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 5 years, 4 months ago at 9:51 pm. Add a comment

Spicy Butternut Squash with Parmesan

Growing up, orange vegetables meant sugar. Sweet potatoes got marshmallows. Winter squash got a dusting of brown sugar. Pumpkins were made into pies. Carrots got… okay, well, carrots discredit my sweeping generalization.

Even though I’d now be more likely to use honey or maple syrup, it’s taken me some time to crack through the caramelized bias of my youth. And oh! it’s been worth it. Like many openings of mind, there are so many more possibilities now. Winter squash, I’ve come to understand, are quiet about their sweetness. It’s easily upstaged by the more boisterous sugar. Next to the spice of cayenne though, the squash’s sweetness can be appreciated.

Spicy Butternut Squash with Parmesan
~inspired by this recipe from Gourmet Magazine, as seen on Epicurious

2 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/tsp cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400°. Place the squash cubes in a small baking dish or skillet. In a glass measuring cup, measure out the cream then stir in the cayenne, salt, and pepper. Pour the cream mixture over the squash. Cover with foil or a lid and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the squash is tender. Stir in half the cheese, and sprinkle the rest on top of the squash. Bake (uncovered) for another  7-10 minutes. Then turn the broiler on until the cheese is bubbly, brown, and beautiful. Remove the the oven and let stand for at least 5 minutes to thicken.

Posted 5 years, 6 months ago at 2:00 pm. 1 comment

Rustic Fresh Fig Tart with Lavender and Goat Cheese

I feel like this post ought to start with some quip about the inferiority of Fig Newtons and Pop Tarts. But anything I think of either sounds lame or pretentious. “Fig Newtons are only a figment of your imagination compared to this!” or  “Pop Tarts: the illegitimate child of a tart.” See? I told you– I somehow manage to be lame and pretentious (and slightly risque) at the same time. Continue Reading…

Posted 5 years, 11 months ago at 1:20 pm. 2 comments

Roasted Broccoli

I love roasted vegetables.  Roasting intensifies flavors instead of seeping them into water, the way boiling does. Of all vegetables that I’ve roasted, broccoli comes in second only to potatoes.  Broccoli just seems to be meant for the oven. The whole stalk caramelizes and all of the little “leaves” get crispy. Add Parmesan cheese to that, and what not to love?  Velveeta cannot compare. Continue Reading…

Posted 7 years, 6 months ago at 12:58 pm. Add a comment