SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK
Dab: A small bit of something important to the situation or recipe, with broader implications than a dollop, but often more specific as to locale. For instance, “She added a dab of bacon grease to the beans for seasoning”; or “That stray cat landed smack dab in the middle of my clean laundry basket.”
COBBLERS AND TARTS
It’s berry season in the Mid-South, and The Old Bride is glad. Berries are justifiably considered the rock stars of the food world because of their overall benefits to human health. Regular weekly consumption of berries has been linked to prevention against arthritis, mental decline, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, certain cancers such as colon cancer, and weight gain. What’s not to love?
Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and boysenberries (a cross of gooseberries, blackberries and raspberries), are high in water and in fiber, which is desirable for healthy digestion. Berries also are high in antioxidant anthocyanins, quercetin, and vitamin C. Antioxidants are the compounds that protect our cells from free radicals, the molecules that can damage the cells. The antioxidants in berries change the way neurons communicate in our brains by turning off the signals triggered by cytokines and COX-2 (an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain), thus, preventing inflammation. This, too, is a good thing: Reduced brain inflammation results in improved motor control and cognition.
Blueberries contain 20 types of anthocyanin antioxidants. Blackberries and raspberries each contain 8 grams of fiber in a one-cup serving. One cup of strawberries contains more vitamin C than one orange. Strawberries are high in folic acid, an essential B vitamin necessary for DNA synthesis and repair to keep us healthy and alert.
Even two servings of strawberries or one serving of blueberries per week can help boost brain power. In other words, more is better, and we should all eat more berries. Throw berries into the stew pot, mix berries into your pies, or eat ‘em raw for instant energy.
Be sure to check the farmers’ markets for local berry availability. Or better yet, pick your own at one of the area’s pick-your-own farms. Our north central Mississippi strawberry season peaked last month. Blueberries are available in north Mississippi from June through around the first of July, and are available elsewhere around the state from May to September, depending on variety and locale. (Huckleberries, the blueberry’s wild cousin, of assorted varieties nationwide, have a similar season.) Local blackberries and raspberries are ripe from late May through the first of July.
OLD FASHIONED STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
Strawberry shortcake is an assemblage of three components: Sliced, sweetened berries, whipped cream, and a sweet biscuit or lightly sweetened cake such as pound cake or angel food cake. Most of us grew up with easy access to those store-bought orange-yellow discs containing center depressions to accommodate fruit. Those store-bought cakes are no comparison to the taste provided by a fresh shortcake biscuit.
2 pts of fresh strawberries
1/4 c white granulated sugar or Splenda
2 c all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 T white granulated sugar
1/2 c shortening
3/4 c whole milk
1 pt heavy whipping cream
1/2 c white granulated sugar or Splenda, to taste
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Rinse and drain the strawberries. Slice and sprinkle with the first sugar. Refrigerate about 30 minutes until ready to assemble.
Sift dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add shortening and work the mixture with pastry blender until crumbly. Add milk and stir briskly with a fork until blended. Turn the very wet dough out onto a floured surface, pat it out into a circle and cover with wax paper. Roll to about 5/8-inch thickness, and cut with large (2-inch) biscuit cutter. Should make about 8 to 10 biscuits. Place biscuits on parchment-lined baking sheet and bake about 10 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and split each biscuit with sharp knife while still warm.
Chill a medium metal bowl for 30 minutes. Mix the cream in chilled bowl on high speed until it begins to thicken. Add sugar and continue beating until mixture doubles in volume; beat in vanilla until cream forms stiff peaks.
Assemble the shortcakes by positioning a generous spoonful of strawberries on the bottom half of a split biscuit and a dollop of whipped cream; cover with the remaining biscuit half, and top with a second dollop of whipped cream and some strawberries.
VERY BERRY COBBLER
2 c fresh blackberries
2 c fresh raspberries
2 tsp lemon juice
2 T white granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 c all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 c white granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 stick (1/2 c) salted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350˚F. Gently wash berries and drain; pat dry with paper towel. Place in medium mixing bowl, Sprinkle with lemon juice, the 2 T sugar, and cornstarch; toss gently to blend. Place in an 11-by-7-1/2-inch baking dish.
Sift dry ingredients together, whisk sugar into the mix. Add beaten egg, whisking until completely blended and mixture makes fine crumbs. Spread crumbled mixture evenly over the fruit. Drizzle melted butter evenly over the crumble. Bake for 35 minutes until top is brown and berries start bubbling up around edges. Serve warm with ice cream.
BANANA BLUEBERRY TART
The pastry for this tart is delicious. I adapted it from a recipe by Australian blogger Michel Roux. It works great for any type of fruit or veggie tart.
4 sticks (1 lb) salted butter, PLUS 3-1/4 T butter cut into cubes
4 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 to 1 c iced water (measure about 3/4 c of ice cubes into a measuring cup and fill with cold water to the 1-1/2-c line)
Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Scatter cubes of butter over the flour. Use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour and continue cutting until it forms crumbs. Slowly add iced water to the flour mixture until it will just hold together (I used about 3/4 c). Shape the dough into a ball and wrap it in wax paper and plastic wrap. Refrigerate about 30-45 minutes.
Dust pastry cloth or countertop with flour. Remove dough from fridge and shape into a rectangle, flipping it once to loosely coat both sides with flour. Measure out marks at 16 inches by 8 inches, and roll out dough to form a rectangle 16 by 8 inches. Fold one long end of the dough over a third of the length and fold the other end over a third. Turn the folded dough packet and roll it out again to 16 by 8. Fold it into three again. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate again for 30 minutes. Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll it out to 16 by 8 inches again, fold into thirds, turn and roll out then fold into thirds again. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate yet another 30 minutes.
3 T water
4 T apricot preserves or orange marmalade
2 c fresh blueberries
2 T white granulated sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2-1/2 T melted butter
3 tsp light brown sugar
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper (or the new foil-and-parchment combination, parchment side up).
Roll out the three-fold dough packet to form a 16-by-8 inch rectangle. Place dough on the lined cookie sheet, and use a sharp knife to score a 1-1/2-inch border around all four sides, cutting into the dough but not quite all the way through to the cookie sheet.
Whisk egg and water together to make an egg wash. Brush lightly over dough border. Brush apricot preserves evenly over the rectangle inside the border with apricot preserves.
Combine blueberries with sugar and lemon juice. Spread blueberries evenly over the preserves. Top with rows of sliced banana. Drizzle melted butter over the fruit and sprinkle brown sugar evenly on top. Bake about 20 to 30 minutes, until dough is puffed and golden brown.
VARIATION: Substitute Lime Tart Pie Filling for the preserves, and sliced strawberries in lieu of bananas for a double-berry tart. Yum!