The Hunt for Wild Blackberries

Blackberry, Basil and Pinot Noir Sauce

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Summer is a precious (ie. short) season in the Northwest and the thought of it coming to an end is sad except for one thing, wild blackberries finally ripen. 

 My dog Mocha loves them as much as I do.  Our trail walks this time of year become less an aerobic workout and more a berry hunt.  We’re very compatible in this effort.  Mocha works the lower bushes and I claim the area above.

 For a small, domesticated animal Mocha has an incredible nose for ripe blackberries.  The only time I’ve seen her balance on her hind legs is to reach up, just long enough to pluck a juicy plump one.  Mocha lives in the moment and her goal is to fill her belly to bursting with as many as possible; she has no turn-off signal for blackberries. 

 I’m as dogged in my goal – to collect enough berries to get them back to the kitchen. I dream of making a cobbler or a crisp with late-summer peaches and blackberries or maybe blackberry buttermilk pancakes, blackberry ice cream or Blackberry Pinot Noir Sauce (recipe follows) to serve over grilled chicken. 

 There are perils to picking berries.  I have a hysterical fear of the spiders that make their homes in the berry bushes.   Thorns scratch my hands and forearms and little stickers lodge in Mocha’s fur and paws.  It’s a small price to pay for us, greedy for blackberries.

 We need to get them now.  After the first fall rain, the unreachable berries will start to ferment and the aroma along our trail will change from that of sweet sun-ripened berries to the heady aroma you find in the aging room of a winery. 

 Enjoy a late-summer moment with:

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Grilled Chicken with Blackberry, Basil and Pinot Noir Sauce Tired of chicken?  Try the sauce over grilled salmon or pork tenderloins.

2 cups fresh blackberries, divided use

1 cup pinot noir or other dry red wine

1 cup sodium-reduced chicken broth

3/4 cup julienne-sliced fresh basil leaves, divided use

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons honey

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded*

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In small saucepan, combine 1 cup berries, pinot noir, chicken broth, 1/2 cup basil and red onion.  Mash berries with potato masher or back of spoon to extract juice.  Bring liquid to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 10 to 15 minutes.  (While sauce simmers, pound chicken as described below.*) Strain sauce through a fine sieve, pressing solids with back of spoon to extract liquid.  Discard solids and return liquid to saucepan (you should have 1 cup of liquid). Mix cornstarch with 4 teaspoons cold water in small bowl and stir into sauce.  Stir in honey.  Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly and cook for a few seconds, until thickened.   Remove from heat and stir in butter and remaining 1 cup of berries.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Keep warm.

To cook chicken, season both sides of each breast with salt and pepper. Grill or broil chicken 3 to 5 minutes per side, until cooked through.  To serve, place chicken breasts on 4 serving plates.  Spoon sauce over chicken, dividing evenly.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup basil.  Makes 4 servings.

* While sauce is simmering, place chicken breasts, one at a time, in sealable plastic bag, seal bag and pound to even 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness. 

 Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2011

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.

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