Words and photos by Sara Axelrod, special to Edible DC
French chef Jacques Pepin once said, “If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it's hard to beat bread and butter.” That's how I feel about blackberries this summer. They have reached the peak of their growing season right now and have been exceptional, standing up to the heat, plump and sweet. The epitome of the perfect summer berry, blackberries are the perfect accompaniment to both sweet and savory dishes.
The recipes here really showcase blackberries at their peak. Simple ingredients, unassumingly prepared, coming together to create a delicious dish that tastes the way summer should.
Warm Goat Cheese and Blackberry Salad with Honey Thyme Vinaigrette
This salad pairs the sweet and complex berry with creamy warm goat cheese medallions perfectly accentuating the summer’s best ingredients. (Serves 2.)
Goat Cheese Medallions
- 1 large egg white
- 1 teaspoon of water
- 4 (1/3 inch thick) medallions of soft goat cheese (keep the log in the
refrigerator until ready to cut)
- 3 tablespoons of dried breadcrumbs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Honey Thyme Vinaigrette
- 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin-olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- ½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, finely minced (dried can also be used)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 4 cups of mesclun greens or an assortment of summer greens
- 3 spears of hearts of palm, sliced into ¼ inch coins
- ¼ cup of thinly sliced sweet onion
Whisk together egg white and water. Dip cheese rounds in egg wash, evenly coating. Shake off the excess then dredge in breadcrumbs, pressing lightly to adhere. Chill 15 minutes.
Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in small skillet on high heat until hot but not smoking. Place cheese medallions in oil and sear evenly on both sides until crisp and golden brown. About 30-40 seconds per side. Remove from heat and set aside.
Assemble the greens, hearts of palm rounds and onion slivers on a plate. Gently place goat cheese medallions on greens. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.
Note: The easiest way to cut goat cheese into perfect rounds is with a piece of unflavored dental floss.
Goat Cheese and Blackberry Grilled Cheese with Basil and Summer Greens
Accompanied by a simple summer green salad, this is the perfect treat for a lazy afternoon. Look for firm, plump berries at your local farmers market. The goal is to choose berries that are firm enough to hold their shape when surrounded by melted cheese—so that when you bite into the sandwich the berry juice bursts in your mouth. (Makes 2 sandwiches.)
Goat Cheese and Blackberry Grilled Cheese with Basil
- 4 slices of your favorite bread (I prefer the Seeduction bread from Whole Foods)
- 1 small log of fresh goat cheese- with herbs or without based on your preference
- 1 pint of blackberries
- High quality butter for spreading
- 5-6 leaves of fresh basil
Spread one side of each slice of bread with butter and place bread, buttered-side down, in a pan over medium-high heat. Top each slice with crumbled goat cheese, roughly ½ tablespoon-1tablespoon depending on the size of the bread slices. Cover pan. Slice blackberries in half and set aside. Chiffonade the basil so you have very thin strips and set aside.
Once the bread has the beginnings of a nice golden crisp and the cheese is beginning to melt, top each slice with the halved blackberries (roughly 4-8 halves depending on the bread) and top with the basil to your own taste. I prefer a light layer of basil, about 5-6 pieces per sandwich.
Combine the 4 separate tartines into two sandwiches. Cover and continue to cook over medium heat for another minute being careful not to burn the bread. Flip the sandwich and sear the other side. Remove from the heat and leave covered until the cheese is melted.
Slice in half and serve with a simple salad of summer greens.
Summer Green Salad
- 3 cups of assorted and available summer greens (arugula, dandelion greens, spinach, purslane)
- ¼ cup of shaved pecorino
- ¼ cup of sweet onion thinly sliced
- ½ teaspoon of finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- ½ teaspoon of mustard seed
- ¼ teaspoon of fine sea salt, or to taste
- 3-4 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
- Ground white pepper to taste
Wash greens and set aside to dry. Combine all dressing ingredients and stir vigorously until combined. Toss dressing with greens and garnish with pecorino and onion. Serve alongside Goat Cheese and Blackberry Grilled Cheese with Basil.
Hawaii/Colorado native and DC transplant, Sara Axelrod is a frequenter of farmers markets, vegetable enthusiast and constantly lusts after the perfect French fry. When she is not cooking or exploring DC’s thriving restaurant scene, she works at the DC-based public affairs firm, The Glover Park Group, as a communications professional on the Energy and Sustainability team, with a focus on food policy and sustainable agriculture.