Blackberry Basil Vinaigrette

Have you guys taken note of all of the gorgeous berries in stores right now? I’ve been enjoying all of them, but hard pressed – I’d say juicy, plump blackberries are my favorite. And, they’ve been REALLY good this year. So when Driscoll’s reached out to me and ask me to come up with blackberry recipe to share with you guys, how could I say no?

While I’ve had my usual fun baking with them, I thought a more savory application would be a fun twist. In an effort to shed a few pounds before sandbar season, I’ve been trying to eat more salads. I always make my own dressings, but have never made one with a fruit puree as the base before. Wow, I’ve really been missing out!

I added a handful of fresh basil to the blackberries before I pureed them, which added a wonderful aroma and freshness. The thick puree acts as a wonderful emulsifier, and the sweetness from the berries really rounds out the flavor. I also used champagne vinegar, for it’s subtle flavor…to really let the blackberry and basil shine. But, white wine vinegar would be an excellent substitute.

I like to serve it over a bed of mixed greens with some candied walnuts, herbed goat cheese, and plenty of fresh blackberries. Makes the perfect simple salad for these warmer days we’ve been having! Would also be wonderful to use as a marinade for chicken or pork. I’ll definitely be trying that in the very near future!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at Driscoll’s. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Garlic Oil

This is one that couldn’t be any easier. I use this garlic oil in everything, from frying eggs to salad dressings. Wonderful to start off a basic marinara sauce. It’s great with some dried or fresh herbs sprinkled in, and dipping chunks of crusty bread. Or, even as a finishing drizzle on some hot oven fries. Basically, anything you wish to impart a little extra garlic flavor into!

I like to use a good quality olive oil – don’t go spending a bunch of money on the fancy extra-virgin stuff, though. I just glug it right into a saucepan with a handful of garlic cloves, get them bubbling a bit, then turn down the heat to low to let the flavor infusion happen. Sometimes, if I’m feelin’ frisky, I’ll add a few sprigs of fresh herbs…but it’s not necessary.

Keeps forever (at least a month or so – if it lasts that long!) as well. I just keep it right on the counter with all my other oils, so it’s right at hand when I need it. It also makes a wonderful homemade gift when presented in a pretty oil dispenser with a ribbon! If you’re worried about it spoiling, it also keeps fine in the refrigerator. This is definitely one to have around, guys!

Boardwalk Fries

I was kind of shocked when I realized I didn’t have a recipe for good, old-fashioned boardwalk fries here on the site. It’s shameful really. Sure, I have oven fries (which employ the same soaking technique I’ll touch on later) and fish & chips…but I needed to have an entire post devoted to these crispy, salty favorites.

My first taste of boardwalk fries was of course at Thrasher’s in Ocean City, MD…notorious among Marylanders, Eastern Shore folks, and really the entire nation in some cases. That’s because they’re the best. Their first trick is a soak for the cut potatoes in hot saltwater. It helps to remove some of the starch, and softens them up a bit for cooking.

The second key step is the twice-fried technique. The potatoes are cooked in hot oil for one round, basically to par-cook them. They’re then removed from the oil, set aside to drain, and then added back to the oil to attain that beautiful golden brown and crunchy exterior.

Immediately season with salt, and apple cider or malt vinegar. Never ketchup! It’s actually a rule at Thrasher’s…they don’t have it available. The place  next store has a racket selling containers of it at exorbitant prices. We don’t have boardwalks here on Chincoteague, which is just fine by me – but it’s nice to have a little taste of it here at home!

Perfect White Rice

I’m ashamed to admit that up until about 5 years ago, I was cooking rice in the microwave. Or, worse…relying on those pre-cooked rice packets that you just microwave. I was cooking all kinds of wonderful things in my kitchen, but still nuking my rice. *hangs head in shame*.

Finally I gave cooking rice on the stovetop a whirl, and the resulting rice was unparalled to the rice that had been produced in the microwave. Tender, yet firm grains that actually tasted like something! Before I’d just been getting gooey balls of mush. The key is a good, heavy bottomed pan – as well as giving the rice quick saute in a bit of butter. It really helps to keep the grains individual, so you don’t get that massive clumping issue.

OXO was kind enough to send me a pan from their new line to review. I chose the 3.5 quart stainless steel saucepan, just because the size is so handy to have in the kitchen. I love the fact that it has a glass lid, which makes keeping an eye on things like rice or beans very easy. And also the measurements on the side, and round bottom are very helpful for things like making homemade caramel sauce. Plenty of room for a nice big batch!perfect white riceAt any rate, if you’re still relying on neanderthal methods for preparing your rice, try this. It’s super easy, and so much better and economical than the prepackaged stuff. I’ve also got a couple great rice pilaf recipes, if you wanted a twist on a classic. Have a great weekend everyone!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by the good folks at OXO. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.