Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sad, but true

Lately, dinner has been more about surviving our jobs than anything else.  We're eating lots of stuff put by in  the freezer for just these kinds of days, and we're eating out more than is particularly healthy.  I'd beat myself up for it, but the job does it for me so why add work to my list?!

BUT!  This weekend I made raspberry jam, and with a lot of it, I made a raspberry jam crostata (which is a free-form pie/tart thing...no, not the technical description...).    It's remarkable how good it made me feel to put the jam and the crostata together.  Like I am more than just my job. 

I didn't have a camera handy, so the picture you're looking at is of reheated, 2-day old crostata.  It's just as good!

If you've ever watched Giada on Food Network, she makes crostatas from all kinds of things.  Don't feel like you have to use raspberry jam, or even jam for that matter.  You could spend an enjoyable hour or so searching the creations on the net...I highly recommend it!  We had raspberries in our freezer from our awesome neighbors' (they of the bumper zucchini crop) raspberry patch, so that's how the decision was made.  (The neighbors are awesome, and so are their raspberries.)

Even better?  It's really easy.  We like our raspberry jam a little on the tart side, so you can adjust the sugar to your tastes.  See the note below.

Raspberry Jam

3 to 4 cups of frozen raspberries
1/2-1 1/2 cups of sugar (I used a mix of brown and granulated)*
a squirt of lemon juice  (I probably used 2 tsp)
a teeny, tiny pinch of salt...1/8 tsp maybe?
a shot of cinnamon (optional)

Place the raspberries, sugar, juice, and salt in a saucepan, covered.  Heat over medium until mixture starts to bubble, and raspberries start to break down.  Remove cover, reduce heat to a bare simmer, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until jam begins to thicken.  You'll know it's ready when it coats the back of spoon thickly, without sliding off.  This will depend on how much moisture is in the berries; mine took about an hour and a half to two hours of slow cooking.  (And whooee did the house smell good!)

If desired, pour jam into a sieve, and using the back of a ladle or large spoon, press the jam through into a bowl.  Larry and I prefer seedless raspberry jam, so I did this.  Taste, and add sugar if desired; can be put back on low heat for a few minutes to make sure sugar completely dissolves.  Stir in cinnamon to taste, if desired, and refrigerate until completely cool.  Makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups of jam. 

For the crostata, roll out your choice of pie dough (I used a half recipe of Martha Stewart's pate brisee) to about a 14" circle.  Preheat oven to 425.  Put the dough on a large sheet pan.  Spoon 2 cups of jam into the center, leaving a 3 to 4" border of dough around the edges.  Starting on one side, fold (without pressing down on the jam) a side of the dough in toward the center.  Overlap the second fold over the first, and repeat until the filling is covered around all sides, but open in the middle.  (See the picture)  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until crust is golden and flaky.  The jam will puff up in the oven, but subside as soon as it starts to cool.  Resist the urge to eat it right away, since the jam is so hot it will seal itself to your skin...

*Sugar:  I started my jam with about 1/2 cup of brown sugar, because I wasn't sure how sweet the raspberries would be.  About halfway through the cooking process, I tasted a bit of it and added about 1/4 cup.  At the end, I tasted again and put in about 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Why did I use both sugars?  I'm not quite sure-I know that I like the depth that brown sugar brings to things, so that's probably what I was thinking.  This was kind of a dump-it-in-and-let's-see-what-happens kind of jam.  But it worked, so I'm passing it on.  You could probably use all of one or the other for equally fabulous results.  You can keep adding sugar until it tastes the way you want it to, but I don't think I'd go much beyond 2 cups; you'd lose a lot of the raspberry taste.

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