As a rule, I don't like dessert sauces. But now there's one that I can tolerate. That's only because it's not too sweet, isn't pureed, and it finishes with the sting of grappa. I came up with the recipe because I like to make an almond cake for my husband's family when we're on summer vacation together. But to serve cake, and cake alone, on Long Island in August, when there are so many fresh berries hanging around, feels criminal. Is criminal! So I began making a "sauce" by plumping the blueberries in sugar syrup. Next I added booze -- sometimes rum, sometimes wine, sometimes brandy or grappa. I don't let the blueberries break down -- rather, I warm them through, then fold in fresh blueberries just before serving so I get the gravity of a cooked sauce with the insouciance of bright, unadorned berries. All you need is a cake, ice cream, a dollop of ricotta or Greek yogurt, and the punctuation to a summer feast is complete. —Amanda Hesser
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup blueberries, the sugar, lemon zest, and grappa. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently to dissolve the sugar, about 3 minutes. A purple tinted syrup should form but the blueberries should not break down. Add more sugar to taste -- the sauce shouldn't be sweet, it should taste like heightened blueberries. Fold in the remaining fresh blueberries. You're done!
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.