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Jacques Pépin's Berry PotpourriCompiled by Vicki McClure Davidson
The delightful berry recipe below was provided to iVillage in 2007 by master chef and TV personality Jacques Pépin.
I adore Jacques. He makes cooking French food look easy and fun, which explains why he and the amazing Julia Child paired up on PBS some years back. He's an internationally known chef, and has been featured in several highly acclaimed television shows and has written 18 books. Born in France in 1935, his earliest boyhood memories about food were hungry ones in the war-torn country. After World War II, Pépin first restaurant job was peeling potatoes for his mother at her restaurant, and he became an apprentice in a hotel kitchen at age 13.From Wikipedia:
His celebrated La Technique is used to this day as a textbook for teaching the fundamentals of French cuisine. The success of La Technique prompted him to launch a televised version of the book, resulting in an acclaimed 1997 PBS series, The Complete Pépin. Recently relaunched on PBS ten years after its initial run, the series included a new introduction by Pépin where he stressed that now more than ever the secret to being a successful chef and not a mere line cook lies in knowing and using the proper technique.
Pépin also co-starred in the award-winning 1999 PBS series Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home with Julia Child. Their work together was honored with a Daytime Emmy in 2001.
A third series had Pépin cooking with his daughter, Claudine, wife of chef Rolland Wesen.
Pépin serves as Dean of Special Programs at the French Culinary Institute, part of the new International Culinary Center, in New York City. He is also an active contributor to the Gastronomy department at Boston University, where he teaches an online class on the cuisine and culture of France along with professor Kyri Claflin of Boston University's history department. Pépin also writes a quarterly column for Food & Wine and offers an amateur class each semester based on varied culinary topics.
Pépin's berry potpourri is simple and inexpensive to make — deliciously tantalizing when summer temperatures are soaring. Below is his commentary about that recipe.
Jacques Pépin's Berry Potpourri
From Jacques, in his own words...
What could be more summery than a mixture of ripe berries at peak taste, smell, and color? This is the ideal dessert for a big party; it is fast to make, and everyone loves it, especially if you serve the fruit with a moist and buttery piece of homemade pound cake and some crème fraîche.
I always try to go to local markets to buy berries. Instead of mixing them with sugar, I combine them with seedless raspberry jam or apricot preserves, a little lemon juice, and a julienne of lemon peel.
In my garden I have spearmint, English mint, and peppermint, and I like to add some to my berries to add fragrance, flavor, and coolness to the dessert.
The fresher and riper the berries, the better the result. Do not use frozen fruit, because all the juice is released as it thaws and the fruit becomes soft and mushy. (I use frozen berries when I make a coulis, a puree, or a sherbet, however, because frozen berries have often been picked and frozen at their peak and are sometimes more flavorful than the fresh ones.)
The raspberries should have a deep red color and the strawberries should be bright red, with no green near the stems or tips, an indication that they are not ripe. Your nose will tell you whether your strawberries and raspberries are ripe and at peak. As for blueberries, taste them and sort through them, discarding pieces of leaves and stems or any spoiled berries.
Buy 1 pint each of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, and, if available, 1/2 pint of blackberries or boysenberries. Sort the berries, and if they are dirty, wash them before you remove the hulls, so the water doesn't go inside the berries. Cut the strawberries, if they are large, into 4 or 6 pieces, but leave small berries whole.
Remove a dozen strips of lemon peel with a vegetable peeler, stack them up together, and cut them into a fine julienne. Sprinkle into the bowl you will use for serving the berries.
Add one 12-ounce jar of seedless raspberry jam to the bowl, and whisk in 2 or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Make a couple of tablespoons of mint chiffonade by stacking up an assortment of mint leaves, rolling them together, and cutting them into fine shredded pieces. Add to the bowl, mix well, and then add the strawberries and blueberries (the firmer fruit), first.
Toss, and at the last moment add the raspberries and blackberries, and toss again gently to avoid crushing the berries.
Serve with a slice of moist pound cake and a tablespoon of sour cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche.
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iVillage website, "Jacques Pépin: Berry Potpourri," (http://secretsauce.ivillage.com/food/archives/jacques-pepin/), July 25, 2007.
Jacques Pépin Official Website, (http://www.kqed.org/food/jacquespepin/).
Wikipedia.org, "Jacques Pépin", (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Pepin).