In Season: Raspberries put zing in spring

Gold raspberries, shown at a Camino ranch along with red raspberries, are part of the California fruit harvest.
Gold raspberries, shown at a Camino ranch along with red raspberries, are part of the California fruit harvest. Sacramento Bee file

Raspberries hold a special space on the seasonal calendar. So delicate and delectable, these fragile gems add instant splashes of intense color and flavor, even in small, precious quantities.

While raspberries are available year round (supplemented by Mexican imports), Northern California’s crop hits its sweet spot in late spring and early summer. Fall-bearing varieties can add a few weeks into October.

Many growers are congregated near Watsonville and Salinas. Unusually warm and dry winter weather likely will bring many spring raspberries to market sooner than normal. Which means we’re now entering real raspberry time.

This year’s raspberry crop is doing well, according to Driscoll’s, a major California raspberry company. Known for its strawberries as well as other berries, Driscoll’s develops patented plant stock, then contracts with family farms and growers to produce the berries. Driscoll’s then packages and markets the harvest.

Raspberries, a perennial crop, have weathered the drought and strange weather patterns, Driscoll’s reports. The berries are borne on long, thin stems called canes that grew the previous year, so this year’s crop has been through two seasons of drought. Consumer wouldn’t know it from the berries.

“They taste great; (they’re) sweet, juicy and fresh,” said Driscoll’s spokesperson Meghan Curtis of the 2015 crop. “In spite of the early warm weather that we had, the fruit looks really great.”

California is a prime red (and gold) raspberry state, producing nearly 100 million pounds a year, according to the North American Raspberry & Blackberry Association. About 95 percent of the state’s crop is sold fresh, mostly jammed into a May-July window. Other big raspberry producers are Washington and Oregon, but their crops arrive later in summer.

Most California raspberries are grown on drip irrigation to conserve water and preserve the plants, which can produce fruit for several years.

“These factors mean water can be used efficiently,” said Debby Wechsler of the berry association, “and they are worth using expensive water on.”

Like strawberries, raspberries also can be versatile, lending their zingy sweet-tart notes to savory dishes as well as more traditional dessert roles.

Some surprising examples: Raspberries stirred into quinoa (from fitness guru Gabby Reese) and tossed with roasted Brussels sprouts and pancetta (from Driscoll’s).

Whole, raspberries add spark to summer salad. Vinegar infused with raspberries makes wonderful dressing for spring and summer vegetables and greens. Raspberry vinegar combined with raspberry preserves makes a tasty glaze for chicken wings.

Raspberry adds zip to designer waters, high-end vodkas and blue Popsicles. Raspberry lemonade and raspberry ice tea are (almost) standard fast-food flavors. Released this spring, “blissful” raspberry scent mixes with roses in Air Wick’s Mystical Garden air fresheners.

For raspberry lovers who can’t get enough of this fruit, that’s sweet.

Debbie Arrington: (916) 321-1075, @debarrington

Raspberry jalapeño pie

This unusual (and super-rich) cream cheese pie was among the top winners of the 2013 American Pie Council’s national championships. It won the Crisco Innovation Award for amateur Georgia baker Tammi Carlock.

One 10-inch unbaked pie crust

Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened

21/4 cups sugar, divided

2 large eggs

6 tablespoons cornstarch, divided

1/3 cup heavy cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup fresh red raspberries

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeño pepper

Whipped creamAdditional fresh raspberries

Additional finely chopped jalapeñno pepper (optional)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put unbaked pie crust in a deep-dish (91/2-inch) pie pan. Flute edge as desired. Pierce bottom and sides of unbaked crust with fork. Bake for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Beat in 1 1/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons cornstarch until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until blended. Blend in cream and vanilla. Pour mixture into hot pie crust.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees degrees. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until filling is just set in center. Cool completely on wire rack. Chill.

Crush 1 cup raspberries and transfer to a small saucepan. Stir in water, 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup cornstarch and jalapeños until cornstarch is dissolved. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until mixture has thickened. Cool to room temperature.

Spread raspberry mixture over top of cooled cream cheese filling. Garnish with whipped cream, raspberries and a sprinkling of finely chopped jalapeño, if desired.

Serves at least 8

Tangerine pudding cakes with raspberry coulis

Deborah Madison created this take on the brilliant pudding cake in which the top puffs like a souffle and the bottom puddles into a cream.

The raspberry coulis’ tartness nicely offsets the sweet cakes.

Make ahead: The baked cakes can be refrigerated for up to 1 week or frozen for up to 3 months; defrost before serving, and reheat in a low oven if desired. The coulis can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 6 months.

Adapted by The Washington Post from “The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone,” by Deborah Madison (Ten Speed Press).

For the pudding cake:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the ramekins

3 large eggs, separated

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar

2 teaspoons finely grated tangerine zest, plus 1/3 cup fresh tangerine juice (from 2 to 4 tangerines)

1 cup whole milk or light cream

3 tablespoons flour

Softly whipped cream, for serving

For the coulis:

2/3 cup water 3 tablespoons organic sugar, plus more to taste

3 cups raspberries

3 tablespoons orange muscat wine or other sweet wine (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh tangerine juice, plus more to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter eight 4-ounce or six larger ramekins or custard cups and seat them in a roasting or baking pan large enough to hold them all with a bit of space around each one.

Boil a kettle of water for the bain-marie (water bath).

Combine the egg whites and salt in the grease-free bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until foamy, then increase the speed and gradually add 2 tablespoons of the sugar, beating to form thick, glossy peaks. Scrape into a large bowl.

Rinse out the mixing bowl, wipe it dry and return it to the mixer. Switch to the paddle attachment. Beat the 3 tablespoons of butter with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and the tangerine zest until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating to incorporate before each addition. Gradually pour in the milk and juice, then sift in the flour, beating on low speed until combined. (A few lumps are OK.)

Pour the batter over the whites and fold them together. Distribute evenly among the ramekins or custard cups. Place the pan on the middle oven rack (pulled out halfway), then pour enough of the just-boiled water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins or cups (to create the bain-marie).

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the tops have risen and are golden. They should spring back when lightly pressed with a finger.

Meanwhile, make the coulis. Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and give it a stir, then reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the mixture is gently bubbling. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the raspberries. Cook for 1 minute, then turn off the heat and let the fruit stand in the syrup for 5 minutes. Force the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl. Discard the solids. Stir in the wine, if using, and the juice.

Cover and refrigerate until well chilled. Remove the pudding cakes from the water bath. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. Drizzle sauce over each pudding cake. Top each one with a small cloud of whipped cream.

Serves 6 to 8

Green salad with golden beets, raspberries, pistachios and goat cheese toasts

Make ahead: The beets can be roasted, peeled and refrigerated a few days in advance. From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.

2 medium golden beets (about 4 ounces each), scrubbed

1/3 cup shelled raw or roasted unsalted pistachios

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices whole-wheat baguette

1 large clove garlic, halved

4 ounces soft goat cheese

3 cups lightly packed arugula leaves (3 ounces), torn if large

4 cups lightly packed butter or Boston lettuce leaves (4 ounces), torn

1 cup fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Wrap each beet in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast until tender-firm, about 1 hour. Let cool completely in the foil, then open and discard the skins. Slice each beet into half-moons.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees, place the pistachios on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until fragrant, 6 or 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.

Whisk together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the lemon juice, mustard, honey, salt and 1/8 teaspoon of the pepper in a mixing bowl to make the dressing.

Position an oven rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler element; preheat the broiler.

Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet; rub the top of each slice vigorously with the cut side of the garlic. (Reserve the garlic for another use.) Brush the tops of the bread with the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, then spread each slice with about 1 tablespoon of goat cheese. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of pepper. Broil for 30 seconds to 1 minute or just until bread is toasted and the cheese is warmed and lightly browned.

Add the arugula, the butter lettuce or Boston lettuce leaves and the beets to the mixing bowl with the dressing; toss gently to coat. Divide among individual plates; sprinkle with the pistachios and raspberries. Place 2 goat cheese toasts on each portion.

Per serving: 310 calories; 11 g protein; 23 g carbohydrates; 21 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 15 mg cholesterol; 410 mg sodium; 5 g dietary fiber; 10 g sugar

Serves 4

Raspberry lemonade

A summer classic with real, not artificial, raspberry flavor.

1 cup sugar

1 cup water

3/4 raspberries, plus more for garnish if desired

1 cup fresh lemon juice, from about 8 lemons

4 to 6 cups cold water

Make a simple syrup: Combine the sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool.

Purée the 3/4 cup raspberries in a blender or food processor.

Strain the raspberry purée through a fine mesh sieve to separate the seeds from the pulp.

Once the simple syrup has cooled, stir the raspberry purée, simple syrup and lemon juice together in a large pitcher.

Add 4 cups of cold water; taste and add more water to personal preference

Serve over ice. Garnish if desired with more raspberries.

Serves 4 to 6

Roasted Brussels sprouts with raspberries and pancetta

This recipe comes from raspberry experts Driscoll’s.

3 ounces (about 1/2 cup) diced pancetta

2 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon light brown sugar

1 package (6 ounces) fresh raspberries, at room temperature

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cook the pancetta and 2 teaspoons of oil together in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to paper towels to drain.

Toss the Brussels sprouts and the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large bowl. Spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until browned and just tender when pierced with the tip of a small sharp knife, 20 to 30 minutes. During the last few minutes, stir in the reserved pancetta. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Whisk the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the Brussels sprouts mixture, season with salt and pepper, and toss gently. Add the raspberries and toss again. Serve hot.

Serves 8

Raspberry apricot bars

Prep time: 20 minutes

Bake time: 1 hour

The fruit bar is such a pleasure. It’s like pie, but simpler, smaller and sturdier. Recipe from the Chicago Tribune.

Middle layer:

2 cups raspberries

1/3 cup sugar

3 cups cubed apricots (about 6 apricots)

Top layer:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup pecan halves

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup flour

Bottom layer:

11/2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up

To make middle layer, sprinkle raspberries with sugar. Mash with a fork (don’t worry if raspberries are reduced to slush). Stir in apricots. Set aside.

To make top, melt butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Add pecans, salt and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until butter is speckled brown, about 5 minutes. Pull pan off heat. Stir in sugar, then flour. Chill.

To make bottom, measure flour, sugar and salt into the food processor. Buzz once to mix. Add butter and pulse to big clumps.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving some overhang. Dump in clumps. Pat pastry across bottom of pan. Poke several times with a fork. Slide into the lower third of a 375-degree oven and bake until pastry is lightly golden, about 20 minutes.

Spread fruit over pastry. Sprinkle on chilled top – fruit will not be fully covered. Return pan to oven and bake until fruit is bubbly and top is browned, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. Grasp the parchment overhang and lift out the whole contraption; slice into bars.

Makes 24

Raspberry, strawberry, orange and arugula salad

Recipe from Elise Pierce, who writes the Cowgirl Chef blog.

For orange vinaigrette:

1 small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)

Juice of 1 orange

Sea salt


About 1/4 cup olive oil

For salad:

Large handful arugula

6 ounces strawberries, hulled and split in two (or smaller, depending on the size of your berries – make the pieces about the same size as the raspberries)

4 ounces raspberries

1 orange, sectioned

For serving:

About 2 tablespoons feta, crumbled


Make vinaigrette: Put the shallot, orange juice and a big pinch of sea salt and pepper in a jam jar and give it a good shake. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, add the oil and shake again. Taste for seasonings.

Make salad: Put arugula in a bowl and add berries and orange pieces. Drizzle with vinaigrette, gently toss and add feta. Season with fresh pepper. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Related stories from Sacramento Bee