When we think of berries, strawberries and blueberries often come to mind. However, there are a plethora of other berries out there that are just waiting to be included in our diet.
In "The Berry Bible," author Janie Hibler introduces us to a whole new world of berry possibilities. For instance, there are over eight different types of blackberries, and when you include hybrid versions of blackberries, the number of varieties keeps growing.
Hibler visits The Early Show to demonstrate how to prepare her recipes.
Frozen Huckleberries With Hot Caramel Sauce
Beatrice Ojakangas, a first-generation American, is the author of 22 cookbooks, many of them on the foods of Scandinavia. When I asked what her favorite way to use lingonberries was, she said: "One of the best things I remember is a dessert made by a Finnish friend. In Finland, people can buy fresh lingonberries by the liter at the open market. She simply froze the berries so that they were separate - like small marbles. Then she tossed them with a bit of sugar and served them with a hot caramel sauce (Finns call the sauce kinuskikastike). It is a simple sauce made by boiling equal measures of sugar and whipping cream until the sauce is a pale caramel color. A bit of dark syrup will enhance it, and I always add vanilla and just a tiny pinch of salt to bring out the flavor. The hot sauce is poured over the frozen berries, making quite a nice contrast.
Fresh or frozen lingonberries are almost impossible to buy (though that's slowly changing) in most of the United States, but chopped cranberries work equally well, or you can use a mixture of frozen berries.
This recipe is one of my favorites - I love the combination of the rich and creamy hot caramel sauce with the icy crunch of the tart cranberries. And it's a perfect dessert for entertaining, because all the ingredients can be prepared in advance.
Make 4 to 6 Servings
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon dark corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of coarse salt
2 pints (4 cups) frozen cranberries (lingonberries or huckleberries)
or a combination of frozen berries (blueberries can be substituted for huckleberries)
Combine the cream and sugar in a deep heavy saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes or until the sauce turns a pale golden color (the sauce will get darker when you add the corn syrup and vanilla and thicker as it cools). Don't cook the sauce too long, or you will make a taffy! Stir in the corn syrup, vanilla, and salt. Keep hot until served. (The sauce can be made up to a week in advance if stored covered in the refrigerator. Reheat it gently over low heat.)
Just before serving, coarsely chop the frozen cranberries (leave lingonberries whole) and divide them equally among 6 dessert bowls - not glass. Pour the hot caramel sauce over the berries and serve immediately.
Note: One New Year's Eve, I made this dessert for 16. I used a mixture of frozen berries: two 12-ounce bags cranberries (very coarsely chopped), 2 cups blueberries, 2 cups raspberries, and 3 cups huckleberries. I doubled the sauce recipe with the exception of the sugar - I used only 1 ½ cups sugar.
Shortbread With Warm Berry Port Sauce
If you like shortbread, you'll love this recipe from the Porto Wine Institute in New York. Although it is simple to make, it's a sophisticated dessert that could be served for any occasion from a casual get-together to a formal dinner party. Heating the berries in the port creates a remarkably intense berry sauce that can also be spooned over slices of sponge cake or mounds of vanilla ice cream.
Makes 4 Servings
1 cup self-rising flour
2 tablespoons medium-ground cornmeal
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
9 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 or 7 pieces
3/4 cup mixed fresh berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, rinsed and drained, or frozen berries, thawed with juice (lingonberries, huckleberries and currants)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 pint ruby port (late bottle vintage, if possible, see Note)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan.
Put the flour, cornmeal, lemon zest, brown sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times. Process until the dough almost forms a ball. (Or cut the butter into the dry ingredients with 2 knives or a pastry cutter.) Remove the dough and, using your fingers, pat it into the pan. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. It will be golden brown and slightly darker brown around the edges.
Put the berries, granulated sugar, vanilla bean, and port in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring at first to dissolve the sugar. Remove the fruit with a slotted spoon and gently cook the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 5 more minutes (slightly longer if you are using frozen berries). Put the fruit back into the sauce and serve warm, ladled over the shortbread and accompanied by a glass of port.
Note: Late bottle vintage (LBV) refers to a specific year of port, aged in wood 4 to 6 years with characteristic berry, chocolate, and spice flavors.
Bella, A Blackberry Martini
Lucy Brennan of Mint, in Portland, Ore., makes the best blackberry martinis. She named this cocktail after her faithful dog, Bella, whom she misses dearly because she spends most of her days at the restaurant. The secret to these remarkable martinis, Lucy says, "is to use superfine sugar to make a wide, 1-inch coating around the rim of the glasses, then chill them. Use plenty of ice and shake the drink quickly before it has a chance to melt. Sip these slowly. They go down easily, but they are powerful, and the alcohol can catch up with you in a hurry."
Makes 1 Martini:
1 lemon quarter, cut in the middle of the flesh down to but not through the rind
1/4 cup vodka
1/4 ounce Triple Sec
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup
1/4 ounce blackberry, raspberry, or strawberry puree, seeded (see page 79)
Makes 4 Martinis:
4 lemon quarters
Baker's superfine Sugar
1 cup vodka
1 ounce Triple Sec
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce Simple Syrup
1 ounce berry puree
Prepare 1 (or 4) 9-ounce martini glasses. Rub the cut lemon around the rims, moistening a 1-inch-wide band. Sprinkle the sugar on a small plate and coat the rims. Chill the glasses until serving time. Fill a martini shaker with ice and add the vodka, Tripe Sec, lemon juice, Simple Syrup, and blackberry puree. Shake robustly for 10 seconds and strain into the glasses. Serve immediately, but sip very slowly and enjoy.
Superfine sugar, called castor sugar in Great Britain, is finely granulated and makes a smooth coating on glassware for drinks. While you can buy it at some specialty food stores, it's easy to make your own by processing granulated sugar in a blender or food processor with the steel blade for 1 minute.
Blueberry Cardamom Soup
Marcus Samuelsson, the James Beard award-winning chef from Aquavit restaurant in New York, grew up in Sweden, where chilled blueberry soup is popular as both an appetizer and a dessert. This recipe of his has the most wonderful cardamom aftertaste that gently lingers on the palate. Because the cardamom makes the soup slightly spicy, Marcus suggests serving it hot as a cold-weather appetizer or even as a sauce over ice cream. I also serve it with one or two other berry soups in small espresso cups for a light summer lunch.
Makes about 1 quart, serving 4:
3 pints (6 cups) fresh blueberries, plus a handful for garnish, rinsed and drained, or frozen blueberries plus fresh mint sprigs or edible flowers for garnish
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup mango puree
1 cup muscatel, ice wine, or honey wine
8 thin slices melon, any kind
Put the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, and cardamom in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Let the mixture cool slightly, then puree in a food processor with the mango puree and wine. Strain and chill.
Serve the soup in shallow bowls garnished with a sprinkling of fresh blueberries and 2 melon slices.
Curried Halibut With Strawberry-Papaya Relish
When halibut is roasted using extremely high heat, it becomes surprisingly butter-textured and stays perfectly moist. You will need a cast-iron skillet or heavy baking dish that can be preheated safely in a 500°F oven. The halibut absorbs heat from both the preheated pan and the oven. The high heat immediately breaks down the fish's connective tissue, producing moist buttery flakes that melt in your mouth.
This is an unusually quick recipe if you make the relish ahead of time. It will keep for 3 to 4 days covered in the refrigerator. I serve a simple green salad to accompany the fish.
Makes 4 servings:
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped papaya
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon chopped red onion
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon mild olive oil
Pinch of coarse salt
1 1/2 pounds fresh halibut, trimmed of skin and cut into 4 pieces
2 to 3 teaspoons canola oil
One 131/2-ounce reduced-fat can coconut milk
6 cups cooked basmati rice
8 fresh cilantro sprigs
Put a cast-iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 500°F.
Toss all the relish ingredients together and set aside. Meanwhile, bring the fish to room temperature.
Generously season the halibut with curry powder and coarse salt. Heat the canola oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, pan-sear the fish on both sides until golden brown, about 45 seconds per side. Transfer the fish to the hot skillet in the oven and roast for 6 more minutes, until the fish is barely cooked throughout. An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of each piece should read 135°F, and the flesh will feel firm (not sink in) when pressed with your finger. The fish will continue to cook when it comes out of the oven. Transfer the fish to a warm platter and cover to keep warm.
Heat 4 wide pasta bowls.
Pour the coconut milk into the hot skillet over medium-low heat. Gently scrape the bottom of the pan to release the caramelized cooked bits as the milk heats. Season the milk with a pinch of salt if needed.
Divide the rice among the bowls. Lay the fish on top and lade the coconut milk over all. Put a spoonful of relish on top of the fish and sprinkle the cilantro leaves over all. Serve immediately.
Lemon Curd Cake
I can't have this cake in the house unless company is coming. It's so good I'd eat the whole thing myself. The recipe came from an article in "Cuisine", New Zealand's top cooking magazine, written by Auckland cookbook author Jo Seagar, who also has her own television cooking show and Web site (www.joseagar.com. Her recipe is surprisingly simple to make, especially if you buy the lemon curd, of which several good commercial brands are available. Try Stonewall Kitchen, 2 Stonewall Lane, York, ME 03909; 800-207-JAMS; www.stonewallkitchen.com (jams, berry curds, lemon curd).
Serve this divine cake for breakfast as a coffee cake accompanied by a bowl of fresh berries or drizzled with a berry coulis and cloaked with whipped cream for dessert. I particularly like it with raspberries, but blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries can be substituted.
Makes 8 to 10 servings:
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 large eggs
11/2 cups Lemon Curd, commercial or homemade (recipe follows)
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling
1 pint (2 cups) fresh raspberries, rinsed, drained, pureed, and pressed through a strainer (see page 79) plus a handful for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 11-inch spring-form pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Put the flour, sugar, and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the eggs and process until the mixture forms a soft dough.
Press two-thirds of the dough into the bottom of the pan. Spread with the lemon curd and then crumble the remaining dough over the curd layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in the pan. Release the sides and remove the cake from the pan - discard the parchment paper. Put the cake on a platter and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.
To serve, ladle some raspberry puree into the center of a dessert plate. Set a piece of the cake on top, put a dollop of whipped cream on the side, and garnish with a few raspberries.
Note: To make the cake by hand, combine the flour and sugar in a medium bowl. Cut in the butter with 2 table knives or a pastry blender until the mixture forms coarse crumbs. Beat the eggs together in a small bowl and pour them over the dry ingredients. Mix with a spatula until blended.
Berry Coulis (Sauce)
Sauces don't have to be complex to taste good, especially when they are made with berries. Most berries are best left uncooked and simply sweetened with a pinch of sugar and enhanced with a few drops of lemon juice. The exceptions to this rule are black currants, wild blueberries, Saskatoon berries, green gooseberries, cranberries, and huckleberries, which all need heat to bring out their flavor, and berries of not-peak-season quality. Simply heat these berries in a saucepan over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, until their juices start to run.
Adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of framboise, cassis, or berry dessert wine to berry sauces intensifies their delectable flavor and complexity even more. Or you can add them to deglaze a pan for a sauce. To order berry dessert wines, contact Hood River Vineyards, 4693 Westwood Drive, Hood River, OR 97031; 514-386-3772; firstname.lastname@example.org
Makes about 1 1/2 cups:
1 pint (2 cups) fresh berries, rinsed and drained, or frozen berries, thawed with juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Put all the ingredients together in a food processor fitted with the steel blade or a blender and puree until smooth. If the berries have large seeds, remove them by pushing the puree through a fine strainer with the back of a spatula. Purees will keep covered for up to a week in the refrigerator.
Note: If you prefer, puree only 1 cup of berries, then carefully stir the remaining cup of whole berries into the puree to finish the sauce.
Variations: Try a combination of berries for an interesting sauce:
1 cup marionberries or other blackberries and 1 cup raspberries, plus a splash of framboise
1 cup boysenberries and 1 cup loganberries
1/2 cup red currants and 11/2 cups raspberries
Hibler is a James Beard award-winning author of five cookbooks and is a contributing writer to "Gourmet", "Food and Wine", and "Bon Appetit" magazines.