Officially it’s fall, but given the 100° days we are having it feels more like summer has finally arrived. For the first time in months I’ve been able to ride my bike in the morning without a jacket.
From my bike, I have a bird’s eye view of lots of vineyards. After a few years of watching the vineyards cycle through the seasons from this vantage point, I’m convinced if you want to understand the different farming techniques used in viticulture—especially this time of year—you have to get on a bike.
I’ve learned how growers mow between the rows, encourage a cover crop, drop fruit, prune the canopy, grow the canopy, dry farm, irrigate, pick too early, let fruit hang, pick by hand, harvest by tractor and so on.
I wish I knew where the grapes for each of these vineyards were going so that I could track their progress into the bottle. It would be so cool to taste the final wines side by side to see how each of these details are expressed in the finished juice.
I can’t do that, but I can take advantage of another discovery I’ve made cycling—blackberry brambles with fruit still on the vine.
There’s a fairly hefty bramble not too far from my house and today when the sun was shining on it, I could smell the ripe berries before I could even see them.
When I passed it last week I decided to make one last summer dessert. I didn’t feel like making a crust so I thawed a sheet of puff pastry and decided to make an easy cheesecake.
The filling spread out a little more than I expected but firmed up just as it was spilling over the pastry. That was either luck or luck or maybe it was luck. No matter what it was a semi-decadent dessert that tasted like the last bits of summer.
Easy Blackberry Cheesecake
Serves 4 to 6
What to drink: Moscato. Sure why not? It is hot right now and with good reason: it’s fruit punch for grown ups. The best are from Italy, and Ceretto Moscato d’ Asti from the Langhe has just the right amount of sweetness and fruit for a cheesecake.
1 piece puff pastry, thawed
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 to 2 cups ripe blackberries
Preheat the oven to 425°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
Combine the ricotta, sugar, vanilla and salt in a small bowl.
Beat the egg in a separate bowl and pour all but a little bit into the ricotta. Fold the egg into the ricotta.
Use a pastry brush to brush the remaining egg in the bowl around the edge of the pastry.
Pour the ricotta mixture onto the center of the pastry. Carefully spread out over the pastry, leaving a 3-inch border around the edges. Arrange the blackberries over the top and bake for 25 minutes until the cheese mixture is firm and the puff pastry is brown.