Just like a herd of cats, some of my food stories refuse to take direction.
What began this week, for example, as a “Saucing the Berries of Summer” concept quickly morphed into a “Sweet and Savory” theme. The saucing idea had its merits, but with so many delicious options beyond sweet toppings for lovely fruit, I decided to explore a few.
And as you know, now is definitely the time to do so. Indeed, we’re a lucky lot here in the Pacific Northwest. Our berries are exquisite, plentiful, and affordable. From gigantic loganberries and big fat Spartan blueberries, to elegant raspberries and juicy Marionberries, we’re smack-dab in the middle of berry season.
Which means we’re experiencing the blessing and the curse of it. First, swooping in and tantalizing, then faster than a falling star disappears from the summer sky — poof! — a delectable but fading glow on my mind’s palate.
Let it go, I chant. Just take it a day at a time and enjoy what berries I do have time to bring into the kitchen. There will be more summers to continue the celebration of this wondrous gift of nature.
For now, let’s consider that sweet and savory idea. On the savory side, tangy-sweet berry sauces are a lovely compliment to the foods coming off your summer grill. With fresh albacore and salmon in the market, I’m providing a couple ways to sauce that won’t add a lot of extra fat. Just lots of luscious flavor and color.
Savory berry sauces also work well with pork tenderloin.
For the sweet side of things, I encourage you to experience my pairing of fresh berries and thick, creamy creme brulee (with a twist!). It doesn’t disappoint.
Just get to it, because it’s a fleeting pleasure. Berries of one sort or another will stay around through August.
Savory Berry Sauce with Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Toasted Hazelnuts
Makes 6 servings (about 2½ cups sauce).
2 pork tenderloins
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cups berries: blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries
2 tablespoons butter
Salt to taste
1/3 cup toasted, skinned, and chopped hazelnuts (see note below)
I love grilled pork tenderloin. But in this case, I start the tenderloins off in the skillet then move them to the grill after they’ve produced a bit of tasty juice and cooked on bits of food that are stirred into the sauce — which helps marry the two components.
Season the pork tenderloins with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the tenderloins on all four sides, just until golden; remove the tenderloins from the pan to a platter.
To make the berry sauce: Reduce the heat in the pan. Add the balsamic vinegar and red wine to the pan and cook until reduced by half. Add the broth and reduce by half again, then add the brown sugar, rosemary and berries and simmer for 3 minutes. Strain into a bowl, pushing the cooked fruit through with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Return the sauce to the pan and whisk in the butter. Add additional salt to taste, if necessary.
Set the sauce aside as you finish preparing the tenderloins: Place the browned tenderloins on a pre-heated grill and cook, turning to evenly brown all sides, until cooked to desired degree of doneness. Remove from grill and let the meat rest for several minutes. Slice the tenderloin into ¾- to 1-inch thick slices. Be sure and stir the accumulated meat juices into the sauce.
To serve, spoon a portion of the sauce onto each plate. and arrange several pieces in the center of the sauce on each plate. Sprinkle each serving with some of the hazelnuts.
For the toasted hazelnuts, place 1/3 cup (or more!) raw hazelnut kernels on a baking sheet and place in a 350 degree oven. Toast until the skins begin to crack and the nuts are becoming very fragrant, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Place the hazelnuts in a clean towel, cover, and roll around to remove the skin. Place the nuts back on the baking sheet, then take them outside and blow away any remaining skin. To chop the toasted nuts, place them on a large cutting board and chop with a chef’s knife to desired size.
Foil-Grilled Albacore with Gingered Marionberry Sauce
Serves 4 to 6
2-2½ pounds fresh albacore loin
¼ cup butter, cut into 4 chunks
Combine the albacore and Jan’s Teriyaki Marinade in a dish or re-sealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 3 hours; remove 30 minutes before grilling.
When ready to cook the fish, create a foil pan for the fish that is large enough to surround everything and partially enclose the top. Spread open the foil. Remove the albacore from the marinade and place it in the center of the prepared pan. Pour ½ cup of the marinade over the fish. Pour the remainder of the marinade into a pot, which you will boil before serving.
Distribute the four chunks of butter around the sides of the fish, then snuggle the foil up and around the fish, leaving the top open so the fish will poach but not steam over the grill (or in the oven). Cook over hot coals (or in a 375 degree oven) until the fish is just cooked through, which will take about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on how thick the loin is. Spoon the butter-sauce over of the fish several times during cooking.
For a fresh salmon alternative, choose wild salmon fillets with the skin on. Omit the marinade, but do glug a bit of soy sauce or Kikkoman’s Tempura sauce into the butter before it hits the grill.
Jan’s Teriyaki Marinade
Makes about 2½ cups of sauce; enough marinade for about 2-½ pounds of albacore loin.
1 cup Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce (made by Soy Vay)
½ cup dry sherry or extra-dry vermouth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (my favorite brand is Lee Kum Kee)
1/3 cup extra virgin Olive oil
In a dish or resealable plastic bag large enough to hold the albacore loin, combine the Veri Veri Teriyaki sauce, sherry, lemon juice, chili garlic sauce, and olive oil. May be prepared several days ahead and refrigerated until use.
Gingered Marionberry Sauce
Makes about 1¾ cups sauce
2 cups Marionberries (or other caneberry, such as loganberry or simple blackberry)
¼ cup dry red wine
¼ cup packed golden brown sugar
½ teaspoon grated zest of lemon
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 2-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon butter
This is designed for the Foil-Grilled Albacore with Teriyaki Sauce, but is equally delicious as a side kick to a number of other grilled meats, from pork tenderloin and chicken to salmon, halibut, and sturgeon.
In a medium pot, combine the blackberries, wine, brown sugar, lemon zest, juice, and ginger over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries soften and break down, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool about 10 minutes. Discard the piece of ginger and transfer the berry mixture to a blender or food processor; puree until smooth. Strain the sauce by pressing it through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl, using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon.
Summer Berry Vinaigrette For Your Summer Grill
Makes about 2½ cups
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground (see note below), optional
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (or ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black or white pepper
2 cups fresh blackberries, raspberries, huckleberries, or blueberries
This fruity vinaigrette can be used in an array of game, poultry, or pork dishes as a refreshing alternative to cream- or stock-based sauces.
In a medium bowl, combine the oil, vinegars, fennel, thyme, vanilla, salt, and pepper. Add berries and toss to coat with the vinaigrette. Let stand at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours or cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove the vanilla bean, if using.
For toasted and ground fennel seeds (consider making a batch larger than you need for this recipe): Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Put the seeds in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Toast in the oven for 10 minutes, or until they begin to darken in color, occasionally shaking the pan so the seeds will toast evenly. Remove the seeds from the oven and pour them onto a cool pan.
To crack the seeds, use a large knife. With the wide side of the blade, press down on the seeds. To grind, put them in a spice mill and grind to a powder.
Recipe adapted from “Wildwood,” Cooking from the Source in the Pacific Northwest, by Cory Schreiber.
Gratin of Summer Berries with Poured Brulee
Makes 6 servings
1½ cups heavy cream
3 cups mixed berries or sliced pitted stone fruit such as apricots, peeled peaches, or nectarines
8 large egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Superfine sugar for caramelized topping
This recipe departs from the traditional method for preparing creme brulee. The custard is cooked first, then poured over berries and set in the refrigerator to cool before being sprinkled with sugar and broiled to create a crunchy caramelized topping. The combination of creamy cooked custard and uncooked fresh berries creates a delightful contrast.
Heat the cream in a heavy-bottomed medium-sized saucepan until it just barely begins to boil, then remove immediately and set aside.
Slice any large berries. Place ½ cup of fruit in each of six 6-ounce flameproof gratin dishes. Set aside.
In a double boiler, whisk together the egg yolks with the granulated sugar and salt over simmering water (do not let the water touch the bottom of the pan). Whisk the mixture constantly until it is thick and lemon colored and forms a slowly dissolving ribbon on the surface when the whisk is raised from the pan. Remove the top pan of the double boiler from the heat.
At this point, before you combine the yolk mixture with the cream, temper the eggs by whisking a ladle of the hot cream into the eggs. Keep whisking and repeat with 2 or 3 more ladles of hot cream. Now whisk the tempered egg mixture into the hot cream. Return the mixture to the double and adjust the heat so the water in the lower pan is almost at a simmer and cook the custard, stirring occasionally, for 40 to 45 minutes, or until thick enough to coat a metal spoon without running off. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour the custard over the fruit in the dishes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle each custard evenly with 2 to 3 teaspoons superfine sugar. Place the ramekins 2 inches from the heat source for 2 minutes, or until the sugar has melted and caramelized. (Alternatively, you could simply caramelize the sugar with a blow torch, if that’s what you are used to doing!) Let cool for a few minutes before serving.
Recipe adapted from “Wildwood,” Cooking from the Source in the Pacific Northwest, by Cory Schreiber.
Simple Blueberry Sauce
2 cups fresh (or frozen) blueberries
2-4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
Here’s a simple sauce that will instantly jazz up your favorite cheesecake, your morning waffles, or bowls of ice cream.
In a medium-size saucepan, over medium heat, combine the blueberries with the sugar, lemon juice and water. Gently stir and shake until the sugar has dissolved and the berries are soft, about 5 minutes.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist, and author of “Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit,” and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.