Blackberry Farm Sampler

Blackberry Farm, an inn located on 9, 000 acres tucked away in the Great Smoky Mountains, offers an extraordinary landscape of rolling hills, heirloom gardens and idyllic pastures. So, if you’re lucky enough to live there year-round, where do you go to get away from it all? For Sam and Mary Celeste Beall, the answer is home, to Mobile Bay.

Sam, 34, is a native son of sorts. He has lived all over. His parents, Kreis and Sandy Beall, founded Ruby Tuesday and Blackberry Farm. But, Sam says he spent the bulk of his formative years here in south Alabama, on both sides of the Bay. Sam married a local girl, Mary Celeste Foster, daughter of artist Eugenia Foster, and they live on the farm in Tennessee. But the couple continues to enjoy this area and bring their four children to sweet home Alabama from time to time.

“This place is deeply a part of our life and really engrained in our hearts, ” Sam says, referring to the couple’s house on the Bay. “We love it down here. Mary Celeste and the kids move down here for about month and a half every summer, and I commute as often as possible.”

Back in Tennessee, Sam is a busy man. He oversees every aspect of the inn, including its restaurants and working farm. In doing so, he has developed a passion and a mission: to inspire people to cook and eat local foods in season. Now, with “The Blackberry Farm Cookbook, ” he hopes to bring the concept to a broader audience. “If it’s local, it’s seasonal; if it’s seasonal, it’s probably fresh, ” Sam says. “Fresh translates into health and flavor.” Sam selected and adapted these recipes from “The Blackberry Farm Cookbook” for a casual summer supper.

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Blueberry and Apple Green Tea

This festive refresher is a perfect pick-me-up.

8 cups hot, freshly brewed green tea
3 cups blueberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup apple juice
6 cups cold water
green apple slices and/or blueberries to garnish

In a large bowl, combine tea, berries and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Use a potato masher to crush blueberries. Let the mixture steep, about 30 minutes. Strain liquid through a fine mesh strainer into a large pitcher, pressing down on the blueberries with a spoon to extract as much juice and pulp as possible. Stir in apple juice and cold water. Serve over ice. Drop blueberries into glasses to garnish. Float apples on top, or press them onto the rim of the glass. Makes 1 gallon.

Skillet Okra

This down-home okra dish is always a hit at the Beall house.

5 ounces bacon (4 – 5 strips), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large Vidalia onion (or other sweet onion), diced
1 pound okra, trimmed and cut into
1/2-inch thick rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes, cored, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large ovenproof skillet, cook bacon over medium heat for about 8 minutes, until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to transfer bacon to a plate lined with paper towels; set aside. Add onion to bacon drippings in skillet and cook. Stir onion often for about 5 minutes, until caramelized. Remove onion and set aside with bacon. Add okra to the pan along with salt and pepper. Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 10 – 12 minutes, stirring once gently, until the okra is tender. Add bacon, onions and tomatoes in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Serve warm. Serves 8.

Pimento Cheese

This classic appetizer, which calls for pickle juice, is a twist on a Southern favorite.

6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons pickle juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon hot sauce (preferably Frank’s RedHot Sauce)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 roasted red bell pepper, skinned, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup pimento pepper pieces, drained
1 pound grated mild or medium-sharp cheddar cheese

In a medium bowl, stir together mayonnaise, pickle juice, mustard, hot sauce, garlic, salt and pepper, until smooth. Fold in red bell pepper, pimento peppers and cheddar. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Serve with crackers. Makes about 4 cups.

Grilled Chili-Rubbed Rib Roast

Beall suggests using local beef for this Blackberry Farm favorite.

Rib Roast
1 (5 – 6 pound) first cut standing rib roast (about 3 ribs), chine bone removed and tied to the bottom of the roast, all but a thin layer of fat removed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chili Paste (see below)

Remove roast from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare a grill using natural charcoal. When the coals are very hot, push them to one side of the grill to create a hot zone for direct grilling and a cooler zone for indirect grilling. Sprinkle roast with salt and pepper. Using the hot zone of the grill, sear meat on the bone side for 1 – 2 minutes, until well browned. Then turn the meat with tongs and sear the narrow sides of the roast for 1 – 2 minutes on each side. Finally, sear the meaty side for about 3 minutes. Move roast to the cooler zone of the grill and place it bone side down. Brush meat with a generous layer of Chili Paste. Reserve 1/4 cup to use before serving. Close the lid and grill for 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat (but not touching the bone), registers 125 degrees for rare or about 130 degrees for medium rare. Transfer roast to a cutting board, and brush with more Chili Paste. Let meat rest for 30 minutes before carving. Serve with any remaining Chili Paste on the side. Serves 8.

Chili Paste

12 dried chiles de árbol
12 serrano peppers, stemmed
and seeded
12 garlic cloves
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin

Place chiles in a small bowl. Cover with hot tap water and let sit for about 30 minutes, until pliable and leathery. Drain chiles, remove and discard the stems and seeds. Place in a small saucepan along with serranos, garlic and half the extra virgin olive oil. Bring chili mixture just to a simmer over medium heat; reduce heat to low and let cook for about 20 minutes, until garlic is soft. Transfer chili mixture to a food processor, add coriander and cumin and pulse until pureed. Drizzle in remaining extra virgin olive oil and pulse until forming a loose paste. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool. Use within 2 hours, or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.

Grill-Roasted Potatoes

Tasty new potatoes make an ideal side to the roast.

4 pounds red new potatoes
1 cup crème fraîche
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground
black pepper

Prepare a grill using natural charcoal. When the coals are very hot, push them to one side of the grill to create a cooler zone for indirect grilling. Place potatoes on the cooler side, close grill lid and cook for about 1 hour, until potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Transfer potatoes to a cutting board. Use the side of a large knife or the bottom of a heavy drinking glass to flatten each potato into a disk about 1/4-inch thick. (The skins will split but the potatoes should stay intact.) Drizzle crème fraîche over potatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve warm. Serves 8.

Blackberry Cobbler

Cook up sweet Alabama berries for a summer treat.

8 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
zest and juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled
1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together blackberries, 1 cup sugar and lime zest. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice and cornstarch until smooth. Drizzle lime juice mixture over blackberry mixture and toss to combine. Scrape mixture into a 10-inch cast iron skillet and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and remaining sugar. Rub butter into flour mixture until it is the texture of coarse meal. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour buttermilk into the well and stir with a fork until the mixture comes together. Crumble dough evenly atop blackberry mixture. Bake cobbler for 40 minutes or until blackberry filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Let cobbler sit 10 minutes before serving. Serves 8.

Text and Styling by Sallye Irvine

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