Cooking with Summer Fruits & Berries

There are some wonderful fruits and berries in the Market during the summer months such as cherries, raspberries, peaches, and apricots. Apart from eating them with ice cream and making pies with them, can you suggest some ideas to cook with them? 

Answer:

Summer fruits are, in a word, fabulous. As they are, they make wonderful natural desserts with little adornment necessary except perhaps a drizzle of honey and cream if you feel a little decadent.

Of course, from cherries to blackberries to peaches and plums, they are terrific in pies and crumbles. But don’t stop there. With a little imagination, they can also jazz up your salads, add zest to your barbecued entrees, and more. Here are some savoury suggestions to eat your fruits and berries:

 

Strawberries – While I was in Hong Kong last month, I came across an interesting dish which, despite my initial skepticism, turned out to be delicate, elegant, and tasty. It was stir-fried scallops with celery, onions, fresh lily bulbs, and strawberries. The scallops were sea-sweet and lightly salty, the celery segments (peeled, French-fry-sized, blanched) crunchy and savoury, the lily bulbs starchy and mildly sweet, and the strawberries were fragrant and pleasantly tart. For once you want to choose strawberries that are firm and barely ripe, and if you can’t find lily bulbs (ask about them at your favourite Granville Island Market produce vendor) substitute water chestnuts. Start with sliced onions and scallops in a hot oiled wok (about 1 minute), add blanched celery and lily bulbs and toss, and lastly, sliced strawberries. Season with salt and white pepper to taste and garnish with candied walnuts if desired.

Cherries – Cherries are addictive fresh, and thank goodness, they also freeze well. Or, for consenting adults, they are great brandied. I know it’s probably a tad soon to think Christmas, but Roast Duck with Brandied Cherry Green Peppercorn Sauce should be on your I’m-tired-of-turkey-want-to-try-something-else holiday alternative list. Merry Christmas! 

Raspberries and Blackberries etc. – In a salad, these close cousins are striking and add a bright sweet-tartness to the mix. One of my favourite combinations is a herb-mesclun mix with Belgian endive, Granny Smith apples, raspberries or blackberries, and walnuts drizzled with a yoghurt dill dressing.  These aggregate berries also make fabulous summer dressings. Gently pull apart some of the juicy bead-like druplets that make up the berries and fold them gently into a loose vinaigrette made of champagne, cider or white balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, and fresh thyme leaves. Serve this dressing with roasted or grilled chicken and boiled potatoes, or with a mesclun salad and slices of smoked duck. Try the same treatment with the delicious hybrid cousins such as the loganberry, the tayberry and the boysenberry, which should also be available throughout August.

Blueberries - Touted as a "vision fruit" by the Japanese and cited as the No.1 fruit (compared to 40 others) in antioxidant activities by USDA studies, the blueberry has taken the world by storm. Frozen, they will become a staple component of a quickie breakfast smoothie at our house while supplies last. If you are grilling halibut or prawns on the barbie, try making a variation of the classic tomato salsa with blueberries and diced peaches instead. To the blueberries and peaches, add chopped red onions, lime juice, minced jalapeño chili, chopped cilantro, and toss and add salt to taste.

Peaches, Nectarines, Apricots, & Plums – Simple and delicious: Sauté wedges of peeled peaches or nectarines in brown butter with a sprig of rosemary and serve with roast pork au jus. Similarly, cook apricots or prune plums, skin and all, with some minced onions and ginger to make a compote and serve with panko-crusted tonkatsu-style pork cutlets.

I hope you’ll try out some of these savoury notions with fruit and write in to share others you’ve created. Have a berry good summer!

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