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They are the sweet juicy flavors of a Northwest summer, but blackberries, raspberries and blueberries don't have to be relegated to just desserts. Berries can also be the start of great sauces, relishes or glazes that can complement many meat and seafood dishes or elevate a simple grilled burger to new heights of summery goodness.
"The balance of acid and sugar in berries works well for savory dishes," says Bob Neroni of EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School. Most berry sauce recipes balance sweet berries with vinegar, lemon juice or red wine. Recently, Neroni topped a pulled pork sandwich with blackberry catsup. His catsup is sweetened with pure maple syrup and uses a cider vinegar to balance the sweetness.
Another option Neroni recommends for grilled meats is a blueberry and balsamic reduction. For smoked salmon he creates a loganberry and red onion relish with toasted hazelnuts. A red wine blackberry sauce can pair with pork, duck or salmon. Chef Bill Pappas at JP's in Cannon Beach uses berries in dishes including a hazelnut-encrusted halibut with a raspberry cream sauce and a Marionberry whiskey barbecue sauce for duck.
The sweetness of berries can also be balanced with onion and tomato to create salsa or relish as a topping for seafood or chicken. If you'd like to spice it up, you can combine berries with chipotle, jalapeno or red pepper flakes to create a sauce or glaze for grilled meats.
Executive Chef Sharon Wiest at the Lincoln City Culinary Center has already been using a lot of Oregon berries the last few months. "I keep boxes in my freezer of individually quick frozen Marionberries, raspberries, and a blend," she says. "They are frozen at the peak of ripeness, and are fabulous."
One recipe she enjoys for salmon, pork or chicken includes a Marionberry mojito sauce that combines Marionberries with lime juice, white rum, club soda and mint. Weist conducts a class on "Oregon Berries" at the Lincoln City Culinary Center.
Got a flavor combination you'd like to try? Many websites offer berry recipes and an internet search will offer an abundance of ideas. The "Northwest Berry Cookbook" by Kathleen Desmond Stang offers 42 recipes (Sasquatch Books).