Cooking With Local Chefs

Cooking with Chef Jim Copening: Coulis is a chef's secret tool

Coulis is a sweet or savory sauce made from fruit or vegetables, usually used as a garnish. It's thick with an even texture, since the components are pureed after cooking or using raw ingredients.

The Old French word that coulis is derived from means "flowing," which is certainly the case when the sauce is draped over a dessert or savory dish. The contemporary French word means "strained liquid." Flavor combinations are limited only by your creativity. It's a wonderful way to enhance a dish both with color and flavor. It's a chef's secret tool that you should know about.

Popular dessert coulis use berries such as strawberries or raspberries. Sugar and lemon juice are added to enhance the fruit flavors. You can cook the mixture or puree raw ingredients and use a strainer to eliminate the seeds for a smoother sauce. Mint coulis is commonly served with lamb. Vegetable coulis are often made with tomatoes or roasted peppers. The sauce dresses up a dish when served around the plate or on the side of the main dish. Most chefs add coulis on a plate using a squeeze bottle to create an appetizing design.

My preference for making coulis is to combine a sweet wine, such

as a Riesling or ice wine, with a fruit, seasoned with sugar and then pureed. I combine rhubarb with strawberries to add a tart flavor to the sauce. I am sharing a recipe for a dessert we recently had on our special dessert menu at Arts & Eats. It's a puff pastry horn with strawberry rhubarb coulis and cream. In this case, the rhubarb was cooked in elderflower liqueur. The dessert was a huge success and will be for your next gathering.

The elderflower liqueur used in this coulis can be found in any large liquor store. This cordial is popular in North Western Europe and has a strong Victorian heritage. The flavor is floral with hints of citrus and tropical fruits.

Strawberry Rhubarb Horns

4 (5x7 inch) sheets of puff pastry

2 cups fresh rhubarb, chopped

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup St. Germaine elderflower liqueur

Rhubarb sauce (coulis): Poach rhubarb in liqueur and simmer until rhubarb is tender (about 10 minutes). While still hot, add sugar to taste. Puree in blender.

Pastry horn: Shape the horns by placing pastry dough over the back side of a popover pan and bake for 12 minutes at 400 degrees.

Chill sauce, add raw sliced strawberries and toss. Fill the pastry horn with this mixture.

Garnish with powdered sugar and fresh mint and mascarpone, whipped cream, or ice cream. Makes 4 horns.

Chef Jim Copening, of Arts & Eats, can be reached at The restaurant is at 1114 12th St. W., Bradenton, in the Village of the Arts. Information: 941-201-6647 or