Pushing past June beetles and prickly stems, berry picking is done of love, a tedious process. One in the mouth, one for the basket. As it should be. Just like that, no washing.
It’s a crime to eat fresh berries any other way but unaffected, straight out of the garden.
But should an abundance of summer berries become your windfall, a sorbet is a preparation that will render a juicy, tongue stained pardon from the judge.
Any combination of the four radiant jewels – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries or strawberries – will work here. The beauty of this method is that it leaves the berries in their raw state, conserving their glow bestowing nutrients in a fun, chilly way.
The presentation can be altered to please you: a classic sorbet scooped into beautiful glass dishes or frozen in any size and shape of Popsicle mold. And truth be told, the base for the sorbet could be shaken with ice and your favorite spirit and then strained into a martini glass. It’s summer. All things are possible.
Any discussion of a berry recipe brings up the issue of seeds, which inspires all kinds of reactions. Yes, the seeds are such an important part of the nutritious profile of berries. Especially the ones with hardier seeds: the blackberry and raspberry. Some feel strongly that it is wasteful and irresponsible to strain them out. But others aren’t able to get past the granulated mouth feel the seeds contribute to an otherwise smooth experience. This recipe suggests a compromise. But please skip the straining step if you feel it best.
If you are missing one or more type of berry, substitute more of another. Any single variety can stand alone in this recipe as well. And don’t get too caught up with the measurements. More or less of this or that berry is okay.
The seeds are going to be strained from the blackberries and raspberries, so start by blending them together. In a blender process the blackberries and raspberries until they are a smooth puree. If your blender stalls and won’t process the fibrous berries, add one tablespoon of cold water at a time until the blades get moving.
Pass the puree through a fine mesh strainer into a mixing bowl, pushing out all of the fruit liquid and leaving the seeds behind. Discard the seeds and set the puree aside while you move on to the other berries.
Give your blender a quick rinse and put in the strawberries and blueberries. At this point, add the ginger as well. Again, process until smooth. Without straining these berries, add them to the blackberry – raspberry mixture.
Whisk in the lemon zest and lemon juice, the vanilla and seeds, if using and then on to the sweetener. Agave is recommended, but honey would be fine too.
The sweetness of a berry is unpredictable. That’s part of its charm. Something that looks so juicy can fool. So begin with the least amount of agave. Then taste. Add more sweetener to your satisfaction. With high citrus and warm vanilla, this sorbet can stand without being overly sweet. Follow your palate.
Choose your medium: a commercial ice cream maker to process the berries into a sorbet or Popsicle molds. Or, with spiced rum…..
2 cups each of strawberries (capped and quartered), blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. If you are missing any of the four, add more of the others
One quarter inch of fresh ginger, peeled
One quarter to half a cup raw, organic agave
One whole lemon, zested and then cut in half
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
One quarter inch vanilla pod scraped of seeds, optional
Process all of the ingredients, except the vanilla seeds and lemon zest, together in a blender. Strain out the seeds, if you desire. Then add in the vanilla seeds and lemon zest. Taste and add more agave if you like.
Freeze in a commercial ice cream machine per the manufacturer’s directions or pour into popsicle molds.
Twice a year, I pack my car full to the ceiling and drive three hours to cook for a yoga retreat deep in the woods of Kentucky. The kitchen - my station for the weekend - overlooks an expansive lake, although its view is mostly blocked by thousands of huge trees. Little streaks of blue peek through the green leaves; more or less, depending on the season. Late fall means more visibility of the water. Although I love the fullness of the oaks, maples and birches in late spring just as much.
I watch hawks circle above the tree line while I chop vegetables and listen to the group of 20 or so women practicing in the great room that’s open to the kitchen.
Cooking is a form of meditation for me, no matter the location or kitchen. But in this scenario, everything I love about it is amplified.
There is a rhythm I fall into that is as restorative for me as the asanas are for the yoginis. The openness of the kitchen to the living-room-turned-studio obliges me to tune into the tempo of their practice. When they are in meditation, I move slower, more deliberate. I am quiet. This is not the time to load the dishwasher or do heavy chopping. I save those tasks for the active part of the practice. I can bang around a little when they’re up doing headstands and backbends.
Being tuned into the pace of their practice becomes my own practice. As I work, I listen to the teachers’ lesson for the day. Whether she’s talking about the history of the goddess or the secret life of trees, I listen along and sometimes stop to take a note.
I am at perfect peace there; and laugh when the women express their guilt that I am working while they relax. They don’t understand: this is how I relax.
The yoginis always want this chocolate pepita bark on retreat. That's fine with me. It's super easy, requiring only two ingredients, not counting the sea salt or any other little exotic garnishes. Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest foods on the planet, full of phytonutrients, minerals and fiber. (Research here.)
But no doubt it's the crunch + chocolate + salt factor that makes these non- negotiable for the weekend's menu.
There are countless types of chocolate you can melt to drizzle over the toasted seeds. I suggest a semi sweet chocolate chip of your choice. I love the Enjoy Life brand of chocolate chips: they’re soy, gluten and dairy free. The also have a dark and milk chocolate version.
Buy raw pumpkin seeds and toast them yourself. That gives you total control over the level of crunch. I love to let them go almost to the edge of burnt. They pop as they roast. You could just as well leave them raw, if you like.
Notice the chips on the right side of the bowl. When all the chocolate has turned that lighter shade, then you can stir.
½ pound raw pumpkin seeds
12 ounces vegan or regular semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spray the paper lightly with olive oil pan spray.
Spread half a pound of raw pumpkin seeds out evenly, in a single layer as much as possible.
Toast for 12 to 15 minutes until they start to brown.
Let them cool down but make sure they stay evenly spread over the pan. Gently shake the pan to redistribute them, if need be.
In a sauce pan that comfortably fits a stainless steel or glass bowl, bring an inch or so of water to boil. You could also use a double boiler here, if you possess one.
Spread the chocolate chips out in the bowl in a single layer and set over the water. Leave the chocolate undisturbed until every last morsel has melted, when all of them have faded into a lighter shade.
Whisk until the chocolate is smooth with no lumps at all. Dip the tip of a teaspoon into the chocolate and drizzle the chocolate across the seeds, with staccato flicks of your wrist as if this were an abstract expressionist painting. Do maintain control though or you’ll find strings of chocolate on everything outside the rim of the baking sheet.
Cover as much of the seeds as possible, but know that some will inevitably fall away later, when you break the mass into long chards. Throw those stragglers in a bowl and eat them too.
Once you've covered all the seeds, you can sprinkle some sea salt or candied ginger over the chocolate if you like. The yoginis love them both. There are infinite other possibilities: dried lavender? Pink peppercorns? Chili flakes? This is your work of art - you decide.
Set the pan in the fridge for half an hour or so. Then carefully break up the bark into pieces and serve. Leftovers should be kept cool and dry.
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prana is the common thread running through everything i love....the sun on my face...the sunlight through my camera.... breathing the ocean air... the sound of my breath...laughing with family + friends.
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