Thursday, September 24, 2020

On Cooking Southern: Feeling Blue?

Balsamic Blueberry SauceA bread, a salsa, a sauce, and a drink that are all the berries.

By Laurie Triplette

ldtriplette@aol.com

SOUTHERNISM OF THE WEEK

I found myself:  A grammatically incorrect expression of implied emphatic action or status … favored by those of us from the Memphis-Delta region, as in  “I found myself wanting to smack that bonehead up the side of his head when he asked me, the only female, to get coffee for the men in the management meeting.”

Am I Blue?

Hallelujah! It’s blueberry season for real. Local varieties are abundantly available right now at the farmers’ markets and at pick-your-own farms in the region. This makes The Old Bride very happy because blueberries are one of Mother Nature’s most beneficial crops. Even doctors say so.

Remember our lesson a few weeks ago? Blueberries contain powerful antioxidants that protect the body by neutralizing free radicals or unstable oxygen molecules that can damage cells, and are sources of disease and aging. Blueberries are an excellent food for combating or preventing cancer: The quercetin and catechins in blueberries are flavonols that support the antioxidant defense system, and may contribute to cancer prevention.

Blueberries also contain ellagic acid, a phenolic compound that has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties (possibly contributing to reversal of tumor growth), and gallic acid, a powerful antioxidant also found in black tea and red wine, shown to inhibit cell proliferation and cell death in prostate cancer cells. These amazing berries, moreover, are an excellent source of the type of fiber that lowers cholesterol, reduces heart disease, and helps to maintain gastrointestinal health.

Are you convinced yet that a few blueberries a day will keep the bad stuff away? We are encouraged to consume about 1 cup of blueberries at least several times a week to boost our heart and gastrointestinal health, and build stronger immune systems. There really is no excuse not to keep blueberries on hand at all times. Blueberries are so adaptable that they can be bagged raw and frozen, for use direct from the freezer in any dish calling for fresh berries.

The Old Bride has made it a game to see how many ways blueberries can be consumed each week. Of course, they are an excellent topping on a yogurt parfait or a bowl of cereal. A handful of blueberries make an excellent pick-me-up snack –more satisfying than those evil chips or chocolate kisses. And there are numerous ways to incorporate them into salsas, beverages, sauces, soups, and salads to complement an entire meal.

RED AND BLUE-BERRY SALSA

blueberrysalsa-DSCN4513If you only have 2 cups of blueberries instead of three cups, reduce the recipe by chopping only half the berries, reduce the cilantro to 1 T, the salt to 1/4 tsp, and the hot pepper to one. Keep the lemon juice and bell pepper amounts the same.

2 c blueberries, cut in half

1 c whole blueberries

1/4 c fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

3 T chopped cilantro

2 jalapeño or cayenne peppers, seeded and minced

1/3 c diced red bell pepper

1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt

Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Serve salsa immediately with fried or toasted flour tortilla wedges, or as a side condiment during a meal.

BLUEBERRY ZUCCHINI BREAD

Bl-zucchinibread-DSCN4415It is important to squeeze out the excess liquid from shredded zucchini. Do not tightly pack the zucchini in the cup or your baking pan will runneth over. In fact, I tried this recipe three times and even after squeezing out the shredded zucchini, there was enough batter to fill a 9×7-inch bread pan and four mini-loaf pans. Due to the large quantity of sugar, this batter rises very high. Be sure to allow at least 1 inch of pan above the batter. 

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 c extra light olive oil

3 tsp vanilla extract

2-1/4 c white granulated sugar

2 c shredded zucchini, well drained, loosely packed in measuring cup

3 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 T ground cinnamon

1 pt fresh blueberries, washed and dried

Remove top rack from oven and preheat oven to 375˚F. Lightly grease and flour a bread pan and four mini-loaf pans.  Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside.

Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, sugar, and vanilla extract. Stop mixer and fold in zucchini. Beat well, and beat in the dry ingredients in two parts until completely blended. Gently fold in blueberries. Pour into bread pan and four mini-loaf pans or two small-loaf pans (there’s not enough batter to fill two large bread pans). Place on middle rack in medium-hot oven and bake 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 20 minutes. Run knife blade around edges, and turn out onto wax paper (on sides) to finish cooling.

BLUEBERRY-LEMON ICED TEA

The Old Bride first encountered this tea last summer at the Farmers Market in Hattiesburg. Like raspberry lemonade, Blueberry Lemon Iced Tea should join your summertime thirst-quenching arsenal. Your guests will thank you. Plus, it’s good for you.

blueberrytea-DSCN44503 family-size tea bags

16 oz fresh blueberries (frozen will do)

1/2 c fresh lemon juice (about 6 lemons)

3/4 c white granulated sugar or Splenda

Combine berries, lemon juice, and sugar in saucepan, bring to low simmer on medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer on low boil about 5 minutes and remove from heat. Cool. Press through a sieve to extract all the juice. Discard all pulp.

Bring 6 c water to a boil and steep the tea bags for 5 minutes. Remove bags, stir in blueberry-lemon juice. Refrigerated, covered. Serve over ice with a few berries and a slice of lemon.

GRILLED FLANK STEAK WITH BALSAMIC BLUEBERRY SAUCE

I tasted a huckleberry version of this in Utah last month – served over grilled elk steak. Ummm good!

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp fine ground black pepper

1 tsp salt

flank steak

1-1/2 c blueberries, rinsed and drained

2 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 c minced onion

1 clove minced garlic

1 tsp extra light olive oil

1 T tightly packed light brown sugar

1 tsp fresh grated ginger

1/2 tsp lemon zest

Snipped fresh chives

Lightly season the flank steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Cook on medium-hot grill about 3-4 minutes per side, to create grill marks. While steak is grilling heat olive oil in skillet. Sauté the onion and garlic until transparent but not caramelized. Add blueberries and remaining ingredients and stir gently. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium, simmering about 5 minutes until mixture thickens and liquid reduces to about 1 cup. This is fantastic on salmon or chicken as well.

VARIATION 1: Stir in 1 tsp bourbon while still hot.

VARIATION 2: Omit the ginger; add 2 tsp melted butter, 1 tsp fresh minced thyme or 1/4 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp fresh sage or 1/4 tsp dried sage. This version is great on pork. Add ketchup and cayenne, and you have BBQ sauce!

Laurie Triplette is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA)  and the Southern Food and Beverage Museum (SOFAB). Check out the GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’ web site: www.tripleheartpress.com and follow Laurie’s food adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@LaurieTriplette).