Tuesday, 18 June 2024

The Veggie Girl: Raspberry rhapsody

Some of the delicious raspberries grown at Love Farms on Cobb Mountain. Photo by Esther Oertel.


If I were asked to create my ultimate fantasy meal, raspberries would be prominently featured. The mere thought of such succulent globes of ruby sweetness makes me salivate.

Imagine standing on rich volcanic soil at the base of Cobb Mountain in the midst of lush potato leaves, an array of lettuces and miniature plum trees. It’s an unusually temperate Lake County summer day and the breeze wafts around you. In your view are gently sloping hills, a blue afternoon sky and little puffs of white cloud.

Someone ahead of you turns, offering a bright ripe berry in their outstretched hand. You take it, gratefully, and place it on your tongue. As the berry crushes in your mouth, a grenade of sweet flavor bursts inside your head.

The rest of the afternoon you can’t stop thinking of the rare taste of that fresh plucked berry.

That was me on Monday at Love Farms, where it took quite a bit of self control to refrain from picking the dozens – if not hundreds – of raspberries I passed after Teale Love handed me that fateful first berry.

Oh yes, we moved on and talked about his lettuces, fruit trees and chickens, but I couldn’t stop thinking about those incredible raspberries. So here I am, days later, with raspberries on my mind. Thankfully, I can write about them for you.

The Love Farms raspberries will last another few weeks. If, like me, you’re in the mood for some, be sure to visit his booth early on farmers’ market days. He’ll be in Lakeport’s Library Park Wednesday evening and at Kelseyville’s Steele Winery Saturday morning.

Eat some for me – please! – and put me out of my raspberry induced misery.

This seemingly simple berry is a powerhouse of antioxidants. They’re also packed full of folic acid, vitamin C, B vitamins and dietary fiber, among other nutrients.

Research shows that raspberries possess almost 50 percent higher antioxidant activity than strawberries, three times that of kiwis, and 10 times the antioxidant activity of tomatoes, each of which are themselves a good source of antioxidants.

If antioxidants can be described as shields against the free radicals that cause damage to our cells, then raspberries are mighty strong warriors wielding them!

Berries, including raspberries, are increasingly viewed as having a profound impact against the diseases of aging, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, macular degeneration and age-related mental decline.

If you eat an apple a day to keep the doctor away, it would be prudent to consider including a bowl of raspberries in your daily regimen, as well.

An individual raspberry is actually a group of little fruits (also called drupelets), each bearing seeds. The seeds provide most of the fiber in raspberries, which are rightly considered a fiber dense fruit, as over 30 percent of our daily requirement for fiber is contained in a mere cup of them.

And they are every bit as tasty as they are healthy!

There is no more perfect way, in my humble opinion, to eat raspberries than fresh out of hand. Having said that, I concede that raspberries are a delicious addition to many recipes.

When I was a girl, our family restaurant served peach melba, a popular dessert at the time. Vanilla ice was topped by peaches, which, in turn, were topped by raspberry sauce.

A simple fresh raspberry sauce is a wonderful tool to have in your dessert arsenal. Below I share a recipe for raspberry coulis made with fresh berries. (“Coulis” is a French word for sauce or puree, and is pronounced cool-LEE.)

Since raspberries pair well with chocolate (both dark and white), imagine this fragrant, delicious sauce draped over vanilla ice cream on a chocolate brownie, or over a white chocolate mousse or cheesecake.

As a culinary aside, when making your mousse or cheesecake, it is important to use real white chocolate, which is made with cocoa butter. Cheap imitations contain no cocoa products and use hydrogenated oils or palm oil instead. It may look like a similar product, but the flavor and texture is not the same.

Almonds also pair well with raspberries; hence a perfect trio of flavor is created when raspberry coulis is drizzled over a chocolate-almond torte or a chocolate mousse flavored with a bit of almond extract.

An alternative is to flavor whipped cream with almond extract and top the mousse and coulis with it, then finish the dish with slivered almonds.

Lemon is another happy match for raspberries, and the coulis is delicious over lemon cheesecake or a lemony custard.

A summertime take on traditional peach melba is to spread fresh peach halves with a mixture of melted butter and brown sugar and grill them. Then create your dessert using the grilled peaches.

Fresh raspberries freeze well and can be used to make a raspberry granita. (Granita is the Italian version of ice or sorbet and generally has large, crunchy crystals.)

Use about 1 ½ pints (roughly 12 ounces) raspberries that have been frozen fresh. In a blender or food processor, blend with sugar, honey or agave syrup to taste, about half a cup juice (such as cranberry-raspberry) and the zest and juice of a lemon.

Place mixture in a zipper-sealed bag and lay it flat in the freezer. Every 30 minutes or so until granita is completely frozen, squeeze the bag to break up large ice crystals.

Break up mixture a bit with a fork before serving this rustic-looking, refreshing summertime dessert.

What about dishes other than dessert?

Try fresh raspberries in a salad with butter lettuce, grapefruit sections, watercress or arugula and avocado. Top with a drizzle of sweet vinegar and mild oil.

Brush chicken or pork with a raspberry glaze the last 15 minutes it’s on the grill. To make a sweet-tart glaze, heat fresh raspberries with vinegar, water, diced shallots, brown sugar, dry mustard, a few grinds of black pepper and salt to taste. Simmer until the shallots are tender, about 15 minutes.

Or make a raspberry salsa by adding jicama, apples, jalapeno peppers, green onions, raspberry vinegar and grated ginger to fresh raspberries for sweet-spicy-tangy accompaniment to meats, fresh fruit and cheese.

Doesn’t a cold fruit soup sound refreshing for a hot Lake County summer day? To make a simple soup with fresh raspberries, heat them with a bit of water, honey to taste, lemon zest and a cinnamon stick until barely hot. Add sliced fresh peaches and other fruit as desired, such as pineapple or apple, and chill until cool. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or crème fraiche.

If I’m placing my order for my ultimate meal, in addition to all those wonderful fresh raspberries, I’d choose grilled wild salmon, asparagus, garlic mashed potatoes and my mother’s chocolate mousse. How about you?

On a personal note, I’ll be doing a culinary demo at the farmers’ market at Clearlake’s Redbud Park this Friday, July 2 (watch for me near the Lake County Community Co-op booth), and I’ll be teaching on the culinary uses of lavender at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake on Sunday afternoon, July 11.

Raspberry coulis

Makes about 1 cup

2 cups fresh raspberries (when out of season, frozen will do)

½ cup sugar

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring berries and sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until mixture starts to thicken, about 15 minutes.

Press mixture through a fine-mesh strainer, using a spatula to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard seeds and skins. Stir in 1 tbsp lemon juice.

Taste and add more lemon juice or sugar, if desired.

Coulis may be served warm or at room temperature.

Esther Oertel, the "Veggie Girl," is a personal chef and culinary coach and is passionate about local produce. Oertel owns The SageCoach Personal Chef Service and teaches culinary classes at Chic Le Chef in Hidden Valley Lake. She welcomes your questions and comments; e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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