I love blackberries, and I usually think about them as a summer flavor. But since they're available year-round, low-calorie, high nutrition snack I make an exception to the eating with the seasons rule. Earlier this week, Rick Rodgers, (with a D) - the entertaining guru, chef and author of a bazillion books - showed us how blackberries can sweeten up winter cooking in an event hosted by Driscoll's Berries.
We visited the Hands On Gourmet kitchen, a unique space for parties and culinary corporate team-building in Dogpatch. (It's around the corner from a cleverly named bar called Retox.) The kitchen had a large demo kitchen set up, beautiful displays of food and drinks and space for everyone to sit at belly tables with tall Chivari chairs. And the staff were very polished and friendly, especially my pal Fausto.
In between Rodgers, noted food photographer Caren Alpert talked about ways to take better food shots. I liked her tips about having different background to use in soft focus, using a white sheet or even paper to bounce more light onto the plate and styling your hero plate last.
Driscoll's also used the event to announce their "Celebrate the Sweeter Moments Contest." Tell them how berries made an occasion sweeter and you could win a Viking Cookware set valued at $1,350. The contest ends December 15; for more information or to enter, visit Driscoll's.
Everything was delicious, from the Blackberry Cobbler cocktail with gin, lemon and a splash of bubbly to the bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin in blackberry sauce with sweet potato purée.
But since I love party food and things that come in small packages, my favorite was Rick's Savory Cheese Tartlets topped with blackberries and thyme. I adored the cream-cheese crust which was utterly rich but had an airy quality, too. And something about adding the dab of honey on top made it remind me of Greek pastries I enjoyed growing up in Chicago.
Savory Cheese Tartlets with Honey-Thyme Berries
Servings: Makes 24 tartlets, 8 to 12 servings
Number of Ingredients: 10
Cream Cheese Dough
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
7 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature,
plus more for the pans, if needed
3 ounces cream cheese, cut into tablespoons, at room temperature
5 ounces rindless goat cheese, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. honey, preferably full-flavored, such as chestnut or thyme, warmed
About 1 cup mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries)
Fresh thyme leaves, removed from their stems, for garnish
1. To make the dough, combine the flour and salt in a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse about 10 times, until the mixture begins to clump together. Gather up the dough and shape into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and easy to handle, about 2 hours.
2. Position a 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.
3. Divide the dough into 24 equal pieces. One at a time, place a piece of dough in a muffin cup, and use your fingers to press it firmly and evenly up the sides to make a pastry shell. (A wooden tart tamper can help the job go quickly.) Freeze for 5 minutes.
4. To make the filling, mash the goat cheese and cream cheese together until smooth. Add the egg, yolk, minced thyme, salt, and pepper and whisk until combined. Spoon equal amounts of the filling into the chilled pastry shells.
5. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is puffed, about 25 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes in the pans. Remove the tartlets from the pans and transfer to a wire cake rack to cool completely. (If you wish, warm the tartlets in a preheated 350F oven for 5 minutes before serving.)
6. Just before serving, lightly brush the tops of the tartlets with about half of the honey. Arrange the berries on top as desired. Drizzle with the remaining honey. Sprinkle with the thyme leaves and serve.