Strawberries, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, blueberries — the confluence of summer fruit seasons creates one of the most magical culinary moments of the year.
Here we’ve given them a stage worthy of their glory: as magical toppings for ice cream, that other summer star. With complementary flavors — chocolate for cherries, ginger and cardamom with apricots — and techniques borrowed from many disciplines — a shrub, a chutney, a compote — the gems of orchards and berry patches take on savory elements to transform into something even better, if that’s possible. It is.
Each recipe is simple enough to throw together for a last-minute party dessert and can be made with ingredients on hand. Serve over vanilla ice cream, or experiment with other flavor pairings. Break them out all summer long, while the harvest lasts.
If using fresh ginger instead of crystallized, add some sugar to taste.
1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
Half a small onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped crystalized ginger (or 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger)
1-2 green cardamom pods, husked, seeds crushed
1 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno, optional
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup fresh orange juice
3 large fresh apricots, pitted, chopped (about 2 cups)
½ cup golden raisins
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat; add the onion, seasoning with salt. Sweat until onion softens, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the ginger, cardamom and jalapeno, if using; cook to bring out the flavors, about 2 minutes. Add the cider and orange juice; bring to a simmer. Simmer on low, 5 minutes.
Stir apricots and raisins into the pan; simmer until apricots soften a bit, but retain their shape, 2 to 3 minutes. (Add a little water, if needed, so that you have enough liquid to cook the apricots and the chutney reaches your desired consistency.) Transfer to a bowl to cool; serve warm or at room temperature over ice cream. Leftovers keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a week or so. Use at room temperature or slightly warmed.
Makes 2 cups.
Cherries in mole sauce
⅓ cup jarred mole paste
1 cup water
1-2 tablespoons cherry liqueur, such as maraschino, or brandy, optional
2 cups pitted, halved, dark sweet cherries (about ¾ pound)
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Dissolve the mole paste in the water in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring, until you have a smooth sauce. Add a litte more water as needed. Once dissolved, stir in the liqueur and sugar, if using, until sugar dissolves.
Allow the mole sauce to cool a few minutes; pour over the cherries in a bowl. Stir to coat the cherries; stir in the almonds. Serve warm over ice cream. Keeps, covered, in the refrigerator for about a week; warm gently until smooth and flowing before using.
Makes 3 cups.
Strawberries in balsamic syrup
¾ cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2 cups hulled, chopped strawberries
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh basil leaves, slivered
Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil; lower heat, so that vinegar gently boils. Cook until reduced to ¼ cup, about 20 minutes. It should be thickened but not all the way to a syrup. Stir in the orange zest.
Allow to cool a few minutes; it should retain some heat but no longer be very hot. Pour over the strawberries in a bowl. Stir to coat the berries. Season generously with pepper. Stir in the basil. Serve over ice cream warm or at room temperature; keeps covered in the refrigerator up to a week.
Makes about 2 cups.
Nectarines with candied bacon
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 medium nectarines, pitted, chopped (about 2 cups)
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon (or ½ if you love cinnamon)
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the bacon; cook until fat begins to render, 8-10 minutes. Flip bacon to cook the other side, lowering heat to prevent burning if needed.
When fat is rendered, drain the fat from the skillet. Sprinkle brown sugar over bacon pieces; cook until sugar melts. Transfer to a plate; allow to cool.
Toss the nectarines in a bowl with the bacon; season with pepper and cinnamon to taste. Serve warm over ice cream. Keeps, covered, in the refrigerator for a week. Warm gently before using.
Makes 3 cups.
From “Vinegar Revival” by Harry Rosenblum. Shrubs are acid- and fruit-based beverages taken on their own or used as a base for cocktails. Rosenblum suggests using his blueberry shrub to top his balsamic ice cream. Store-bought vanilla works great, too.
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (there is no need to thaw them if you’re using frozen)
1 cup sugar
2 cups sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Place the berries and the sugar in a clean quart-sized jar with a tight-fitting lid and use a wooden spoon to crush the berries and release their juices. Let the closed jar sit for 4 hours at room temperature.
In a small nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, heat the vinegar to just below boiling (about 200 degrees F), then pour it over the blueberries and sugar. Add the nutmeg, seal the jar and refrigerate overnight or up to 3 days.
Strain out the skins, discard and use the shrub immediately. It will keep tightly sealed in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.
Makes about 1½ cups.