23 August 2008

Summer Berry Basil Sauce



Summer Berries

In my corner of the world blueberries are fading from the scene as blackberries burst onto center stage. And what fabulously juicy show stoppers they are! While blueberries are tame and almost genteel, blackberries are wild and full of end-of-summer exuberance, not to mention generous, finger-staining, juicy sweet flavor.

In this area wild blackberries grow in abundance. They pop up everywhere, unbidden. When they sneak into my back yard I pull them out. In my small garden they are a stickery nuisance. If left to take hold a blackberry vine is hard to dig out, so I pull them out gently when they are small.

But around the lake, beside the road, near the woods, bordering sports fields - any place that is not meticulously kept and gets a glimmer of sunshine - blackberry bushes flourish. And when their plump dark berries hang heavy from the vines, aren’t we glad? Those out for a walk or run stop to pull a few berries from the vines for a taste, mid-flight. Children linger on the edge of sports fields to gather a few sweet mouthfuls betweens games. Enterprising young bakers gather berries and make treats to sell to neighbors. There is nothing quite like the fine explosive tangy sweet flavor of a sun warmed berry fresh from a stickery blackberry bramble. Venturing into a bramble heedless of the danger of scratches and snags is like fighting for the last luscious wild taste of summer before giving in to the routines and domestication of fall.


Blueberries or Blackberries?

As I was planning meals for the week I remembered a recipe I made during blackberry season last year, Blackberry Basil Sauce. It was adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living, and made good use of this wild end-of –summer fruit. I used the sauce to top Cheesecake Bars made from a recipe I found on Baking Bites for a luscious dessert. Yum!

Eager to recreate that rich taste of summer I thought I would make it again. I knew just where a lovely blackberry bramble held several clusters of dark ripe fruit and I planned to use them fresh from the vine…..until time grew short and the afternoon heat topped 100 degrees. By then, sitting in the shade sipping lavender lemonade, I had to admit I had enough blueberries on hand to make the sauce and that it was much more practical to use them and save the blackberries for another day. To save even more time and, more importantly, to avoid turning on the oven, I decided to forgo the cheesecake. Instead, I used the Berry Basil Sauce that evening to make a Berry Meringue Parfait with Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies I had left from earlier in the week, an idea inspired by this post at Cherrapeño.


That decided, I tried to remember my approach to the berry sauce from last year. I read through the recipe and the notes and when I saw it called for cinnamon I remembered that great cinnamon spiced fruit salad from a few weeks ago, a recipe I found on Cooking in Cleveland. The flavors of honey with lemon and cinnamon have been on my mind ever since so I adapted the recipe for the berry sauce to include that combination.

I had actually forgotten how simple this sauce is to make. The complex taste makes it loom larger in memory but, in fact, it only requires a few simple ingredients and a few minutes to prepare. The result is simply fabulous.

When the sauce was ready I whipped 1 cup of heavy cream with 2 Tablespoons of vanilla sugar until soft peaks formed. When the sauce had cooled slightly, I assembled the parfaits in wine glasses layering a few tablespoons of the Berry Basil Sauce topped by a Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookie and a dollop of sweetened whipped cream, and then repeating the layers. The result - a light and easy summer dessert. The sauce was just as good with meringue cookies and whipped cream, as it had been on cheesecake. In fact I think it would also be delicious with shortbread or sablé cookies or ice cream. And wouldn’t it be interesting served with grilled chicken or over a fresh or grilled peach?

A few days later, when the temperatures cooled and I had a bit more time I made the sauce again, this time with blackberries. I also had a perfect peach, ripe and soft and golden. I peeled the peach, split it in half and poured the warm Berry Basil Sauce over it. With a spoonful of whipped cream on top it was beautiful! The peach was tender, tangy sweet and juicy. The berry sauce was mildly sweet with the fragrance of wildflower honey, the warmth of cinnamon and the sleepy summer fragrance of fresh basil. This sweet treat both looked and tasted like summer sunshine in a bowl! What a gorgeous finalé to our late summer heat wave.



Berry Basil Sauce

2 cups seasonal berries, ( I used blackberries or blueberries)
¼ cup fresh basil (several sprigs)
2 Tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan stir together the basil sprigs, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and 1 cup of the fresh berries.

Cook gently, over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes, or until berries have softened and released their juice. With the back of a spoon squash some of the berries against the side of the pan while cooking.

Remove from heat. With a spoon, remove the basil sprigs and discard.

Stir in the remaining 1 cup of fresh berries.

Spoon warm or cold over your choice of cake, cookies, ice cream or fresh fruit.

8 comments:

Kim said...

I really like this sauce and find it most intriguing. It has been ages since I went blueberry picking, it is a fun thing to do. Thanks for sharing some good blueberry recipes.

Alanna said...

Love this idea, so simple. Basil is a real inspiration, too. Beautiful photos, especially the parfait.

Oakley Rhodes said...

Ah, I love anything with basil, especially something sweet and fresh!

Grace said...

my preference for blueberry picking over blackberry picking is astronomical. briars stink. luckily, i prefer the taste of blueberries anyway. :)
moving on...what a great sauce recipe--so versatile, easy, and yummy. :)

Ivy said...

I love your meringue cookies!

nicisme said...

Oh Lisa that looks absolutely delicious! The meringues with choc chips are genius!!

Kristen said...

I just had the chance to catch up on some of your posts and I love what you've been doing with all these berry recipes. This sauce is so interesting!

Sophie said...

This sounds superb. The berries are really beautiful. I would love to be able to pick my own blackberries :)! This sauce is so unique, we would really love to feature it in our blog and kitchen digital recipe reader. Please email me at sophiekiblogger@gmail.com if you're interested. Have a great weekend!