Sunday, July 24, 2016

Featured Ingredient: Blueberries


“Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!”

-Robert Frost, from “Blueberries”

I love the photos that my friends and family post on various online outlets of buckets or trunks full of berries that they just picked. They remind me of the buckets of wild blueberries that in turn filled a trunk that my mother, grandmother, and my teenaged self picked one fine day in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. (I used to live there.) At the end of our adventure, Grandma said that she didn’t really like blueberries. I guess she just couldn’t stand to let all that good food go to waste.

I’m quite fond of blueberries myself, although I don’t get a chance to pick them, or any other fruit, anymore. Happily, there are people out there who will pick berries and put them in boxes and let me exchange my wages for their goods and services. Each year, I try to pick up a 5-pound box of blueberries at my local co-op store. They come from Michigan, so I can feel nostalgic.

And then, I get to decide what to do with them. Of course, blueberries freeze very well and with minimum preparation. Just wash them, then put them in a single layer on a sheet pan or some kind of tray, set that in the freezer and let them freeze for a few hours. Later, you can take them out of the freezer and off the pan, then scoop them into a freezer bag or freezer-safe container and put them back in the freezer, where they will be good for a few months. Since you froze them individually on the pan, they won’t be all clumped together.

Most of the recipes I refer to in this post can be made with either fresh or frozen blueberries. One notable exception is this beautiful Open Face Blueberry Pie. It needs fresh blueberries, because most of the berries in the pie filling don’t even get cooked, just stirred into a thick sauce of cooked blueberries. Absolutely, deliciously phenomenal!

Of course, blueberry muffins probably come to mind right away. I know they do for me, and I’ve posted two different blueberry muffin recipes: Blueberry Coconut Muffins with a double dose of flavor from coconut milk and shredded coconut, and Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins, sweet and breakfast-y.

Muffins aren’t the only quick breads that do well with a boost from blueberries. This Blueberry Thyme Cornbread is both savory and a little sweet, equally at home alongside a pot of beans or chili and with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

And speaking of breakfast, I probably don’t need to remind you that blueberries are great in pancakes, like these Blueberry Ricotta Pancakes, but they can be sprinkled in to just about any pancake recipe whether from scratch, like this one or from a quick and easy mix.

This Blueberry Muffin Coffee Cake with Crumb Topping might involve a little more effort to get on the breakfast table, but if you don’t get around to it until the afternoon, it’s great for a coffee break or for dessert as well.

For an even easier dessert, pour this Blueberry Rhubarb Sauce on a plain cake. You could use a store-bought pound cake, but I particularly like it with this Simple Vanilla Yogurt Cake. It’s also great over Vanilla Ice Cream.

Blueberries also play well with any other berries you might have on hand in this Berry and Rhubarb Galette or this White Cake with Berries and Lemon Glaze

They’re beautiful in fruit salads or even on top of a green salad, especially with a sweeter dressing like this one. You can sprinkle them on your morning bowl of cereal or yogurt. Lately I’ve been putting them on my Granola.

Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, fiber and other healthy phytochemicals, it’s not a surprise blueberries have been labeled a “superfood” by the folks who want to teach us how to eat healthfully. Lucky for us these little blue jewels are beautiful and delicious as well, making them a true summer darling all the way around!

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