We made it over to Bayfield to go raspberry picking a couple weeks ago (I can’t believe that was already a couple weeks ago. Oi.). The fruit farms along the south shore of Lake Superior produce spectacular berries and apples – it’s a completely different climate than here on the north shore – and this year seems to be particularly good for berries. The raspberry and blueberry bushes were dripping with fruit. I often say (maybe a little too often; I’m developing a habit of repeating myself) that I must have a strong gatherer gene. No hunter, all gatherer here! I can’t walk or run (or even bike or very nearly even drive for that matter) past a berry bush laden with ripe berries and not pause to grab a few. Plunked into the middle of a berry patch, I find it hard to stop picking. There’s always just one more beautiful berry, just one more arm’s length away that absolutely has to be picked.
Now as I think about it though, I wonder how much of it is gathering instinct and how much of it is quite simply that I love to stuff my face – unceremoniously, vigorously, messily, juicily, unrelentingly, as fast as possible barely stopping to breath – with perfectly fresh berries. I just love berries.
Espen seems to have the same predilection. It was impossible to get anything picked with him there because he was on patrol, crawling freakishly fast (he’s like a little monkey child!) up and down the rows of raspberry bushes just waiting, waiting for you to set down the container you were putting berries into, and then he’d pounce. Red-berry-stained-mouth-lightening-baby! and grab all the berries in the container by the fistful and shove them into his mouth, eyes gleaming. So, you had to pick without ever setting down your container.
Normally, I’d be jamming berries into my mouth just as fast as my baby-child, except this was a work trip, and we were picking raspberries to go into an experimental gin infusion. I wanted to eat the flats of berries so badly (raspberries are my FAVORITE berry). And, I did steal a heaping cupful to bake a mini schlumpf. But, most of them went into gin. BIG BUMMER! (Until said gin is ready, and then I have a feeling it will be the opposite of a big bummer.) Fear not, however, for after that berry picking excursion, I made a point of buying many, many pints of raspberries for personal use. Espen and I have been fighting over them. If I try to sneak a few as a snack, he starts bouncing up and down and waving, and then points emphatically at the berry I’m trying to hide in my hand and yells, “Dat! Dat!” until I give him some of his own. We make for a gluttonous pair. Poor Joel has only gotten to eat, like, 5 raspberries.
Anyway, apart from eating them by the handful, I’ve been putting the berries to use in a number of ways, and I wanted to share two of my favorites. First this tart, which I made as a breakfast tart, but which could also make for a beautiful, light summer dessert. I had seen this pecan crust a year or two ago and filed it away in my mind as something that seemed promising, but I wasn’t completely certain it would work. However, I decided to give it a try, and its resemblance to the all-nut granola I like to make, inspired me to take a page from the granola book. So, I topped the tart base with a layer of thick, tangy yogurt and fresh berries. I expected it to be pretty good, but it blew my expectations away. I absolutely loved it. Something about the barely sweet, toasty sturdiness of the crust against the luscious, creamy bed of yogurt, and the juicy sweet berries. It all came together to taste far more complex and integrated than it has any right to taste given how very simple it really is (five ingredients people! Only five!). It’s a total keeper. I can’t stop feeling terribly pleased with myself.
What’s even better, is that with no sweetener other than a smidge of honey in the crust, the tart is actually secretly quite healthy too (that’s why I thought it made a completely respectable breakfast). I say secretly because it doesn’t taste like a dessert that was made to be healthy, it just tastes like a wonderful summer treat. But it happens to be healthy! Which is the best. As my friend Marian said, it makes me want to ‘make one and then hug it and then it eat it and it will be squished because I hugged it but I bet it will still taste just as good.’ So there you go.
- 1½ cup raw pecans
- 1 to 2 tablespoon honey
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold, cut into small chunks
- 1 cup (approximately) Greek yogurt (preferably full-fat) -- I think mascarpone cheese would also be yummy
- 2 pints or so fresh raspberries (you could also use other berries, or sliced stone fruit - peaches!!!)
- Heat your oven to 400° F. Put the pecans in a food processor and pulse until you have a coarse, crumbly meal, making sure to stop before you blend it into a nut butter! Transfer the pecans to a bowl and blend in the honey -- I use my fingers -- then rub the chunks of butter in with your fingers. Press this mixture into a 9-inch round tart pan - it will fill the bottom but not really come up the sides - and put the pan on top of a rimmed baking sheet to catch any oil that may leak out as it bakes.
- Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes, until browned and toasty. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
- Then, spread the yogurt into the crust and top with berries. You can serve immediately or keep the tart, covered, in the fridge for a few days, though the crust will become more fragile as it sits because it will absorb moisture from the yogurt. But it still tastes great!
Next up is a cocktail. I call this the Happily Ever After because I made it up for the wedding of a friend’s sister. When it comes down to it, it’s really just a French 75 with raspberries muddled into it. But, a French 75 is one of those truly perfect cocktails, balancing the punch of gin with the levity of bubbles, followed by a bit of sugar and lemon to turn the drink into a real party. The addition of raspberries, then, makes it fruity and pink! And pink changes everything. For the better, of course! The jammy berries give the drink additional perkiness and charm. It’s the manic pixie dream girl of cocktails, swooping in to liven you up and give you a new lease on life. Yes, there are some days when you feel swarthy and brooding and you need to a sip a Scotch. But there are other days – let’s call them Thursdays. And also August. – when you need bubbly and you need pink. That’s when The Happily Ever After will be happily there to help you out.
Happily Ever After Cocktail
- 3-4 fresh raspberries
- 1 oz. gin
- 1/2 oz. simple syrup
- 1/2 oz lemon juice
- a dry sparkling wine like Prosecco or Brut Champagne
- Gently crush the raspberries in the bottom of a champagne glass or other wine glass. Add the gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice and stir. Then, top with chilled sparkling wine to taste. Cheers!