Depending on where you live and how the weather is behaving, it’s getting very close to the time when all sorts of locally grown berries and plump, sweet cherries will begin to fill the stalls of farmers markets and grocery stores. I always look forward to this moment.
Usually with my two young sons accompanying me, I’ll stroll past mounds of fruit in various shades of red, purple, blue and yellow, all of them looking like the most beautiful edible gems. We’ll sample the sweet treats until our tongues and lips are stained with their juices, buying the best to bring home and enjoy plain and simple, or transformed into wonderful desserts.
For many people, though, making those desserts can involve adding a lot of sugar and fat. They’ll bake cobblers with buttery crumbles or creamy biscuit-dough toppings and a syrupy mixture surrounding the fruit. Or they’ll make pies or turnovers, or prepare strawberry shortcake, or puree and churn the fruit into sweet ice creams or sorbets.
Of course, those are all delicious, and good when eaten in moderation. Moderation, however, can be hard to achieve when you’re dealing with such irresistible recipes.
But as I explore in my new book, Wolfgang Puck Makes It Healthy, there are easy, good-for-you ways to have your delicious summer fruit desserts — and eat them, too! The secret is to prepare them in ways that maximize their flavor while reducing the sugar and fat you use, resulting in treats that offer intensely wonderful taste with every bite so you’ll be fully satisfied after eating only a moderate portion.
Take, for example, my Light Berries and Cherries Jubilee, a variation on the classic cherry recipe. The original version features pitted cherries cooked with a generous amount of sugar and often a good measure of butter, too, to develop a thick, rich syrup. Then, the warm mixture is spooned over rich vanilla ice cream and topped with dollops of whipped cream.
My version makes just a few smart changes. I substitute mixed berries for half of the cherries, which adds a pleasing variety of flavors and colors, as well as making the mixture juicier. Meanwhile, I cut down on the butter, using just a little more than a teaspoon per serving, which allows a pleasing hint of its richness. I also use less sugar, too, and substitute dark brown sugar to add its richer, more complex flavor. As a final touch, I ladle the warm fruit over scoops of nonfat frozen yogurt, available
in most supermarkets, which not only tastes rich and creamy but also has a pleasant tanginess that complements the topping.
And with so much flavor going on, who needs any whipped cream?
LIGHT BERRIES AND CHERRIES JUBILEE
2 pints mixed halved and pitted organic cherries and fresh berries, larger berries cut in half
2 cups vanilla nonfat frozen yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
Fresh mint sprigs, for garnish
Reserve several perfect-looking pieces of fruit as garnishes, if you like.
Scoop the frozen yogurt attractively into 4 serving bowls. Put the bowls in the freezer.
In a medium saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sprinkle in the sugar, and stir until it combines with the butter and begins to melt. Continue cooking until the mixture turns syrupy and thickens slightly, 1 to 2 minutes longer.
Add the cherries and berries to the pan. Saute, stirring frequently but gently, just until they begin to soften and give up some of their juices, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the orange zest and orange juice. Remove the pan from the heat.
Remove the bowls from the freezer.
If you don’t want to flambe the fruit mixture, remove the pan from the stove and gently stir the Grand Marnier into the fruit before you spoon or ladle the fruit over the frozen yogurt and garnish with reserved fruit pieces and mint sprigs.
If you would like to flambe the fruit mixture, carefully sprinkle the Grand Marnier over the sauteed fruit. Light a long wooden kitchen match or fireplace match. Keeping the match and the saute pan safely clear of any flammable objects, carefully hold the burning tip of the match just above the surface of the fruit mixture to ignite the vapors.
While the blue flames are still visible in the pan, carefully use a long metal spoon or ladle to distribute the fruit mixture over the frozen yogurt in each bowl, and present the bowls to your guests. As soon as the flames vanish, garnish each serving with some reserved fruit and a mint sprig.