Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Way It Is

That’s just the way it is this time of year. All of the writers of cooking magazines and blogs are bragging about their fresh spring produce. Going on and on about their mounds of asparagus and fields of rhubarb and passels of peas. Stop, please, you’re hurting my feelings. None of that is here yet. Spring works differently in Minnesota. It comes later, politely allowing winter to linger around keeping those early edibles from growing. We’re lulled into the disappointment on which we were raised and try not to resent all those people in more hospitable climes with spring vegetables and fruits before the month of June. That is until the day the temperature jumps to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and all we can do is wonder what the hell is going on!

Anyway, when it suddenly feels like summer, I don’t want to be left behind the rest of the food world, eating desserts made from the squash puree I still have in the freezer from last fall. Cool things and perky fruits are in order, at least until the weather cycles itself back to something more normal. And so I gave up on hoping for local or preserved foods to fill that niche and made a blackberry sauce.

I used frozen berries to make this sauce, which are usually of good quality even if they have to be shipped and held frozen for a long time before I can get them. I’m sure you could use fresh blackberries, but I don’t really want to hear about it if you do.

This pleasantly tart and fabulously delicious blackberry sauce is very simple to make. I based it on a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine taking an added flavor suggestion, namely the lime, from this recipe at smitten kitchen. Lemon with berries is great, giving them a bit of a lift in flavor, but lime adds another flavor dimension entirely. In this blackberry sauce, you can really taste the lime, which is brought to you by both lime juice and a bit of zest (removed with a Microplane grater). I also added a splash of vanilla extract, which adds another level of subtle complexity, allowing a hint of a suggestion of key lime pie. It also gives the sauce an even greater affinity for vanilla ice cream.

I’m pretty excited about this sauce (far more excited than I am about the unseasonable heat and humidity) and can’t wait to try it on just about everything. It really is amazing on vanilla ice cream and we blissfully ate it on our pancakes this morning. I’m also thinking of stirring it into yogurt or maybe making some pound cake, just to have something else on which to pour it. I have another bag of blackberries in the freezer, so I could keep going. I also think this same recipe/method is going to be great with other frozen berries, or fresh ones. I’ll just have to dream about the really fresh ones for a while, though, and envy those of you who already have them growing in the tropical jungles around you. I’m sure you’re going to keep rubbing it in. That’s just the way it is.

Blackberry Sauce with Lime and Vanilla
Fresh berries can probably be used to make this sauce. Just adjust the cooking to eliminate thawing time.

12 ounces frozen blackberries
1/3 cup sugar or to taste
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
¼ teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon lime juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch and water. Stir until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Set aside. Combine the blackberries and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the berries have thawed and given off some liquid and the sugar has dissolved.

2. When the berries have thawed and softened, mash them coarsely with a potato masher. Increase the heat to medium. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

3. Stir the cornstarch mixture into the berry mixture. Return to a boil and cook 30 seconds to 1 minute or until the mixture thickens slightly.

4. Remove from the heat and stir in the lime zest and juice and the vanilla extract. Cool to room temperature or chill.

Makes about 1 ½ cups. Refrigerate leftovers for a few days.

Other recipes like this one: Rhubarb Compote with Brown Sugar and Vanilla Bean, Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce

One year ago: Homemade Seitan

Two years ago: Grilled Potatoes with Lime-Herb Dipping Sauce

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