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Idaho Huckleberry Dinner Party

Last weekend, Alex and I took a trip to McCall and foraged buckets of plump huckleberries, fat from all the warm summer rain. Everywhere we turned in the damp mountain forest, there was another huckleberry bush drooping under the weight of its abundant berries. It was an epic harvest that stained our hands a vibrant purple and left us with more huckleberries than we knew what to do with.

Since we returned home, we froze some, dried some and still have plenty sitting in the fridge waiting to be put to use. So, for our monthly dinner party, I decided to highlight the huckleberry. First stop: the Huckleberry Bourbon Smash.

Modeled after this recipe, this lovely cocktail contains muddled huckleberries, George Dickel bourbon, a splash of demerara simple syrup, fresh lemon juice and a spritz of bubbly water. Who says bourbon is best reserved for the wintertime?

For the appetizer, Alex raided our zucchini patch and I shredded up those bad boys into these awesome fritters. It was a pretty straightforward process: Grate a few small zucchini and sprinkle with salt, then squeeze out the excess water using a thin kitchen towel and mix in flour, egg, salt, pepper and half a minced shallot. Fry 'em up into little patties then top with a dollop of homemade tomato jam, a couple cubes of aged havarti and some fresh basil leaves.

The main course was equally straight-forward and based on this recipe: French lentils tossed with fresh garden tomatoes, lemon-zested shrimp, wild purslane foraged from the yard and a zippy tarragon mustard dressing. The little purple petals are from an Echinacea flower, which is edible but not particularly delicious.

I intentionally kept the main course light to save room for the grand finale: Huckleberry ricotta hand pies. This was my first time making pastry dough from scratch and it turned out awesome! I followed this recipe for Rough Puff pastry, which cuts down the time and effort dramatically.

For the filling, I simmered huckleberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch until it turned into a thick, fragrant goop and then added in more fresh huckleberries. Once the huckleberry mixture cooled, I added two tablespoons of fruit and one tablespoon of whole milk ricotta to rolled-out squares of pastry dough then delicately folded them into triangles. After a quick stop in the fridge, I scored a couple of vents on top, brushed the top with an egg wash and sprinkled them with demerara sugar.

After 25 minutes, voila! Huckleberry Ricotta Hand Pies that had one of our dinner party guests shouting expletives and licking her plate. Dessert win.

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