Friday, July 4, 2014

Foraged berries for the 4th of July


I can never sleep the night before a holiday. I wake every hour and start making lists in my head. What will we do? Who will be there? Am I responsible for bringing a dish to share? If, like the holiday weekend before us, all of my sisters are in town for a get-together, I will toss and turn with excitement contemplating the delicious events about to begin.

For the rest of the holiday I am an exhausted zombie, barely able to hold myself together. Anticipation is everything.

The 4th of July has always been a big deal in my family, probably because my sister Susan was born on this date. When we were kids we lived in a town that threw a party like the kind you see in Hallmark or Disney movies. There were parades, music, games of skill, food vendors, and real ponies with Western saddles that a kid could ride for just a few cents. After dusk there were fireworks, best viewed from the baseball field bleachers while holding your dad's hand. Of course, my sister convinced me that the celebration was on her behalf, and I never questioned her. Why wouldn't the entire town get together to honor my sister? She was pretty hot stuff.

These days our 4th of July events are calmer than the ones we enjoyed as kids. I don't have to worry about costume themes for the kiddie parade, or calculate how many times I can ride the ponies with $1.25. My most burdensome task is deciding on an appetizer everyone will enjoy and whether to grill ribs, brats, or fish.

If you are like me and still looking for a dish to share at your 4th of July weekend parties, this berry syrup recipe works with any fresh berries, and adding the berries to grilled bread and cheese is a nice appetizer.

Berries of all varieties are making their way to the head of the market. I'd never heard of serviceberries before this week. Apparently they've been growing all around me for years but I have not been observant enough to notice them. Our student farmers forage the berries from the shadbush that grow prolifically across the university campus where I work, and I was lucky enough to score a small batch at the student farmers market. The berries remind me of a mild sweet blueberry, and adding a bit of vinegar really perks them up.
  
Serviceberry Syrup
1 cup serviceberries
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon each water and balsamic vinegar
Small sprig rosemary
Zest from half a lemon
Fresh cracked pepper

Combine ingredients in small saucepan and simmer about 5 minutes.

Grill or toast thinly sliced baguette that is brushed with olive oil. Top bread with cheese (use your favorite or whatever you have available: brie, cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta, chèvre, etc.), berries, and a mint or basil leaf.


More 4th of July traditions and a recipe for Minnesota Crab Bake are over at Called to the Table.

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