Kitchen Shrink: Boys in blue; the best berries of summer
While strolling along a quaint little street in Northern California, a whimsical window display in a French patisserie caught my eye and drew me inside. I was particularly intrigued by the petite pizza blanketed with golden cheese and studded with blackish spheres. I assumed they were black olives, but they appeared too small, and the shape too perfect. Upon further investigation I noticed blueberry muffins, blueberry scones, blueberry buns, and even blueberry bagels filling the glass cases. A-ha! This was a blueberry bakery, and the mystery pizza was undoubtedly a beautiful blueberry topped pie.
Sweet Herculean blueberries are actually not a true botanical berry, and they’re actually not blue either, rather a dark purple, reminiscent of an eggplant. July is National Blueberry Month, peak season when these mighty morsels, one of the few foods native to the Americas are good and plenty.
The rich jeweled color pulls you in as mounds of plump, sweet high-bush blueberries overflow at farmers markets and grocers in deep bins or baskets piled sky-high. The low-bush varieties, which are grown in cooler climes are tiny, super sweet berries best in preserves and jellies, cobblers and other baked goods, or pressed into juices. To pick a winner look for firm, plump, glabrous-skinned berries kissed with a delicate iridescent bloom. Berries should be a deep purple, even a bluish black hue, while reddish or greenish tinged ones are unripe and best used for baking or cooking.
Discard shriveled, soft, blemished, and, of course, moldy ones. Remember not to wash blueberries until ready to eat to prevent spoilage, and refrigerate for up to 10 days in an airtight container.
Blueberries perfectly reflect the proverb; “Good things come in small packages.” They make the list of top handful of healthy foods on the planet, and are good for everything from healing your psyche to repairing your sore muscles. They are loaded with antioxidants, particularly anthocyanin, which not only gives them their deep indigo color, but also makes them mighty warriors against free radicals and other hazards.
Their rich store of calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and phosphorous boost bone health, while the abundance of Vitamin C dials up collagen production for a glowing, youthful complexion. The load of high fiber, potassium, folate and B6’s protect the ticker, while other phytonutrients control blood sugar levels, particularly among diabetics, reduce bad cholesterol levels, and ratchet up the immune system to ward off colds, the flu, and assorted cancers.
There’s more. The petite powerhouse improves nerve and brain function along with digestion, bumps up mood while cuts down inflammation and muscle aches, puts the skids on pesky urinary tract infections, and age-related eye deterioration from cataracts to macular degeneration.
So start the day with a blueberry and spinach smoothie, a stack of whole grain blueberry and banana pancakes, scones, crepes, or a blueberry quiche. Whip up an attention-grabbing pizza or flatbread topped with mozzarella and gorgonzola cheeses, pancetta and plump blueberries, grilled wild caught salmon with a balsamic, blueberry and red onion glaze, a blueberry and goat cheese risotto, or a blueberry and quinoa veggie burger.
Toss them in green salads (see recipe), fruit salads, taboulis, pilafs, and stuffings. For some heavenly treats and desserts freeze them and top with coconut cream or vanilla bean gelato, whip up frozen blueberry pops, or incorporate them in English trifles, rice puddings, strudels, soufflés, crème brulees, lemonades, iced teas, and invigorating summer cocktails like a blueberry mint Cosmo, Margarita, Mojito, gin sour or blueberry Collins.
Recipe: Blueberry & Baby Green Salad
• For the Dressing: 1/2 cup almond, walnut or avocado oil; 1/3 cup of orange blossom or acacia honey; 1/4 cup of apple cider or red wine vinegar, or Meyer lemon juice; 1/4 teaspoon (or less) of sea salt and smoked paprika; 1/8 teaspoon of fresh cracked black pepper.
• For the Salad: 6 cups of mixed baby spring greens; 2 cups of fresh blueberries, stems and leaves removed; 3/4 cup of crumbled goat feta cheese; 1/2 cup of chopped toasted walnuts, pecans or almonds.
• Method: In a bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Add greens, blueberries and nuts to a large salad bowl. Toss well with dressing and sprinkle with cheese. Serves 6. Serve immediately.
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