Being that Brian and I had an extra day off together due to Labor Day we decided to get out of the city for an afternoon. I had heard of a few places where you can go and pick your own berries. After some research we found a farm in Monroe that had blackberries ripe and ready to pick. Monroe is about 45 minutes outside of Seattle. So over a river and through the woods to blackberry picking we go. We ended up at Broers Farm and it was quiet, quant, and just what a day outside the city should be like. There were rows and rows of blackberry bushes (among many other crops) we were able to wonder around and pick as we please. It was lots of fun, and we enjoyed the afternoon out in the sun picking and snacking on blackberries.
Our eyes and berry boxes were deceiving, as we ended up picking a little over 8 pounds worth. I was excited with all the things I could make with my harvest. I knew that I had to freeze some for pies (I am baking a variety of pies for a friend’s upcoming wedding), some was meant for jam, and the rest was up for serious consideration.
I pondered over the thought of combining the blackberries with something nostalgic from my childhood along with something I love. My thought was to mix up the blackberries into a dessert sauce using Pinot Noir – the type of wine that I adore. Pairing that up with some Zeppolies would be excellence at its best. As a child they were one of my favorite treats to get when I was out with my family. However, I did not want to make your average “pizza dough like” zeppolie you would get at a church fair in a paper bag, you know the kind. Those are the ones that when you open the paper bag it comes in you are covered in powdered sugar. No, I am talking about a light and airy zeppolie with a desirable crunchy crust and a light dusting of cinnamon sugar on them.
Into the kitchen I went and whipped up one of the best desserts I have made in some time. The zeppolie was light and crunchy and perfectly paired with the ripe and rich sauce. Enjoyable and satisfying; I think I need to make another batch for dessert this week.
Blackberry Dessert Sauce (Makes about 1 ½ - 2 cups)
3 cups of blackberries (washed and dried)
¾ cup Pinot Noir
½ cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla extract
First, place your blackberries in a food processor and puree until all are broken down. Place a strainer with small holes over a 2-4 quart pot and working in batches press your pureed blackberries through your strainer. The blackberries have large seeds and a somewhat pulpiness to them, just FYI you may need to work at it a while. Repeat this until you have strained all your puree.
Second; mix together your strained blackberry puree, the Pinot Noir, vanilla extract and the sugar over medium heat. Stir together until all the sugar is dissolved and your mixture begins to simmer. Let it all simmer together about 10 – 15 minutes. You are looking to reduce it a bit without scorching it.
Finally, remove your sauce from the pan and cool in the refrigerator about an hour. You want to serve the sauce anywhere from chilled to room temperature. (Will last for up to a week, wrapped tightly in your refrigerator.)
Zeppolies (serves 4 – 5)
1 cup of flour
2 tsp of baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1 ¼ cup of ricotta
½ tsp of vanilla extract
Pinch of lemon zest
Vegetable oil for frying (1 – 2 quarts)
1 cup of sugar
½ tsp of cinnamon
First, in a mixing bowl place your egg, ricotta, lemon zest, and vanilla together and stir well until all the egg is equally incorporated.
Next; sprinkle your flour, baking powder, salt and your 1 tbsp of sugar over your egg and ricotta mixture. Fold it all together until it is well blended without overworking it and set aside.
Then, fill a 4 quart pot with the vegetable oil and heat it to 375 degrees. (You can use a deep fryer if you have one.) Once oil heated through, work in small batched and drop some of your zeppolie batter by the spoonful into your hot oil. Wait until once side is golden and flip over. They cook up fast so keep a close eye on them. When the zeppolies are fully golden remove from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.
Finally, place the last 1 cup of sugar in a bowl and mix with your cinnamon. Place your warm zeppolies in and toss well to coat. Serve immediately. You can eat them as is, but I love to dip them in the Blackberry Dessert Sauce.