This is a very simple, versatile berry sauce that works for panna cotta as well as other custard desserts or in the morning with yogurt, pancakes, or French toast. It is a great way to boost the flavor of less-than-terrific berries. And if your berries are summer-ripe, then the sauce can taste amazing. I grow several varieties of mint in my San Francisco garden, and like to cut a few into fine shreds and add them at the last minute.
Spiced Strawberry Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes; rest time, 15 minutes | Servings: 6
1 generous pint basket ripe, flavorful strawberries
Juice and freshly grated zest of 1 small Meyer lemon or 1/2 aEureka lemon
Dark brown sugar
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh mint or basil leaves, finely slivered (optional)
Hull the berries and halve or quarter them, if large. Place them in a bowl with a small squeeze of the lemon juice and the zest. Add a tablespoon or two of sugar, a pinch each of salt and allspice, and a grind of pepper. Toss well, cover, and set aside for 15 minutes. Toss again and taste. Adjust the flavors to your palate with more sugar or lemon juice. Let sit at room temperature until needed or cover and refrigerate. Let come to cool room temperature before serving. Just before serving, crush some of the berries with the back of a sturdy fork (or with a stick blender) until you have a thick sauce with some texture. Stir in the mint and taste again for balance.
You can make the sauce with any kind of sweet, ripe berry or a mix of berries inlcuding cherries. Later in the summer when peaches, plums, and apricots are at their best, add them, too. You could also use good-quality frozen berries.