Summer Berry Salad with Cinnamon Balsamic Reduction
Fresh Berries with Cinnamon, Clove, and Cardamom Spiced Balsamic
Why watermelon gets all the glory in the realm of summer fruit is beyond me. Sure, watermelon is juicy and delicious, but what about the abundance of sweet, tart, and gorgeous summer berries—strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, and huckleberries (oh my)?!?! Isn’t it time we show more love to those little summertime gems?
That’s not to say you can’t enjoy both. Typically berries are ripe long before watermelon. Which means the wedges you are being served at potlucks and backyard barbecues earlier in the summer probably haven’t been naturally ripened or have been shipped in from another state (of course, this depends on where you live). Berries, on the other hand, hit their peak season in most areas of the United States in June and July.
Optimal flavor for any fruit will be enjoyed when they have been naturally ripened and are at their freshest, so it only makes sense to choose berries earlier in the summer and save the melons for the end of July, August, and September.
While berries are sweet and delicious on their own, though, sometimes it just feels good to brighten them up with other flavors.
This summer berry salad does just that by incorporating a reduction of balsamic vinegar of Modena, which has been infused with a trio of Ceylon cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. When reduced, it develops into a somewhat sweet syrup, yet still maintains a bit of that unmistakable tart signature balsamic flavor.
When drizzled over fresh berries, it creates an impressive salad that is just as well suited for dessert as it is for a side dish (see the suggestion below for a simple addition to this dish that makes it an unmistakable summer dessert).
For this recipe, you can use any berries you want (other fruit works too). I used fresh-picked strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and wild huckleberries because those are all available in my area.
Fresh Summer Berries with a Drizzle of Spiced Balsamic Reduction
- 3 cups of your favorite summer berries, washed and sliced as desired
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 Ceylon cinnamon quill, broken into pieces
- 1 cardamom pod, slightly smashed
- 2 whole cloves, smashed
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Basil for garnish
- Mix the vinegar, cinnamon pieces, cardamom pod, and cloves together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Stir well, turn the heat down to simmer and reduce the mixture by half (this should take approximately 25 minutes. Stir frequently so the sugars don’t scorch.
- Mix in 1 tablespoon of maple syrup.
- Pour the reduction through a sieve and discard the cardamom, cinnamon, and clove pieces.
Gently layer your berries in a bowl, ensuring none are crushed. Drizzle your balsamic reduction over the berries, tossing gently. A rubber spatula works well for mixing. Sprinkle with fresh ground cinnamon and basil chiffonade.
If you are more in the mood for dessert than a side, start out with a dish of ice cream, don it with your mixture of berries, and drizzle the balsamic reduction over everything. Top it with some fresh ground cinnamon.