Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fool Me Twice

"Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me," the old saying goes. But there's no shame in enjoying the old-fashioned dessert called "fool"--well, it's a shame when you've spooned up the last creamy bite and your bowl is empty, but that's about as far as that goes.

Gooseberries: What the hell? Little hard, green, sour, unappetizing globes that dangle from inhospitably thorny branches--sometimes the berries are armed with thorns, too. You often hear that it was a brave man that first ate an oyster, but to me it's a marvel that anyone bothered finding a use for these odd little knobules that make raw rhubarb taste sweet by comparison.

I mean, take a look at those raspberries, the red and the black, and the gooseberries, and tell me: How is it we call both of these things "berries"?

But in fact, whoever first ate a gooseberry discovered something very good. They need sugar, that's certain, but when you cook them down with about one part sugar to every four parts gooseberries, strain out seeds and skin, and blend the resulting purée into freshly whipped, good, rich, local cream ( Cedar Summit for us, of course), you get something sweet, tart, lush and bracing at once--a wonderful, wonderfully simple, seasonal treat.

The raspberry fool provides a rather gaudy color contrast (and I'm red-green color blind, so I can only imagine how it looks to you "normal" folks!), and another sweet offset to the tangy gooseberries.

The raspberries we picked on the land out at Bide-A-Wee. The gooseberries I gathered on a fishing outing when rain chased me off the water and into the woods for shelter. There I came upon a nice patch of gooseberries, and I set my rod aside and picked a good cup of berries to the gentle drip-drip-drip of raindrops on the greenery, with a fine damp stillness all around. A splendid memory. The foraging life yields so much more than fare for the table.

Gooseberry and Raspberry Fool
serves two generously

1 cup gooseberries
1/4 cup sugar

Wash the gooseberries and place in a small saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar and a splash of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and simmer, covered, until the berries are very soft, 8 to 10 minutes.

1 cup raspberries, black or red or both--or blackberries, mulberries, etc.
2 Tbsp sugar

As with the gooseberries, but the cooking time will only be 4 or 5 minutes.

Strain the berries separately through a sieve or food mill to remove seeds. The resulting purées can be made several days in advance.

1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp sugar (or a little less, or none at all, depends on how sweet you like things...)

Whip the cream with the sugar if desired, to until quite stiff. Divide the whipped cream into two bowls, and fold the gooseberry purée into one, the raspberry into the other. Garnish with a sprig of mint, a few whole raspberries. A cookie on the side wouldn't hurt, piece of shortbread or a ginger snap--or the same crumbled over the top.

Text and photos copyright 2009 by Brett Laidlaw

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