Blueberries are here, and so are the first baby lettuces of the season. We’ve had so much rain this spring that the lettuces may even be full grown by now. These two arrivals to the farmer’s markets and supermarkets are a delicious reminder that fresh produce is a seasonal delight.
Baby lettuces are delicious. It was the first way I got my kids to eat salad. We grew romaine and red and green leaf lettuces when they were younger, and we would go into the garden in the late afternoon to pick the best leaves for dinner. They loved the small, tender leaves and preferred dipping them in salad dressing and eating them by hand. I often snuck some baby spinach leaves in with the greens and they never knew the difference!
I love making salads with baby lettuces, baby spinach, some arugula, frisée and then some berries or other fruits — apples in fall, berries in spring and summer, oranges in winter. But now it is berry time! Whatever berries you choose will enhance your salads and make them super kid-friendly.
And blueberries? They are my favorite — along with raspberries. Blueberries are amazing little nutritional powerhouses. They are full of calcium, iron and magnesium, which are good for bone and blood health. They are high in fiber and antioxidants. These dark blue nuggets contain compounds known to fight liver and colon cancer, and so many micronutrients that it would take forever to name them.
Blueberries are also good for the skin and seem to help prevent wrinkles and age spots. They are known to fight diabetes, and blueberry juice helps in the treatment of insulin sensitivity. These miracle berries help reduce muscle damage, improve eyesight, soothe cellular inflammation, and much, much more.
Blueberries are truly the powerhouse food. Eating them every day may even help with weight loss, as they are filling and may help decrease the consumption of other, more calorie-laden foods.
An interesting fact about blueberries is that they are totally indigenous to North America. Native Americans used them for food and clothing dyes for hundreds and hundreds of years. They brought them to South America, and now the two continents do a seasonal swap. From April to November, we produce them and ship them to the wintry south. From November to April, while we shiver, Mexico, Central and South America ship the berries to us!
Enjoy your baby lettuces and blueberries! Spring is here!
Lemon Poppy Blueberry Bread (Dairy)
1/3 cup butter or margarine
1 cup sugar, scant
2 extra-large eggs
1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt, scant
1/2 cup milk, buttermilk or unsweetened almond milk
Grated zest from 1 lemon, about 2 tsp.
1/2 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 cup fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup sugar
Grease and flour a 9 by 5 inch bread pan. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set a rack in the middle of the oven.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until very creamy. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
Add the eggs and beat until fluffy. Add the sugar, lemon juice, milk, poppy seeds and lemon rind and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt and baking powder. Add in thirds to the liquid and mix on low speed just until blended, scraping down the bowl as needed. Remove the bowl from the stand, add the blueberries and mix with a spoon to evenly distribute the berries.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes.
When done, remove the loaf from the oven and poke holes in the top of the cake with a thin skewer. Immediately pour the lemon sugar topping over the top and let the cake sit for 15 to 25 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan and remove the bread and turn right side up. Let cool completely. Makes one loaf.
Phyllo Berry Nests (Pareve or dairy)
1 package phyllo dough
1/2 pint blueberries
1/2 pint raspberries
1 pint strawberries, hulled and cut in half or smaller
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 stick melted butter (use only the clear, clarified part)
Optional: 1 Tbsp. dark brown sugar or 10X sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
vanilla ice cream or yogurt
Hull the strawberries and cut them in half. Place in a large bowl. Add the blueberries and raspberries and sugar, toss and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Remove the phyllo from the box and cut into 1/4-inch strips. Place in a large bowl, toss to loosen. Place a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet and form the phyllo into nests about 4 inches wide and about 2 inches high.
Melt the butter and drizzle over the nests. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 375 until golden brown, about 8 to10 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.
Optional: Whip the cream with the dark brown sugar until thick, but not totally whipped. Fill the nests with the berries and drizzle some of the brown sugar cream over the berries. Alternately, serve with fully whipped cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet or ice cream and drizzle with chocolate syrup.
Baby Lettuces, Spinach and Berry Salad (Pareve)
7 to 8 ounces baby romaine lettuces
7 to 8 ounces baby butter lettuces or other lettuces
7 to 8 ounces baby spinach leaves
4 to 6 ounces baby arugula
1 bunch frisée
1 small red onion, thinly sliced, sliced cut in quarters
1 pint blueberries, raspberries, canned mandarin oranges
1 cup candied walnuts, plain hazelnuts, toasted pecans, or sunflower seeds
This is a simple salad. Toss the lettuces and the frisée. Place on a large platter. Make a circle of the onions, another of the nuts and fill the center with the berries or whatever fruit you are using. You can use any salad dressing you like. I used a raspberry poppy seed dressing for this one.
Raspberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Dressing (Pareve)
1/2 cup raspberry vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar (to taste)
3 Tbsp. seedless raspberry preserves (more or less, to taste)
2 tsp. Dijon mustard (more or less, to taste)
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
pinch white pepper
1 to 2 tsp. poppy seeds
Optional: 1/2 cup fresh raspberries
Whisk all ingredients together except for the raspberries. Add them to the dressing and stir just before serving. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.