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Posted on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 : 2 p.m.

Sweet-tart grilled strawberries are one highlight of Berry Fest

By Mary Bilyeu


Mary Bilyeu | Contributor

I recently received a lovely email from Whole Foods Market, inviting me to enjoy some beautiful organic berries and encouraging me to share the bounty:

"Summer means getting together with friends and loved ones to celebrate longer days, warm (sometimes too warm!) weather and relaxed schedules. At Whole Foods Market, it’s also a time that we rejoice in the fresh goodness of organic berries.... (We're) celebrating organic blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, and we’d like to invite you to join in on the fun by hosting your own berry bash!"  (Note: To that end, Whole Foods very graciously provided me with a gift card to help purchase supplies.)

Well, how could I refuse such a charming offer? I adore berries, and I'm always happy to feed my family and friends. Count me in!  I've been to Baconfest, then BRU Fest ... the time had come to be the hostess with the most-est for Berry Fest!

I didn't want to just make strawberry shortcake, although I love it; I wanted to expand beyond the expected.  At the same time, though, I didn't want to make anything overly complicated or exotic; rather, I wanted to serve dishes that would let the berries shine, and dishes that are easy enough to make that you can enjoy your berry fest after a long day at work or a busy weekend full of chores and errands.  I also wanted to be sure there were treats to enjoy even on those days when it's just too hot to cook.

And so, I devised the following menu:

Mini Toasts with Goat Cheese and Fresh Blackberries
Blueberry Sausage Puffs with Raspberry Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Antipasto Platter featuring salami, cheeses, and Pomegranate Molasses-Basted Grilled Strawberries

Blackberry-Fig Marinated Grilled Chicken with Spiced Blueberry BBQ Sauce

Greens 'n' Grains Salad with Fresh Blackberries

Strawberry-Rhubarb Streusel Bars
Pizelle S'mores with Toasted Marshmallows and Smashed Raspberries

I also served raspberry iced tea and a bottle of raspberry-lemon sparkling water — easy but delicious beverages to complement the theme du jour. And to keep the drinks cold, I offered ice cubes that had raspberries frozen into them, for flavor and for color.

Today, I'm offering recipes for the appetizers; the rest of the week will be devoted to the other delicious dishes.  Enjoy the bounty!

Mini Toasts with Goat Cheese and Fresh Blackberries

Jeremy really enjoyed these, telling me that the flavors of the cheese and the berries complemented each other perfectly.

1 6-ounce package Chevrie Fleurie organic soft-ripened goat cheese, at room temperature
16 Whole Foods 365 brand mini toasts
16 organic blackberries

Slice the cheese into 16 pieces, placing one slice onto each piece of toast; top with a blackberry.

Makes 16 toasts.

Antipasto Platter featuring salami, cheeses, and Pomegranate Molasses-Basted Grilled Strawberries

Everyone loved the cheeses and the salami, but they raved about the strawberries — "I didn't know you could grill strawberries," "This really brings out the sweetness in the fruit," and "The glaze really brightens the flavor of the strawberries." I had wanted to serve something other than the usual olives, and was thrilled that the skewered berries were such a hit!

Favorite meats I served Fiorucci brand all natural hard salami
Favorite cheeses I served Seaside English Cheddar, Fontina, and a blueberry-studded Wensleydale
16 organic strawberries
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

Arrange meats and cheese in slices or cubes on a plate, leaving room for the strawberries.

Thread 2 strawberries onto skewers (so they don't just spin on one stick).  Preheat grill to medium-low, then place skewered strawberries onto grill.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side, basting with the pomegranate molasses, just until slightly caramelized. Place strawberries onto antipasto platter and serve.

Serves 6-8.

Blueberry Sausage Puffs with Raspberry Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

I used the blueberry-flavored sausage to keep with the party's theme, but any flavor of sausage could be used for these simple, elegant and delicious hors d'oeuvres.

1 17.3-ounce package of Pepperidge Farm puff pastry
8 links Whole Foods uncooked blueberry country maple breakfast sausage
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet.

One at a time, roll each of the 2 sheets of dough on a lightly floured surface until it is just over 12x12 inches; trim rough edges.  Cut dough into 4 quarters.

One at a time, lay a sausage link onto one piece of dough, at the closest edge to you; roll up, pinch dough to seal.  Cut into 8 pieces and place the pieces onto the prepared baking sheet, cut side up, leaving 2-inch space between puffs; repeat with remaining dough and sausage.

Combine egg and water; brush lightly over pastries.  Bake for 15 minutes until puffed and golden and sausage is cooked.

Raspberry Honey Mustard:
1/2 cup organic raspberries
4 tablespoons Whole Foods 365 brand organic honey mustard
2 tablespoons buckwheat honey

Place raspberries into a small bowl; mash thoroughly with a fork.  Stir in mustard and honey.

To serve:  Place sausage puffs onto a serving plate, and offer with a bowl of the dipping sauce.

Makes 64 puffs and about 1 scant cup sauce.

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Mary Bilyeu writes about her adventures in the kitchen - making dinner, celebrating holidays, entering cooking contests ... whatever strikes her fancy. She is also on a mission to find great deals for her Frugal Floozie Friday posts, seeking fabulous food at restaurants on the limited budget of only $5 per person. Feel free to email her with questions or comments or suggestions:

You should visit Mary's blog — Food Floozie — on which she enthuses and effuses over all things food-related.  And be sure to look for her monthly articles about holiday foods and traditions in the Washtenaw Jewish News.

The phrase "You Should Only Be Happy" (written in Hebrew on the stone pictured in this post) comes from Deuteronomy 16:15 and is a wish for all her readers - when you come to visit here, may you always be happy.