cucina bene: mangia bene (bountiful berries)
The last post was about the farmers’ market, so I thought I would continue the theme since we are now getting into berry season. Berries: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are very popular here in Oregon (as they are everywhere else), and now is the time you start seeing them available for sale at the market. Of course, you can always buy them at the grocery store pretty much year-round, but they are also pretty expensive and pretty tasteless. Frozen berries are a little better and are what I use during the off season. However, because they tend to get mushy when defrosted, I only use them for cooking. We like to eat fresh berries by themselves, in muffins, pancakes/waffles, smoothies, or with our cereal in the morning. We like them in savory sauces with duck, pork, turkey, and chicken; in salads, and we like them in desserts as the main event or as a topping. Berries are packed with nutrition and antioxidants and provide a multitude of benefits to our bodies. How cool is it to eat something that tastes so good and is so good for you?
Before I go on, I must mention a few other berries you may not have known were so: eggplant, peppers, grapes, tomatoes, bananas, melons, and squash. Interesting, huh?
Here in Oregon, you can find blackberries growing alongside the road just about anywhere you go. These are either Evergreen or Himalayan blackberries which are both invasive species; they were introduced here years ago for fruit production and they quickly grew out of control. Their fruit is delicious and tasty, but they take over any area in which they grow, and they are not grown commercially.
We have these bad boys in our yard just like everyone else, but we also have salmonberries which are native to this area and are more like a raspberry. They are salmon colored and have a tart taste. They were a very important berry to the indigenous people in the area as a food source. The berries were eaten with salmon or mixed with fat or roe for a nutritious snack. Today, they are picked by those that have them nearby and processed into jams or jellies for home use only.
I like all berries and as mentioned earlier, I love to cook with them when they are fresh. Blackberries take ribs and chicken to another level when they are in a barbeque sauce; sear-roasted salmon is a perfect match for a raspberry sauce, and salads are much more interesting with strawberries or blueberries added to them along with some goat cheese and toasted nuts. Our 3 year-old pug, Tojo, is a berry loving fiend; he loves all berries, but strawberries are his favorite. His eyes (which are big anyway) get about 3 sizes larger when he sees us eating strawberries. Of course he always gets one or two—how can we say no to this:
Anyway, here is one of my favorite berry sauce recipes from Robert Irvine of the Food Network. It’s for duck, but is delicious on pork, chicken, turkey, or even fish like halibut or salmon. Enjoy berry season; you know Tojo will!!! Buon Appetitio e a presto!