Elegant Edibles Catering
Well friends, since we last got together in the kitchen, I have had a special visitor…my beautiful thirteen month old granddaughter Blake came to spend a week with me! Her parents came with her, but they only stayed a couple of days, so Blake got the full attention of Gramma and Grampa! We did all of the usual fun things…we went for walks and played in the yard with her four legged friend Bailey, had picnics, read books and did lots of snuggling. Blake also got to spend time with me at work. She oversaw the catering process from the comfort of her highchair, and she really liked that snack time at Gramma’s place is anytime! She is a really good eater; I really didn’t find anything she didn’t like. Much like her father was at that age, I found that she is a huge fan of fruit, and berries in particular! I just wish she had been here a week or two later so that she could have tasted the wonderful flavor of fresh, homegrown strawberries. Now that would have been a treat for her!
Now that summer has arrived, we are seeing those delicious, homegrown berries in all of the local markets. This year the farmers seemed to have had a really good planting season because of the warm sunny days and reasonable amount of rain. These factors have led us to bountiful fields of ripe strawberries. I found fresh, local strawberries in the markets this week and they are beautiful! The warmth and extra moisture has allowed them to grow large and juicy, and the ones I sampled were very sweet. Spring and summer give us a bounty of luscious berries…strawberries, blueberries, raspberries-both red and black-it makes the mouth water to think of them. There are so many creative things you can do with berries beyond pie. Think outside the box and just imagine fruit relishes, fruit smoothies and fruit snacks.
When choosing berries, be sure to choose those that are ripe, but not over-ripe or otherwise blemished. I always try to look at all of the berries, turning the package in all directions to make sure there aren’t any moldy or otherwise spoiled berries hiding underneath the good ones. If you see excess moisture or liquid in the package, it is a clue that the berries may be overripe and therefore near the end of their shelf life. When you get them home, rinse the berries with cool water and lay them out on a towel to dry. Do not soak berries, (particularly strawberries or raspberries), as they will absorb water. Leave the hulls on the strawberries until you are ready to use them. Keep rinsed berries refrigerated. Just a side note, back to Blake, remember that it is always a good idea to cut blueberries (and grapes, or any other small round foods) in half so as to avoid choking hazards for small children!
Berries have great flavor by themselves, but as I mentioned above, they will absorb liquid. The cool part of that is that the flavor of the berries can be enhanced by macerating (infusing) them with fruit juice, spirits, or wine. A drizzle of fruit juice, wine, or flavored vodka over your berries will give them another layer of flavor. It is important to remember to taste your berries before adding additional sugar to them; while some berries may be a bit tart, you don’t want to cover the fresh flavor by over sweetening them. As with any recipe, follow the “to taste” rule of thumb…taste and add the sweetener a bit at a time, letting the berries rest a bit before adding more, up to the entire amount of sweetener (sugar or artificial sweetener) or additional flavors to make sure they actually need more!
From color to aroma and finally taste, fresh berries tickle many of the senses, and make perfect little granddaughters very happy. This week let’s add touch to that list of senses, pick up some berries and enjoy the taste of summer!
Strawberry Lemonade Pops
Yield 16 pops
2 c water
1 c sugar
4 c strawberries, pureed in blender
¼ c fresh squeezed lemon juice
In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups of water and 1 cup of brown sugar to a boil. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add strawberry puree and lemon juice. Stir to blend well.
Fill 16 frozen pop molds or paper cups with about ¼ cup of fruit mixture. Freeze 1 hour or until slushy. Insert stick then freeze until firm
Raspberry Onion Relish
Yield 2 ½ cups
2 c fresh raspberries
4 green onions, sliced thinly
½ c finely chopped red onion
2 T white wine vinegar
2 T olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T minced fresh mint
1/8 t salt
1/8 t coarsely ground pepper
In a small bowl, gently combine all ingredients. Serve immediately.
To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.