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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Work Work Work....Chimichurri and Blueberry/Blackberry Jam

I am in some strange form of limbo I've created for myself. There are things to be done. MANY things to be done. And yet, I seem to feel I've got all the time in the world to putter around and do things like....make a double layer espresso chocolate cake filled and iced with a chocolate ganache then covered with a caramel-y seven minute frosting (I'll try and post my crappy blackberry photo of the thing. Honestly, early afternoon I just thought "Hmmm, why not make this?") 

Part of me feels like I need to stop giving myself so much time to do other things, not just cooking but reading, eating out, or just plain walking around and taking in this barely-a-newborn spring that's coming in. But then I think to myself, what am I crazy? The only way I can become the writer/director I want to is by doing all these things just for the sake of DOING things. Of having experiences. Or at least, that's the excuse I give myself, because after making a couple batches of this homemade chimichurri and jam, I'm definitely going to have to find time to make sure there's always a good stock of it in the fridge. 

I originally came across chimichurri in Argentina, where they use this condiment (best descriptor I can think of) on pretty much everything. Mainly meats. And let me tell you, it is phenomenal. I've used it so far on steak, fish and pork, and there's nothing I don't want to douse it in. Think garlicy, herbaceous, lemony, with just a kick from some red chili flakes. All tossed into one phenomenal jar.

I'll tell you right now, by the way, that my chimichurri is by no means traditional. Most recipes simply call for olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano, cilantro, chili pepper, and salt. Mine has about five or six more ingredients. Why? Because that's who I am. Nor is it scientific. Honestly, the first time I just started adding things, and kept making adjustments along the way. I'd recommend doing the same, and using the recipe below as a guideline.  But seriously, try making this and not using it on every protein you consume. I dare you.

So, along with the chimichurri, about two days later (or it actually might have been the same night, not sure anymore) I made homemade jam out of the two berries I had sitting in my fridge. I think one of the main reasons I was so into making condiment-like foods was because I had just gone to The Broadway Panhandler (great kitchen store) and bought at least six different types of bell jars. And then felt compelled to fill them.

Actually, if I'm honest, I'll admit that I've wanted to make homemade jam for a lot longer than since buying the jars. I've made batches before, but they've always been more akin to curds or relishes. This is a proper, slather your morning toast, having between two slices of bread with peanut butter kind of jam. My inspiration came after buying a fabulous (and fabulously expensive) jar of Sarabeth's jam, turning it over and seeing "Ingredients: Cherries, sugar, plums". That was it. I just couldn't help myself. Surely if there's only three ingredients, I can't mess things up too much, can I?

And guess what? Apparently I can't! Hoorah! My on-the-fly jam came out lovely. A bit too much on the thick-ish side (next time I'll reduce the mixture a bit less), but it's jam, and it's delicious. And it definitely set me back WAY less than my fancy jam.

Probably cooked about seven or eight minutes too long. Try and stop your when you can coat the back of a spoon and run your finger clean across the surface. 
However, I did add an ingredient or two. Or, really just one ingredient in two different forms. Lemon, in the form of skin and juice (and a pinch of salt, but that hardly counts) I felt the berries were great, but the sugar had muddled that brightness of flavors a bit. The lemon juice and zest really helped bring that freshness back to the foreground.

Another reason this jam is so easy: there is naturally occurring pectin in fruits such as berries and apples. Hence why no gelling agent is necessary, the berries take care of that on their own. If you'd like to make a plum or pear jam, some other form of pectin might need to be added. Hmmm....I've got a ton of pears handy, maybe I can experiment and report back....Alright, I'll go write a couple pages, then get back to cooking. Life in balance.

The homemade goodies that made up a baby shower gift. The dark one is the jam. Also included: mom's garam masala, picked red onions, and lemon-lavender poppyseed/browned butter and walnut sables. (Recipe for those coming soon)


1 bunch basil
1 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups chopped parsley
9 -11 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp fresh oregano (use dried if you don’t have fresh, 1-2 tbsp)
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tsp chili flakes
3 tsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
¼ to 1/3 cup olive oil
1 lemon

Place all fresh herbs in food processor. Pulse for about 10 seconds to coarsely chop greens. Might need to do this in batches. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT for olive oil. Pulse for a couple seconds to combine. Finally, keep food processor on and stream in olive oil. Add just enough to make the mixture a paste. Taste. Season more if necessary.

Blueberry/Blackberry Jam

3 cups blackberries
2 cups blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
pinch salt

Wash berries gently in a large bowl, and pat dry with paper towel. Using a fork, mush and macerate berries till most are crushed and mixture looks similar to a rough jam. Add contents of bowl to a stockpot, along with sugar and salt. Turn to medium high heat. The juices from the berries will make what looks like berry soup. Keep at a simmer and allow to reduce by about a third, or spoon test comes out clean (spoon test: dip back of spoon into mixture and run your finger across it. If the line stays clean, jam is done).

Turn off heat and stir in zest and juice. Let come to room temperature before storing in tupperware or glass jars. Keep refrigerated, will last approximately three weeks. 

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