Some children have their childhood memories of sleepovers with favorite friends. Others fondly recall softball games, or holidays, or family pets. For me, it was berries.
When I was small, my grandmothers would send my cousins and me out with big plastic pails to collect wild berries from the brambly patches surrounding the farm. Our reward: the rich, impossibly fragrant cobblers they’d bake for Sunday dinner. We would come home hours later, lugging our juicy cargo, our mouths and fingers stained purple from eating as many berries as we put in our pails. To this day, I can’t eat a berry without remembering those hot summer days in North Carolina, eating those sun-warmed fruits as fast as our little fingers could pick them.
Of course, back then it was of no consequence to me that berries are loaded with heart-protective antioxidants, or that they’re high in fiber and low on the glycemic index. Blueberries in particular protect the eyes and brain, and help regulate blood sugar.
But none of that mattered to me then and, truth be told, it’s only a small reason I’m still wild for berries. You will be, too, when you try these recipes.
Blueberry-Coconut Ice Cream
Makes about two pints
For a lighter, sorbet version, swap 1/3 cup white grape juice and the juice of one large lemon for the coconut milk. Or substitute strawberries for the blueberries in this recipe. You can also use honey or agave instead of sugar, but the sugar helps the ice cream freeze to a finer texture.
1 1/3 cups coconut milk
1/3 cup coconut sugar
4 cups fresh blueberries (reserve 1/2 cup for garnish)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Toasted unsweetened coconut flakes for garnish
Fresh mint leaves for garnish
1. Combine coconut milk and 3 1/2 cups of the blueberries in a food processor, and puree until smooth. Add salt to blueberry mixture and pulse to combine. Pour into a prepared ice cream maker canister, and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions.
2. To serve, place one scoop of ice cream in each serving dish and garnish with remaining blueberries, coconut flakes and mint leaves. Serve immediately.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
Serve this sweet and spicy salsa as a side with homemade chips, or add a small amount of olive oil to thin for a fresh, fruity dressing.
1 small serrano pepper, seeded and finely minced
3/4 cup blueberries, chopped small
1/2 cup coarsely chopped strawberries, raspberries and/or blackberries
1/4 cup minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1. In a small bowl, combine serrano pepper, blueberries, mixed berries, onion, cilantro and lime juice. Stir to mix, mashing some berries against the side of the bowl to crush them. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Serve immediately, or let chill for 1 hour before serving. Store in a glass jar, refrigerated, for up to five days.
Vegan Almond-Berry Tarts
Makes six 4-inch tarts
This creamy filling is completely dairy free, but as rich and lush as a traditional custard. You can make a more standard, glossy-berry topping for these lovely little treats by mixing berry preserves with a bit of water, heating until warm, and brushing over the tops.
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup almond flour (not almond meal)
1/3 cup turbinado sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 cup vegan shortening, cold
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 tablespoons raw, unfiltered honey
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1 pint blueberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease six 4-inch tart pans with vegan shortening.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar and salt. Working quickly, cut shortening into flour until the mixture resembles very coarse corn meal. Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time until mixture forms a dough.
3. Divide dough into 6 pieces about the size of ping-pong balls, and roll into circles. Arrange on a plate and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Press each circle of dough into a tart pan. Prick bottoms of crust 4 or 5 times with a fork, place in oven, and bake for 15 minutes, or until just golden. Remove from oven and let cool.
4. While tarts are baking, combine coconut milk, vanilla bean and honey in a small pan. Warm over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until milk is infused with vanilla bean and slightly thickened.
5. In a small bowl, combine arrowroot with 2 tablespoons of cold water and stir until completely dissolved.
6. Remove vanilla bean from milk, and slowly whisk in arrowroot. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 7 minutes longer, or until very thick.
7. Pour custard into tart shells and let stand at room temperature to cool. Arrange berries on top, sprinkle with almonds, and refrigerate for 1 hour; serve cold.