In the summertime, blackberries are sweet treats. Blackberry jam, ice cream and pie are all wonders that I adore. A tart - a baked dish with a filling over a pastry without a top covered with pastry - is not uncommon in Europe, a place I've never been. But I have traveled across America many times and once landed in Eugene, Ore., a place touted for its blackberries.
It was a time of socializing, hiking and picking wild berries in the wilderness. While I love the outdoors amid trees and nature, I don't like walking along cliffs. I recall one afternoon a fearless ex-boyfriend noted my hiking skills - or lack thereof. "Can't you get up here to a higher place?" I looked down at the ravine and shook my head, and our relationship soured. Once back home with wild berries and on flat land, I baked a deep dish blackberry cobbler. My non-soul mate turned his nose up at the dessert with flair but wolfed down a cheeseburger from a fast-food spot. No love match, but I have memories of tart berries that were heavenly, like a country in Europe.
These days, I am fantasizing about going on a solo trip to Italy, a place where fruit tarts and real whipped cream are appreciated. It seems like every time I begin planning this journey, the trek is put on the back burner due to a myriad of reasons. This time I can blame it on one pooch that refused to eat his dog kibble and, after we fixed the mystery, my Europe funds were scarfed like a canine eating a good meal.
So, instead of ordering a fresh fruit tart (and sandwich with a Greek twist) at an Italian bistro, I'm making both myself this week in the land of Lake Tahoe. Fresh berries and bagels found at our local grocery store help make this rustic-looking tart and bagelwich healthful, bursting with flavor and its presentation together will make a human's tail wag.
2 cups blackberries, sliced
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons European-style butter
A dash of cinnamon and sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 store-bought pie crust
Whipped cream (optional)
In a mixing bowl, combine cornstarch, sugar and melted butter. Pour mixture over berries, cut in another bowl. Mix well. Place into an uncooked pie shell placed into a 9 1/2-inch tart dish. Sprinkle with sugar and spice mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Drizzle honey on top. Bake till berries are bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cool. Put in fridge for about three hours to guarantee a nice cut. Top with whipped cream. Serves eight.
1 container feta cheese with basil and tomato
4 bagels, whole grain, cut horizontally (lightly toasted)
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced (optional)
12 spinach leaves, chopped, washed
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar
Layer cheese, onion, olives, spinach and tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Top with bagel halves and slice diagonally. Serves four.
The other morning, when I awoke in my cabin, my Brittany, Seth, licked my arm, gave it a bear hug, and looked into my eyes as if to say, "Is breakfast ready?" I got up and fixed him his meal (no hand-feeding needed any longer), brewed a cup of Italian roast and cut a slice of the blackberry tart. It was a good morning. No daring hike or bistro abroad required. I was content with my pooch. Our tummies were full. The bagelwich and another small slice of tart will suffice in the afternoon. "Europe isn't going anywhere," I told Seth. Buon appetito!
Motto: Traveling is exciting, but sometimes home is where the heart is. Eating solo at a faraway bistro without your canine isn't as comforting as sharing breakfast with a bird dog who has stolen your heart.
- Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include "The Healing Powers" series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. "The Healing Powers of Coffee" and "Animal Attraction: A Collection of Tales & Tails" will be released this summer. Her website is www.calorey.com.