If it’s summer time, then it’s berry time! And aren’t we Californians the lucky ones? Locally grown (and organic) berries abound in this region.
Berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries -- are super-foods and pack super-sized portions of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants to promote good health and help us ward off strokes, heart disease, cancer, inflammatory diseases and age-related conditions like Alzheimer’s. One cup of berries generally weigh in at 40-90 calories and carry loads of vitamin A and C. Berries team well with other foods like nuts, greens and oils and, when combined with other foods, they can provide additional benefits through the enhanced absorption of nutrients. For example, strawberries, rich in vitamin C, also help the body absorb greater amounts of iron from sources like beef.
When selecting berries, be careful to choose brightly colored fruit that show no signs of mishandling, such as soft spots and discoloration. Don't be afraid to give containers a shake—berries stuck together too tightly could be joined by mold. Examine the berries after purchasing. Most berry containers include a small tissue at the bottom. I prefer to remove that tissue or move the berries to a clean, dry container. Berries can be stored for approximately 2-3 days in the refrigerator or frozen for longer keeping.
Whether they're eaten by the handful, over cereal, in a pie, pastry or parfait, you can’t go wrong with enjoying lots of tasty berries through the summer and early Fall. To get your berry season off to a lively start, try one of these simple recipes.
Mixed Berry Bowl (serves 2)
2 cups berries, mixed variety
2 Tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
2 tsp honey
1 tsp chopped crystallized ginger
1. Blend lime or lemon juice and honey; toss berries with liquid mixture.
2. Add crystallized ginger to fruit. Serve immediately or refrigerate to keep cool. Serve with frozen yogurt or ice cream for extra enjoyment.
Blackberry & Prosciutto Salad (serves 2)
1 head butter lettuce
1 cucumber, peeled and chopped coarsely
2 ripe vine tomatoes, sliced into thin wedges
A handful of watercress
2 sprigs of fresh basil (optional)
1 cup fresh blackberries
6 slices prosciutto (or similar air-dried ham)
Extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1. Wash and shred/chop enough lettuce for two people. Toss in a salad bowl and add the cucumbers, tomatoes, and watercress. Toss to mix.
2. Plate the salad and top each plate with 3 slices of Prosciutto and half the blackberries. Garnish with the sprig of basil, if using. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
Blueberry Cornbread (serves 6-8)
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup (1/8 lb.) butter, melted
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup dehydrated masa flour (If you don't have masa flour, increase the cornmeal to 1-1/3 cups.)
¼ cup sugar
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed
1. In a bowl, beat eggs, buttermilk, and butter to blend. In another bowl, mix
flour, cornmeal, masa, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
2. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture just until evenly moistened. Gently stir
in berries. Spread level in a buttered 8-inch square pan.
3. Bake in a 375° oven until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, 20-25 min. Let cool 10 min., then cut into 9 squares.