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.
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!
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.
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.
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.