After living in the Pacific Northwest for over six years, I know I should expect the month of June to be replete with unpredictable weather, yet still I find myself surprised. May brought warmer temperatures that had me thinking thoughts of summer, then the cool air and clouds returned a couple weeks ago. The rain poured and we were chilled to the bone, particularly during the 24 hour period in which our furnace ceased all productive activity. It seemed like summer might arrive as scheduled on July 5thand not a moment sooner, but of course, that thought vanished almost as quickly as it came.
The fluctuations have continued, and while the skies are blue at present, there is a slight breeze that hints at coming rain. All this up and down and back and forth is dizzying, yet it seems to be for some purpose since our garden is flourishing. (Well, I should say that a portion of our garden is flourishing. Some of the plants have refused to put forth shoots, but I’m hoping they are just the slow and steady type.) The strawberries are beginning to ripen, exchanging their pale green hue for a delicious ruby red; perhaps in another week they will be ready for harvest.
Strawberry season is later and shorter in western Washington than in other regions, so I am thankful for the jewels that arrive here from our neighbors to the south, treats to tie me over until our backyard yields its fruit. California berries lack the juicy richness of those that grow here, but this time of year, they are still rather scrumptious. Recently, I opted to join them with a few simple ingredients and the result was a satisfying dessert that did not disappoint.
This duo of berries is mouthwatering on its own, but a sprinkling of sugar amplifies its sweetness and creates a light syrup that transforms the dish from a bowl of mixed fruit to a bona fide dessert. Fresh basil is earthy and aromatic and the lemon a refreshing complement. This was my first time using mascarpone cheese, and I was delighted to discover that although its texture is similar to cream cheese, it shares none of its tanginess. I found it to be like a very thick whipped cream and am excited to find even more uses for it in the future.
- 1 pound fresh whole strawberries (about 3 cups)
- 6 ounces fresh blueberries (about 1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
- Zest and juice of half a large lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon powdered sugar
- Rinse the strawberries under cold water, then use a paring knife to remove the stems and cut the berries into quarters lengthwise. Place them in a medium mixing bowl. Rinse the blueberries and add them to the strawberries along with the granulated sugar and fresh basil. Toss all the ingredients together until the sugar is evenly distributed throughout. Allow the berries to stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes until they release their juices.
- In a small bowl, use a fork or whisk to combine the mascarpone cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, and powdered sugar. Taste and add more lemon zest or sugar according to your preference.
- Give the berries a gentle stir to ensure they are evenly coated with the sweet liquid, then serve them with a dollop of lemon mascarpone and garnish with additional lemon zest if desired.
Tips and Tidbits
- This quick dessert can easily be prepared ahead of time. If it will be made at least a few hours in advance, there’s no need to keep it at room temperature. Once the sugar has been incorporated into the berries, simply cover the container and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
- Strawberries and blueberries seemed like a classic choice, but this method would work well for any combination of berries you desire.
- While mascarpone cheese is perfectly suited for this application, there are a number of alternatives in the event you want to change things up a bit. Whipped cream, cream cheese, crème fraiche, and yogurt are suitable substitutes – just be sure to adjust the amount of sugar and lemon as needed to create a balance in flavor.