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Raspberries

Fresh, plump raspberries are so abundant in the summer that sometimes it’s hard to know what to do with them. They’re fabulous fresh from the garden, of course, and always lovely in desserts and jams, but they can also add unexpected spark and complexity to savory foods — from salads to BBQ ribs. Resplendent in vibrant red (and equally gorgeous in their exotic black, yellow, orange, purple and white varieties), raspberries bring an artful, delicate touch to all kinds of dishes. Read on for ways to enjoy them now, at the height of their season, as well as how to creatively preserve the big harvest, so you can continue to enjoy raspberries’ vibrant gifts during the colder months to come.

Quick and Easy

  • Breakfast Bowl: Top a big handful of raspberries with nuts, dried fruit, shaved coconut and chia seeds. Then add your choice of milk, such as coconut, hemp, almond or rice. A great alternative to breakfast cereal.
  • Vinaigrette:  Blend together 1/2 cup raspberries, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Great over salad greens topped with toasted walnuts and chèvre. (For more salad dressing options, see the upcoming September issue.)
  • Syrup: Combine 3/4 cup raspberries with 2 tablespoons honey, and cook until soft, then mash and strain through a fine sieve. Add desired amount of chilled syrup to fizzy water to flavor and make your own natural soda drinks. And try drizzled over whole-grain pancakes, oatmeal or tart fruit desserts.
  • Infused Vinegar: Add a handful of fresh raspberries (and a sprig of thyme, if you like) to a bottle of white wine vinegar. Steep for a few days and enjoy on salads or braised greens.
  •  Coulis: Cook 11/2 cups raspberries with 1/2 cup white wine or apple juice. Flavor with 1 tablespoon grated fresh gingerroot or 1 teaspoon grated citrus zest, if you like. When the raspberries are soft, purée the mixture, and strain through a fine sieve to remove the seeds. Serve the velvety sauce over ice cream, in a yogurt parfait, or with chèvre or other cheeses
  • Frozen Fruit Pops: Blend 2 cups raspberries with two bananas in a food processor or blender. The mixture should be thick enough to support a wooden craft stick (if not, add a little more banana). Add a handful of blueberries for playful polka dots. Freeze in ice-pop forms or small paper cups until firm.

Nutrition Know-How

  • Dark berries, including raspberries, are a good source of phytonutrients and antioxidants, including ellagic acid, a tannin that helps prevent cell damage from free radicals and slows tumor growth.
  • Anthocyanins, the flavonoids that give red raspberries their color, contribute to fresh and frozen berries’ high antioxidant level. There are notably fewer anthocyanins in processed raspberry products, including jams. (Freezing raspberries doesn’t significantly affect their antioxidant properties, but it does reduce their plentiful vitamin C by half.)
  • Anthocyanins also help prohibit too much growth of certain bacteria and fungi in the body, like Candida albicans, which can contribute to irritable bowel syndrome and vaginal infections.
  • Raspberries are an excellent source of fiber, and because they rank low on the glycemic index, they’re a good fruit option for those managing their blood-sugar levels.

Kitchen Tricks

  • Freeze an abundant crop of berries in a single layer on a sheet tray, and then transfer to an airtight freezer container. This helps berries freeze separately and keeps them from getting squashed.
  • For best results when straining puréed raspberries, don’t just press the purée through a sieve — the seeds will clog the holes. Instead, tap the edges of the sieve until most of the mixture passes through. Then squish.

Shopping and Storage Tips

  • When purchasing, select plump, brightly colored berries. Remove any moldy or soft ones so they don’t contaminate the others.
  • Raspberries rarely keep well for more than a few days. They’ll do best in a moisture-proof container (preferably in single layers between paper towels) in the refrigerator. Wash berries right before eating.
  • To keep raspberries fresh longer, swish them in a basin filled with a solution of three parts water to one part vinegar. Drain, pat dry and store in the paper-towel-lined container in the refrigerator.

Recipes

Raspberry-Ginger BBQ Sauce

This sweet, tangy, smoky sauce is terrific brushed on grilled meat or vegetables.

steak with raspberry bbq sauce

Makes | about 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  •   2 cups fresh raspberries
  •   2 tbs. chopped fresh gingerroot
  •   1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  •   2 tbs. adobo sauce
  •   2 tbs. honey
  •   3 tbs. molasses
  •   1/4 cup minced onion

Directions

  1. Simmer all ingredients together in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and spattering. Cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, until BBQ sauce is slightly thickened.
  2. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Raspberry Arugula Salad

Dressed with a tarragon vinaigrette, this makes a wonderfully refreshing light lunch or first course.

raspberry salad

Serves | four

Salad

  • 4 cups arugula
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 2 cups sliced cucumber
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds

Vinaigrette

  • 3 tbs. sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar (or raspberry vinegar)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon
  • 5 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together. Toss with salad ingredients in a large bowl and serve.

Raspberry Crisp

Luscious raspberries and plums are topped with a crunchy crumble of oatmeal, pecans and brown sugar. Other types of fruit, such as apples, peaches and nectarines, also work well in this recipe. Try subbing in maple syrup for the brown sugar. 

raspberry crisp

Serves | four

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh raspberries
  •  4 medium plums, pitted and cut into chunks, about 3 cups
  •  2 tsp. potato starch
  •  Zest and juice of one lemon
  •  2 tbs. honey

Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (not quick-cooking oats), divided
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbs. butter or coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

Directions

  1. Toss the raspberries and plums with the potato starch, lemon zest, lemon juice and honey, and spread into a 1-quart baking dish or pie plate.
  2. In a food processor, blend 1 cup rolled oats with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter until it can be compressed into a crumble. Pulse in the pecans and gently stir in the remaining 1/2-cup rolled oats.
  3. Spoon topping over the fruit and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes.
  4. Serve warm or at room temperature and top with crème fraîche, whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

Smoothie

Tart and sweet, raspberries, whether fresh or frozen, are the perfect fruit for smoothies. Enjoy this basic recipe and experiment with your own favorite flavor combinations. 

raspberry smoothie in a glass

Makes | 32 ounces, or two 16-ounce servings

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. raspberries
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or milk or other milk alternative)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs. tahini

Directions

  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately.
  2. Try variations by using different juices or other liquids, such as coconut water or kefir. A banana can be added for a thicker smoothie. The tahini is added to keep the smoothie from separating while you drink it, but if you have a nut allergy, it can be made without it. Frozen fruits will make a thicker smoothie, so if you have trouble blending because of the thickness, add a bit more juice.

Savoring Summer’s Bounty

Chef Lenny Russo of Heartland Restaurant in St. Paul, Minn., is known for buying direct from local producers and incorporating fresh, distinctive flavors into his ever-changing menu. And when farmers are producing more high-quality product than he can serve up to diners, Russo knows exactly what to do with the bounty.

“Part of our protocol is to preserve as much as we possibly can during the season,” he says. So Russo and his crew routinely can, freeze or dehydrate produce to incorporate into their dishes during the winter months. They also sell a variety of house-made and frozen goods at the restaurant’s adjacent Farm Direct Market.

“Raspberries have such a long season,” says Russo. “We serve them fresh all summer and fall, and preserve them for the winter.” We talked with Russo about buying local and making the most of summer’s big raspberry harvest.

EL: You’ve been buying from local farmers, ranchers and fishermen for nearly 40 years. Why? 

LR: I like to know where the product comes from. I have certain standards — not just for quality, but for sustainability. I’m a firm believer in keeping as much of the money in the local and regional economy as possible. And I like to connect closely with the source, to talk to the farmer who is growing the raspberries or the artisan who is making the cheese or the rancher who is raising the beef.

EL: How do these relationships influence the way you cook?

LR: The farm drives the menu seasonally, and we change the menu every day based on what the farms bring us. It’s a more traditional way of determining what you’re going to put on your menu that evening.

EL: What are some of your favorite ways to use raspberries?

LR: Eating them fresh is really one of my favorites. And, raspberries are one of the easiest fruits to eat locally. During raspberry season, which is May to November, they are all over the menu in a variety of ways. We infuse vinegar with raspberries. We make sorbets. We pack raspberries in a light syrup as a more healthful topping to a dessert, such as ice cream. We add them to sauces, usually for poultry or pork. The key, of course, is to purée the raspberries, strain out the seeds, and add the purée at the end when you’re making the sauce so that you can maintain the flavor, and the sauce doesn’t turn completely brown on you. We also use the raspberries we preserve in jams and condiments throughout the year. Ketchup, for example, is actually a fruit sauce — that means any fruit, not necessarily tomato. It could be plum, apricot or raspberry. Raspberries can also make their way into our mustard. We grind mustard seed and infuse it with fruit.

EL: What are some flavors or foods that go well with raspberries? 

LR: Tarragon, thyme, basil, fennel and white-wine vinegar are all flavors that pair very well with raspberries. Raspberries are pretty versatile and also complement a variety of grains, proteins and greens; they do particularly well with bitter greens, such as frisée and radicchio, and spicy greens, such as arugula and watercress. So don’t be shy about experimenting.

All of these recipes were created by Betsy Nelson (a.k.a. “That Food Girl”), a Minneapolis-based food stylist and recipe developer.

This article originally appeared as “Berries With Benefits” in the July/August 2012 issue of Experience Life.

Photography by: Terry Brennan; Food Styling by: Betsy Nelson

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