summer, this recipe honors the winter kitchen by pairing the berries with a mulled wine. The result is a dish that redolent not of long summer days in the shade but of long winter nights in front of the fire. It gives me just enough juicy zest to take the edge off my summer pining.

Mulled Berries with Warm Brie

2 cups assorted frozen berries (I used strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries)
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
5 allspice berries
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 in piece of citrus zest, such as lemon or orange, though lime is fine too if that’s what suits your fancy
1 cup red wine
1 wheel of brie, taken out of the box and wrapping removed

Place the berries in a bowl and allow to come to room temperature. Meanwhile, in a medium pot combine the spices, except the nutmeg, and wine and bring to a boil. Simmer gently until the liquid is reduced by half. Allow to cool for about five minutes, then strain through a fine mesh sieve. Return mulled wine to the pot and add berries. Reheat gently, stirring as little as possible to avoid squishing the berries. Keep warm. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Place the brie on the skillet and warm for 5-7 minutes per side, or until its insides feel squishy.* Keep a close eye, turning down the flame if the outside begins to burn. If you prefer melted brie, continue heating for an additional minute or so. Remove the brie to a plate. Top with berries, grate nutmeg over the top, and cut into wobbly slices. Serve with bread, crackers, or just spoons.

*And what if the worst should happen and your brie breaks open, sending sizzling cheese all over the skillet? Never fear. Take the skillet off the heat and let the cheese harden for a few minutes. Then pour the berries right over the brie and serve in the skillet. It won’t be quite as posh looking, but it’ll still taste good.

Posted 9 years, 2 months ago at 9:51 pm. Add a comment

Sangria on a Stick

Sangria will always have a special hold on my taste buds. In my pre-married days I lived at a house where there was always a frosty pitcher of Sangria in the fridge. It was the accompaniment of many a weekend backyard cookout and afternoon share-more-than-you-meant-to  conversations. To this day I cannot make Sangria without thinking of my much cherished roommates.

This summer, however, while a sangria pitcher is not a stranger to my fridge, I needed something different. I’d been itching to try some of Mark Bittman’s adult ice pops and given my penchant for sangria, figured that would be a good place to start.

It was.

Normally part of the appeal of sangria is the wine soaked fruit at the bottom of the glass. But I wasn’t sure that would work for an ice pop, so I blended the juice in with the wine. While I personally used blackberries for this recipe, any berries (or fruit for that matter) would probably work. Although, if it’s something like peaches, you can probably skip the straining step.

Sangria on a Stick

1 lb berries
1 cup dry red wine
a good pinch of salt
a couple swigs of brandy

Blend all the ingredients together until smooth in a blender or food processor. Press the mixture through a fine sieve, discarding the solids.(Compost or chickens!)  Pour liquid into ice pop molds or paper cups. Freeze for at least 5 hours. If you are using paper cups, don’t forget to insert the stick once they thicken but before they are completely frozen. Take out of the molds as needed for summer afternoon pick me ups and incognito happy hours.

Posted 9 years, 8 months ago at 8:47 am. 1 comment