Big Little Recipes

A Small-but-Mighty Ingredient to Upgrade Berries & Cream

August  4, 2020

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else—flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re celebrating summer berries.


There’s no shortage of ways to revel in summer berries—jam, jam bars, shortcake, not-so-short cake, I could go on—and yet, on the sunniest, swampiest of August afternoons, I gravitate toward whatever requires the least amount of thought.

This might be as simple as standing in front of a half-open fridge and stuffing my face (don’t act like you’ve never done it). Or, slightly more complicated but infinitely more rewarding: stepping away from said fridge with a carton of cream in hand, and pouring—and pouring and pouring—it all over sugared berries.

That not recipe is a Big Little Recipe in itself and, in theory, you could stop reading right now and charge toward the nearest farmers market—but don’t. Because one tiny-mighty ingredient makes this very good dessert even better: caraway.

Photo by TY MECHAM. FOOD STYLIST: ANNA BILLINGSKOG. PROP STYLIST: AMANDA WIDIS.

Yes, caraway as in those crunchy seeds that speckle rye bread and pumpernickel bagels, two of my favorite things in the world. But as Domenica Marchetti writes for NPR, “Caraway's role extends well beyond rye bread or even German food.”

She goes on: “It has long been prominent in Scandinavian and Eastern European cooking, and also is found in the cuisine of North Africa, most notably in harissa.”

Whether it's a seedy loaf or spicy paste, caraway adds a peppery, fennel-ish flavor to whatever it touches. Often the context is savory, like with radishes or knishes. But sweet recipes are also fair game—say, these buttery cookies or these buttery cookies.

Just as seasoning a fruit crisp with black pepper boosts a humble dessert’s confidence, incorporating caraway into berries and cream makes an already wonderful combo even more so.

It’d be easy to say this is because you’re taking something sweet and making it savory, but what’s sweet and what’s savory, anyway? And why does it have to be one or the other? Every ingredient here—the berries, the cream, even the sugar—has the potential (the desire! the dream!) to be both. And the caraway understands that.

All you have to do is dry-toast the seeds (think of this like an alarm clock, waking them up from their spice-cabinet slumber), blitz them in a spice grinder with a spoonful of sugar, and stir into cream.

Or, blitz the seeds with a pinch of salt and few cracks of pepper, combine with cream, and tip over boiled vegetables instead of sugared berries. But that’s another chat for another day.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • kelkel
    kelkel
  • Nancy
    Nancy
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
Emma is the food editor at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing articles about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now she lives in New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. Stay tuned every Tuesday for Emma's cooking column, Big Little Recipes, all about big flavor and little ingredient lists. And see what she's up to on Instagram at @emmalaperruque.

3 Comments

kelkel September 27, 2020
alas, the cold aesthetic of the modern kitchen. if only this rad person was in a rad kitchen.
 
Nancy August 5, 2020
Emma - happy to see this. Have often used caraway seed in sweets and never saw it in recipes. It provides a lovely note amidst cream and fruits - Nancy
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 5, 2020
Thanks, Nancy!