Life is a merry-go-around, it turns endlessly, goes up and down, down and up, sweet and sour, night and day, it smells like roses and then like durian... And although I would like to think that riding on a unicorn is fun most of the time, last week the unicorn got stuck in down position. You probably know the feeling, when nothing really works and the bad events pile up, higher and higher, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, about to topple and burry you, which given the circumstances, might not be a bad thing at all. Words are not coming out, photos are awful and food is off. Everything is seriously marked with Bad Suki. Having obliterated six pounds of peppers, a pot of beans + three ham hocks, three cornmeal dishes, three pounds of peaches and equal amount of strawberries, I finally got the message and abandoned any further kitchen ventures. With kitchen activities temporarily suspended, I made an attempt at cleaning the house, because how Suki-prone house cleaning can be, and in the process broke the refrigerator, one bathroom tile, towel holder and about half a dozen items of lesser importance. Things are moving in the opposite direction on all fronts, hence on Friday I decided not to go to work; as a matter of fact I decided not to leave the apartment, refusing to begin any new endeavors. I even suppressed any new thoughts until Suki leaves the area. I am pretty sure you know the feeling when the utmost misery takes over your body and you really just want to go back to bed, cover with a blanket and disappear until it is all over.
Which I promptly did, for almost entire weekend.
Now that the weekend is practically gone and the last rays of sunshine are pulling Sunday away into the Hudson river and beyond, I can sense Suki sneaking out of the apartment and finally letting me go. But doing nothing has taken a toll and I have nothing to post for the week. Under usual circumstances this would be quite acceptable, but today I am peeved to write an entry, demonstrate that she has indeed relinquished her powers and we are turning the corner.
A short trip down the hard drive produces a blackberry recipe I submitted to Food52’s berry contest – black berries to fight black magic, how appropriate, and I quickly type in the story, hit “publish” and the sense of relief takes over. After all, as Scarlett O’Hara used to say, tomorrow is another day.
Blackberry Basil Pate de Fruits
On a hot summer day nothing feels as refreshing as these tiny squares of concentrated blackberry flavor, followed by a sip of icy cold water. In French pastry shops they coat them with superfine sugar, but I like them better naked – nothing but the essence of blackberry, a hint of basil and the faint suggestion of lime.
* 10-12 oz blackberries
* 1 1/2 packed cup basil leaves
* 2 1/2 cups water
* 4 tsp apple pectin
* 2 cups sugar
* 1/2 cup glucose
* 3 tbsp lime juice
* 1/2 tsp kosher salt
* vegetable oil for brushing
* superfine sugar for coating (optional)
* 8x8 inch baking pan, fine mesh sieve, parchment paper
Wash and coarsely chop the basil. Place the basil in a small bowl and crush it with pestle or bottom of a tablespoon. In a small saucepan mix the basil and water. Bring slowly to a boil and boil for about 10 seconds. Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and leave it for about 15 minutes for the flavors to release. Strain into a bowl and discard the basil.
Wash the blackberries carefully. Pure the blackberries in a blender with one cup of the basil liquid. Pour the mixture into the strainer and strain carefully into a deep saucepan. Press the pulp with fork until it releases all its juices. Measure out, it will be about two to two and a half cups of blackberry juice. Add more basil water, until you have three cups of liquid.
Brush the baking pan with oil, line the bottom and the sides with parchment paper and oil the paper.
Mix the pectin with 6 tbsp of sugar.
Place the blackberry juice in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Once the juice is simmering, add the pectin-sugar mixture while whisking non-stop. Once pectin is incorporated, add the remaining sugar in several batches. Continue to whisk until the liquid comes to a boil. Once the liquid comes to a boil, add the salt and glucose. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to boil, while whisking frequently. If needed, skim the foam. Boil until the mixture reaches 228-230°F. (This will take a while, about 30 minutes, depending on the pan and the heat. If you are not using instant-read thermometer, test the candy by dipping the spoon into it and putting it aside for a couple of seconds.) Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the lime juice.
Pour the hot liquid into the prepared baking pan and let it cool at room temperature. Leave for a couple of hours or overnight. Once the jelly has set, lift the edges of the parchment paper to transfer the candy onto a cutting board. Using sharp knife dipped in water, trim the edges and then cut the candy into ½-inch squares.
If you would like to dust them with sugar (I do not; for sake of full disclosure I did it only for the photograph), toss them in superfine sugar right before serving. Dust off the excess sugar and serve.