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Berries!

A beautiful secret I am rediscovering and Megan is quickly learning about NW berries: they’re better. Much better. Large flavor nuggets… lots of sugar… no bitterness. From berry stands in Yamhill, Washington, and Clackamas counties to the farmer’s markets in town, every cherry, strawberry, and raspberry is unbelievably superior to their lesser doppelgangers at the supermarket (and, sadly, at the many farmer’s markets we frequented back east).

Growing up here, I can still remember going on windows-down joy rides to one particularly awesome berry farm in the countryside, returning with a half-devoured treasure of big, sweet, bursting-ripe blackberries. Of course, when you move away and grow up a little, such ventures are imbued with sepia-toned nostalgia and a vague yearning for home. In the intervening years, you come up with excuses for not being able to enjoy such exceptional treats: “Surely, those blackberries couldn’t possibly have been as good as my memory insists they were”… sublime experiences—being the most thought-of—seem to suffer the most distortion from our attempts to retell/recall them… more precisely, from our efforts to keep them from slipping away.

Luckily, all of this second-guessing was completely wrong. Oregon berries are fantastic. Blackberry season is coming, and I’m ready to go on a joyride. Sometimes memories are more reliable than we are willing to admit!

In lieu of these mythical, peak-season blackberries, we contented ourselves with our first raspberries of summer and made a Raspberry Streusel Tart. Dangerously addictive to begin with, we gilded the lily with a rich shortbread crust and added sliced almonds to the streusel topping. Enjoy!

Stay tuned for further, delicious meditations on the Oregon blackberry! Counting the days…

Raspberry Streusel Tart
One 9 1⁄2- or 10-inch tart

You can make this tart with any summer berry or with a mixture of berries.

For the shortbread crust, whisk together in a bowl or process in a food processor for 10 seconds:
     1 1⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
     1⁄3 cup sugar
     (1 teaspoon grated lemon zest)
     1⁄4 teaspoon salt
Add:
     1⁄2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, softened if working by hand
Mash with the back of a fork or process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add:
     1 large egg yolk
Mix with a spatula or process just until the dough comes together in a ball. If the dough is too soft and sticky to work with, wrap it and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days). Grease or butter the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan or 9 1⁄2- or 10-inch two-piece tart pan. Dust the pans with flour, and tap out the excess. Pat the dough evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan. Thoroughly prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the crust until deep golden brown, about 18 to 22 minutes.
While still warm, glaze the crust with:
     1 large egg yolk, beaten with a pinch of salt
Return to the oven and bake until the glaze sets, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Let cool completely. Position a rack in the center of the oven and reduce the heat to 350°F. Stir together until just combined:
     3 cups raspberries or other berries
     1⁄2 cup sugar
     2 tablespoons cornstarch
     1 tablespoon strained fresh lemon juice
Distribute the raspberry mixture evenly in the tart crust.
For the streusel topping, combine in a bowl:
     1⁄3 cup sugar
     2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
     2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Blend these ingredients until crumbly. Add:
     1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
     1⁄2 cup sliced almonds
Sprinkle this mixture over the berries and bake until the streusel has browned and thick juices bubble up near the center, 45 to 60 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.

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