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Easy entertaining with fresh, healthy berries

Brunch for friends and family, graduation, wedding showers, or weekend barbecues-- summer is full of reasons to entertain. Fresh raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries are an easy addition to so many dishes, adding a burst of flavor and color to really impress your guests. For stress-free entertaining, the recipes included here all have "shortcut" suggestions using convenient packaged sauces, mixes and salads.

Fresh berries are available year round, and are especially abundant throughout the rest of the summer. According to nationally acclaimed cookbook author and cooking school instructor, Chef George Geary, "If you can resist popping the berries right in your mouth the minute you get home, they will really pump up the color, excitement and nutrition of so many of the dishes you create, from sweet to savory." Chef George, Corporate Chef for Driscoll's of Watsonville, California--the nation's largest supplier of fresh berries--reminds us, "Remember not to rinse berries until just before using, since moisture hastens their breakdown. And above all, keep them refrigerated at all times so they stay fresh as long as possible."

Grilled Salmon with Blackberry-Mustard Glaze

Fresh blackberries add a bright splash of color to this tangy glaze; a great--and easy--sauce for grilled salmon.

6 ounces fresh Driscoll's Blackberries, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for grilling
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pounds fresh salmon fillets

Preheat grill to high heat. Set aside 1/2 cup blackberries. In a blender, combine remaining berries with the oil, honey, mustard, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into shallow baking pan or casserole dish. Brush the grilling grate (in flame-free area) with oil. Coat salmon with glaze and place skinless-side down on grill. Let grill for 8 minutes. Flip salmon and brush with glaze. (If salmon doesn't easily peel off grill, leave for 1-2 more minutes until ready to flip.) Cook until middle is just barely cooked (about 8-10 minutes per side/20 minutes total). Serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6. Shortcut: Use commercial mustard glaze and combine 1/2 cup with the blackberries in a blender, as above. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Berry Brunch Strata

This is a great brunch dish because you can make it the night before and pop it into the oven in the morning. The additions of orange juice and mint add great flavor and the juice, used in place of some of the milk, lightens the fat content of the dish. You could also substitute two egg whites for one of the whole eggs.

4 or 5 slices buttermilk or country-style bread, divided
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups (about 1 lb) fresh Driscoll's Strawberries (halved), divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint, divided
2 cups milk
5 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray or butter 2-quart casserole. Fit 2 or 3 slices of bread into the casserole, cutting them to fill any holes. Mix ricotta and cinnamon together. Dollop over the bread layer without smoothing. Layer on half of the berries and half of the mint. Put another layer of bread on top, then the remaining berries and mint. Whisk together the milk, eggs, orange juice, sugar, and salt. Pour over layers and let sit for 15 minutes (or up to overnight covered in the refrigerator). Sprinkle almonds on top and bake strata for 45 to 50 minutes, until puffy and golden, and the center is firm. Remove strata from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Refrigerate leftovers. Serves 6 to 8. Shortcut: Use a 4.4-ounce package of custard dessert or "cook & serve" vanilla pudding mix (not instant) in place of the eggs and sugar. Use the same liquid as above.

Triple Berry Oatmeal Scones

Like a cross between a biscuit and a muffin, these tasty wedges are perfect for breakfast on the run or a leisurely brunch. Try them warm with honey and butter.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 teaspoon lemon or orange zest (optional)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups any combination fresh Driscoll's Raspberries, Blackberries, Blueberries and Strawberries, rinsed (chop strawberries)

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and 2 tablespoons of sugar (and lemon/orange zest, if using). Stir together briefly. Using electric mixer on low, add butter and mix until crumbly. Slowly add buttermilk, then fold in berries, mixing gently. On well-floured work surface, turn out dough and knead together gently 8 to 10 times (with floured hands). Pat into 8-inch circle about 3/4 inch thick. Using a floured spatula, cut straight down through dough to make 8 wedges. Don't saw or drag the spatula. Transfer wedges to the baking sheet, keeping them separate. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, until just starting to brown evenly. Remove and cool on wire racks. Makes 8 scones. Shortcut: Use a scone mix and add 1 1/2 cups mixed fresh berries.

Blueberry Rice Chicken Salad

This impressively easy salad can be served chilled or at room temperature (but don't leave it unrefrigerated for more than two hours before serving).

2 cups brown rice
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup (6 ounces) fresh Driscoll's Blueberries
2/3 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup packed chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon orange zest (optional)
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped roasted red pepper

Cook rice as directed on package. (Should have 6 cups cooked). Meanwhile, heat pan of water to simmering. Add chicken and simmer until cooked (about 30 minutes). Drain, cool slightly, and chop into bite-sized pieces. In large bowl, combine rice, diced chicken, and remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Serves 4 to 6. Shortcuts: Use precooked chicken, precooked rice, and/or bottled citrus dressing in place of the oil, juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Healthy & Delicious

The vibrant color of Driscoll's berries is so appealing. Did you know their rich color is also an indicator that they are one of the healthiest food choices you can make? Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries have no cholesterol, are low in fat, calories, and sodium, and are great sources of Vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, phytonutrients and antioxidants. The colorful pigments in the bright red, blue and purple skins of berries (called anthocyanins) contain the highest concentrations of these disease-fighting antioxidants--helpful in the fight against certain cancers, heart disease and the effects of aging. The revised Food Guide Pyramid, recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, emphasizes the need to incorporate more servings of fruits and vegetables into our diets. Fresh berries are a delicious way to reach that goal.

Get additional recipes and information by calling (800) 871-3333, visiting www.driscolls.com or writing to Driscoll's, 2005 RECIPES, P.O. Box 50045, Watsonville, CA 95077.


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