minisummer

Right now we’re in the midst of a strange but wonderful time of med school. Post-boards and pre-third year clinical rotations, we have a month-long research block to work on independent projects and also to recharge and refresh ourselves for what is touted to be the most rewarding, yet most grueling year of med school. During this time, I’m working on a project on healthy cooking and nutrition and having a great time doing it. I’m also embracing the weekends and evenings to enjoy exploring the city and spending time with friends before the marathon that is the third year of med school begins.

IMG_1768

In the spirit of this mini summer, last night we pretended the rain and wind weren’t whipping around us and enjoyed a very summery meal. My friend Camil expertly whipped up a batch of these amazing strawberry basil drinks and cooked up a delicious meal of carnitas tacos with all of the fixings. I was on dessert duty and thought that something citrusy and berry-filled would be fun and festive.

IMG_1774

The combo of blackberry and lime struck me as a good one, and I came upon a recipe for blackberry lime bars. A buttery graham cracker crust is topped with a simple filling of sweetened condensed milk and eggs spiked with fresh lime juice and zest and folded around big juicy blackberries. It took less than an hour to put together and was incredibly good, complete with all the components of a decadent key lime pie, but lighter in size and bursting with a healthy dose of fresh fruit, which was perfect after our delicious Mexican feast. I can definitely imagine many other berry and citrus combos working beautifully here, like blueberry & lemon or grapefruit & raspberry. Add this to your summer dessert repertoire immediately!

IMG_1780

Blackberry Lime Bars

adapted from Sweet Basil

1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs

6 tbsp butter, melted

¼ cup sugar

dash of salt

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

2 egg yolks

zest of 2 limes

½ cup fresh squeezed lime juice

1 pint fresh blackberries

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a square baking pan (9×9 or 8×8). Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt and press into the bottom of the pan, distributing the mixture evenly. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together condensed milk and egg yolks in a large bowl. Add lime zest and juice. Fold in fresh blackberries. Pour filling mixture over crust and bake for another 12-15 minutes, until set. Allow to cool in the pan on a rack to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or until ready to serve.

carte blondche

I’d like to share something simple and sweet with you tonight. It’s a twist on my favorite blondie recipe, the basic version hailing from Mark Bittman’s bible, How to Cook Everything. This recipe is a snap to put together and with an ingredient list that calls for “one” of everything, it’s easy to commit to memory and whip up on the fly. Best of all, it’s amenable to endless variations. A carte blondche of sorts… sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
I’ve been making these for years and have added a little something different nearly every time. The constant variable has been how delicious they always turn out. These blondies have a strong brown sugar flavor and a gooey texture that pairs well with everything from oats, to nuts, to chocolate chips, to fruit. Today’s version was inspired by a jar of homemade cherry jam from the Adkins family that I’ve been hanging onto for months, waiting for the right opportunity to use this precious good. I added oats and toasted almonds into the batter and then swirled generous dollops of jam into it before putting it into the oven. Twenty minutes later I was met with a pan of warm, soft blondies whose sweetness was offset by the slight tartness of the jam and saltiness of the almonds. This combination was a definite winner, but it’s hard to go wrong when you’ve got Adkins family jam in the mix!
Take this recipe and make it your own. Serve them warm from the oven with a dollop of ice cream as the perfect capstone to a dinner party (or a late night of studying). These also store and travel well, and have always been a welcome addition to a potluck table or picnic spread. I hope this recipe brings you many sweet memories!
Cherry Almond Blondies 
(ideas for more variations below)
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1 cup flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 cup cherry jam
Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter on stovetop or in microwave. Place butter into a medium mixing bowl and allow it to cool slightly. Add brown sugar and stir to combine. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Add flour, salt, oatmeal, and almonds. Place into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square pan. Spoon the cherry jam evenly on top and use a knife to swirl it through the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (jam will be sticky, but test the batter for doneness). Allow to cook on a rack before cutting into squares.
Note: The base recipe includes the first six ingredients (butter –> vanilla). After that, go wild with mix-ins! I often add oatmeal for a bit of chew and heartiness. Other winning combos I’ve made are chocolate chip + fig butter, white + semisweet chocolate chips, peanut butter + chocolate chips (notice a love for chocolate here?), mashed banana…+ chocolate chips, really anything! Whatever toppings you choose, I suggest adding only a total of 1 to 1 1/2 cups of toppings.