It’s like the berries are showing off. Farmers market blueberries, produce aisle strawberries and backyard blackberries are all an abundance of superlatives right now. The berries are so ripe, so sweet, so colorful and so reasonably priced that I’ve forgiven them for costing $6 per half-pint back in February.
This weekend, I gathered a bag full of berries in anticipation of making cobblers, shortcakes and muffins. While my intentions were good, the new David Sedaris book was better. So I tossed the glorious fruit in my slow cooker; it made a lower-sugar berry coulis while I read in my hammock.
What’s a coulis? It’s similar to a sauce or syrup, made from cooked produce. After the food is cooked, it gets pureed then pushed through a strainer to remove any seeds or lumpy bits. If you are partial to lumpy bits, you won’t get any argument from me. Just skip the strainer step and call it “compote.”
Who makes a berry sauce without refined white sugar? That would be Team Healthy Cooking. A dollop of honey is lightly sweet, not cloying, and allows you to shun the cup of sugar featured in traditional coulis recipes.
Why a slow cooker? Simmering the berries low and slow enhances their natural flavor without heating up the kitchen. Also, the slow cooker requires zero supervision, which happens to be the exact amount of responsibility I desire during lazy hammock days.
Now, if your most pressing question is, “What do you do with berry coulis?,” skip the next paragraph and read on. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
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To make the coulis, choose 6 cups of super-ripe berries that are this close to becoming fuzzy. I like 2 cups of blueberries and 4 cups of strawberries; experiment with your personal favorite combinations. The only hard and fast rule is to cut strawberries into quarters, so that they are approximately the same size as the other berries. This way, they all get along and soften at the same rate. Splashes of vanilla extract and lemon juice round out the flavors, and a little bit of mint tastes as refreshing as lounging around on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Once you’ve cooked, pureed and strained the fruit, you’ll have approximately 3 cups of coulis to play with. Begin your day by using coulis as a healthy alternative to high-sugar jam on whole-wheat English muffins, or as a substitute for synthetic maple syrup on waffles. If you’re a fan of Greek yogurt, assemble a few coulis-yogurt-granola parfaits in glass jars for protein-packed healthy to-go snacks. At night, skip the ice cream and enjoy a scoop of frozen coulis as a sorta-sorbet.
Since this berry coulis is less sweet than most, it partners with savory foods as well. Try a drizzle over a salad as a naturally fat-free dressing. Or combine a spoonful of coulis with a drop of mayonnaise to make an unexpected topper to your turkey sandwich. Need a marinade for your pork tenderloin or boneless chicken breasts? You know what to use. Combine equal parts coulis and olive oil, plus a splash of Champagne vinegar, and marinate the meat in it for 30 minutes before grilling. Coulis will even save the day if you need to bring an appetizer to a potluck; spoon a little over a log of creamy goat cheese and serve with whole-wheat crackers.
The coulis will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator. So you can join me in the Sunday-afternoon coulis-cooking, and enjoy flavorful coulis-kissed meals all week long. A no-work ingredient that makes your workday meals feel fancy? You and the berries can both brag about that.
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