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Coping with the Blues, as in Blueberries

by Toni Lydecker, photo credit: US Highbush Blueberry Council

Fresh blueberries are gloriously abundant and downright cheap in summer, so my advice is to buy at least a pint, and preferably two, even if you’re the only one eating them.  Devour them by the handful or with cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream. To drink away your blues, add them to a smoothie or improvise a blue-tini or blueberry mojito.
            “Now what?” you may ask, thinking about the blueberries still chilling in your kitchen. What’s next is this: Ignore the all-American aura that clings to blueberries and take them all’ italiana.
            For instance, make a seasonal version of the classic salad called macedoniaby pairing blueberries with another seasonal fruit such as peaches, mangos, nectarines, plums or melon. Macedonia goes one baby step beyond cut-up fruit, but oh the difference! All you do is add a spritz of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sugar, and let the fruit stand at room temperature until slightly softened. The sweet-sour blend magically corrects imperfections and, even in perfectly ripe fruit, adds gloss and makes the flavors shine in the same way a pearl necklace sets off a little black dress.
            For a solo meal you can eat with your fingers, include a blueberry-filled ramekin on a cheese plate. There are endless combinations but one I particularly like is fresh goat cheese spread on walnut bread. Or you could team up the blueberries with Fontina Valle d’Aosta or Taleggio, a few slices of imported prosciutto or salame, and rustic whole-wheat bread.  
            Here’s another good idea: blueberries tossed into a salad of arugula, Gorgonzola and red onion, with vinaigrette made from a good single-estate Italian olive oil.
            Indulging in idiosyncratic treats is one of the perks of dining alone. I’m forever spreading Nutella on a slab of bread but, in my quest to use up that blueberry abbondanza, I recently came up with something even better. You start by toasting a slice of ciabatta (or any good country-style bread) and spreading it, while still warm, with Nutella. Add a layer of ricotta mixed with a bit of honey, and stud this fluffy foundation with as many blueberries as possible. Ohmigosh.
            When you’ve had your fill of blueberries, feel free to freeze the surplus. Just dump them, unwashed, in a ziplock bag and stash in the freezer. Months from now, they’ll serve as a sweet reminder of summer pleasures.


Blueberry-Mango Macedonia
Serves 1

1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup peeled, diced mango, peach or other summer fruit
1/2 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, or to taste
Grated lemon zest (optional)
In a dessert dish, combine the blueberries, mango, sugar, lemon juice and, if using, lemon zest. Let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes, until the fruit releases some juices.
Variations: Substitute maraschino, an Italian liqueur made with Dalmatian cherries, for the sugar; sprinkle toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds over the fruit; top with a dollop of whipped cream.

©Toni Lydecker 2006

Toni Lydecker
writes often on Italian cooking and is the author of Serves One: Simple Meals to Savor When You’re on Your Own. For more of her writing, visit www.tonilydecker.com.

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