Date-Sweetened Blackberry Basil Crumble
Basil. Blackberries. Fingers stained in dark purple juice. Taking a whole basil leaf into my mouth, the cool sweet-bitter flavor rising up into my nose and the back of my throat. I stir the juicy filling together, pinch the crumbling topping between my fingers. I touch the cut edge of a lemon to my lips, the bright acid making me pucker. A sip of water. I wipe glistening sweat from my neck. The hint of a barely there breeze tugs the curtain back and forth. The sound of cicadas rises and falls in the lunging afternoon heat.
In the kitchen I weave my way into the making of things. My ingredients are my paints, my dish is my canvas. The process of photographing and capturing it all offers me a separateness from the action which feels much like meditating. I adjust a berry, notice the way my eye moves across my space, adjust a bit more, snap snap snap. As with much of my practice in yoga, I explore my limits every time I show up. Somedays I need less tweaking and focus, more flow. Somedays that intense awareness of each individual part of the process feels inspired and aware, like I'm unlocking bits of my inner self I didn't know existed.
This is art. Making, if even for the sake of making. Exploring beauty within the will to make, within the process. Connecting to something more than your individual sense of self in the creative act and the creation itself.
This blackberry basil crumble started as a dream. As most things do. I have a spiral-bound, blank art journal in which I scramble out my thoughts, toss them around, draw and chart and list. Of all of the in-season foods I'm currently feeling inspired by (squash! tomatoes! mushrooms!) blackberries and basil reach the top of the list. I eat both by the handful. I wrote out a page of all of the recipe ideas bouncing around my head, and a crumble came to mind. Ah, a blackberry crumble. Lovely. And seeing how thick basil bouquets have been making their way into my salads and sauces as of late, I figured it was about time I tried it in a sweet dish. It turns out that basil brings out a refined flavor in blackberries. Basil is a sweet, bitter, cooling herb. And blackberries, too, are sweet and cooling. They marry naturally, as if made for each other. The pairing gives this crumble a certain je ne sais quoi.
This crumble, sweetened with dates, is a celebration of midsummer bounty. It's a balance of flavors and textures: sweet, juicy, tangy, aromatic, herbal, creamy, and crisp. And it's simple to pull together, as a crumble should be. Use the sweetest fat blackberries you can find. This is the sort of treat that makes any day of the week feel like a special occasion. And thanks to the whole food ingredients and low glycemic index it won't give you a sugar crash or make you feel sick after, say, eating an entire pan to yourself. It's the sort of treat that makes you feel like life is a refined, easeful, beautiful, joyful thing.
- 3 cups fresh blackberries
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 tablespoons arrowroot
- pinch Celtic sea salt
- 8-10 fresh medjool dates, pitted
- 1/8 cup coconut oil, melted
- 1/2 cup packed basil, chopped roughly
- 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup cashews
- 1/3 cup coconut flakes, chopped roughly
- teaspoon lemon zest
- pinch Celtic sea salt
- 1/8 cup coconut oil
- 6-8 large medjool dates, pitted
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- Optional: chilled coconut cream
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Wipe two 6" cast iron pans down with salt and olive or coconut oil to clean them of any residual flavors, then wipe out the salt. Set aside. OR oil a 9" tart or pie pan & set aside.
- Place 1 cup of the fresh blackberries, lemon juice, arrowroot, sea salt, dates, and coconut oil in the bowl of a high powered blender. Blend together until you have a juicy, thick paste and the dates are broken down.
- In a medium bowl, fold together the blended date/fruit mixture with the rest of the blackberries. Fold in the chopped basil.
- Spread the filling out in the two cast iron pans and bake for 10 minutes.
- While the filling is pre-baking, make the crumble topping.
- In the bowl of a high powered blender (if using the same blender cup, clean & dry it thoroughly), pulse the sunflower seeds until you have a dry, crumbly flour. This may take only a few seconds depending on your blender. It's ok if the blend isn't perfectly even. Add the sunflower flour to a medium bowl.
- Add the cashews to the bowl of your high powered blender and blend until you have a dry, crumbly flour. Again, this may only take a few seconds & it doesn't have to be perfectly even.
- Add the cashew flour to the medium bowl with the sunflower flour.
- Add the chopped coconut flakes to the bowl, along with the lemon zest and sea salt. Stir everything together loosely, until just mixed.
- In your blender (it doesn't have to be cleaned) blend together the coconut oil, dates, and vanilla extract. You want them to come together as a paste.
- Work the wet mix into the dry mix until its evenly moist and crumbly.
- Carefully remove the blackberry filling from the oven once it's cooked for 10 minutes and spread the crumble topping equally over each pan.
- Place the pans back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
- Let cool 5-10 minutes before serving as you like with chilled coconut cream.
- Chill any leftovers in the fridge. It should be eaten within 24 hours.
- [i]For the coconut cream I skim the cream from the top of a chilled 13 oz can of full fat coconut milk and whip it in a mason jar with an immersion blender. Tip: I place the can of coconut milk in the freezer at the beginning of the crumble process to chill it quickly. Just don't forget it's in there! Reserve the coconut water in the can for a curry or smoothies.[/i]