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Eating Wild: fun with found foragables

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While out on a walk with my dog a few weeks ago, I noticed the telltale pale white clusters of berries that would soon turn into raspberries. Now, as someone with a handful of my own raspberry canes at home, I knew that I'd have to wait to see if the raspberries were red or black. Black raspberries turn blood red before turning their ripened black, so I revisited the spot a few more times until the white fruit turned red and then — aha! — black after all. Ordinarily, experienced foragers would tell you not to go out and grab fruit off of any tree and shove it in your mouth but, per foraging expert Matt Shull's instructions, I'd lived with a raspberry plant for over a year and knew, beyond a doubt, that that's what I was dealing with.

The tricky part about harvesting ripe raspberries is caused by the fruit's structure. Blackberries and mulberries come off with their core still attached, making them a lot more durable and less likely to squish in your collecting container. Raspberries, on the other hand, leave their cores on the bush and the picked fruit is both soft and hollow, so rough handling makes the fruit collapse on itself and turn into a mushy mess. So when you're picking your ripe berries, aim for a very light touch — it should feel more like you're tickling the berries off of the tree than applying much pressure with your fingertips.

RECIPE: Black Raspberry Cheesecake

Second, the fruit holds onto one seed for every juicy globule that makes up the cup-shaped fruit. So when you're using your raspberries, it's usually a good idea to keep a fine strainer around. For both of these recipes, I cooked my black raspberries in a saucepan with some sugar to make a syrup first and then passed that through a strainer before adding it to my other ingredients. "What if I don't want to?" you ask? Well, you don't have to, but just know that raspberry seeds are like little wooden rocks that get stuck in every crevice of your back teeth and will leave your guests wanting to find somewhere to spit. Not the best ending to a cookout if you ask me, but to each his own.

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Since we cooked these fruits down into a syrup, you could substitute in mulberries or blackberries depending on what's available. It took me about an hour to gather about 2-3 pints of berries, and I'd recommend being smarter than I was and wearing long sleeves. Were it not for the abrasions, I may have stuck it out for another hour. If you're impatient or you have kiddos, go with the mulberry option as harvesting is the fastest: Lay a sheet on the ground and shake the bejesus out of the limbs until you've got enough berries to make a meal. I like making barbecue sauce out of my berries because it just means I get to enjoy that summer flavor in my savory food as well as my desserts, and it makes a nice gift around the holidays when people are really starting to miss the summer sun.

RECIPE: Black Raspberry Tamarind Barbecue Sauce 

You may also recognize the cheesecake recipe as the original Philadelphia recipe that's printed on every box of cream cheese. Why did I use this instead of ripping off Giada or Ina? Because I don't dick around with things that are tried-and-true. And since the batter is almost all protein, fat and water, you can add extra liquid like the fruit syrup without having to adjust anything other than your cooking time, as it's already pretty hard to dry out a cheesecake. My second tip here is to whip the cream cheese with your whisk attachment until it's fluffed up, as the airy bite is a nice combo with the fruit and the dense, buttery cookie bottom. If you want to take this to the next level, serve it with some fresh-made whipped cream and extra fresh fruit on top. For the crust, I ended up using some coconut flavored cookies from Mexico because, well, I do my shopping at Saraga and it sounded way more delicious than the traditional graham cracker crust, and it absolutely was. All you need to know about altering your crust is you can blend pretty much any sweet, crunchy cookie into crumbs and stir it with butter to make whatever crumb crust you want. The crunchy cookie world is your crumb crust oyster.

How to barbecue chicken on the grill

Note: I used thighs for this recipe, but it still works for quarters, though it may significantly increase your cooking time. 

Get your grill super hot and place your meat skin-side down on the grill. Don't fucking turn it for a few minutes. Don't. If you turn it to soon, you'll leave a significant portion of your meat on the grill.

After about 5 minutes, rotate the meat 45 degrees to get that restaurant-style cross hatch grill mark.

Flip it. Get those grill marks on the other side.

Now turn that heat down as low as it will go, or pile your smoldering coals into one corner of the grill.

Now that you've seared your outside, put your meat up on the opposite side as your heat source, ideally on a top rack or elevated somewhat.

Baste that shit. Baste it good. Sing to it. Tell it how tasty it's going to be. Tell it you love it.

Close the lid, returning to baste again every 10 minutes or so until an instant-read thermometer comes out at the right temp, and remember that it's way hotter in that grill with a closed lid than it seems when you've got it open. Low, indirect heat WILL cook your meat in time, and it'll give your chicken that perfect, sticky glaze.


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