Flirting with Flavour


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Pocono Blueberry Muffins

I moved home last month.  Suddenly the year in London that had seemed such a long time came to a close.  Bags and boxes packed and shipped, doors locked for the last time behind me, a taxi ride across town to the Heathrow Express with MC beside me clutching our “travelling hamper” passed from Maria, to me, and now to another Maria, a last emigration through security into Terminal 5, 7 ½ hours of reading, writing, and fitful sleep interspersed with conversation with my neighbour (because I seem to have that look that welcomes strangers to converse with me), and I was running into my mom’s arms at the airport, encouraging her to speed down the highway so I could climb into my bed at last.  Of course, always on the move, I only spent two nights at home before hopping in the car to drive up to New York for a good friend’s wedding and from there to the Poconos for my annual siesta by the lake.

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This year was different, however.  This year, added to the leaps and bounds of Rascal greeting me upon arrival were the faces of three of my cousins, whom I had not seen in over 5 years.  I must admit to a wee bit of apprehension.  Knowing that I was no longer the same little girl who had frolicked with them in Bermuda, I wondered what had changed for them.  I needn’t have worried, though, because family is family.  Our last memories of spending time together may have been growing dusty in the backs of our minds, but it didn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter.  Squinting over puzzle boards, helping me remember words forgotten in my state of dissertation-weariness, plucking blueberries off the bush in front of the cabin and then working together to turn them into delectable muffins.  We no longer have to search in the recesses of memory, we have living memories now.  It is a beautiful thing and I am grateful for it.

But now, this is a food blog, so where’s the food?  Every food has a story, and as one friend recently pointed out to me, the experience and people are just as important as the food itself.  So, today, after a long hiatus (sorry about that – dissertation and moving took a lot out of me!), I thought what better way to restart than with, you guessed it, blueberry muffins!

For me, summer isn’t summer without blueberries.  And while, in recent years I have become slightly obsessed with blueberry cornmeal pancakes, and blueberry pie is undoubtedly the queen of summer delicacies, blueberry muffins are the unsung heroes.  So simple that even in a sparsely outfitted summer kitchen you can find the ingredients, yet so delicious that it really takes all the restraint one can manage not to finish the entire batch in one sitting.  Fresh from the oven.  Still steaming.  With the blueberries barely cooled enough to not burn at the touch.  There were four of us, after all… but we did manage to restrain ourselves, so we could enjoy the fruits of our labour the next day, and the next.  And you know what, they might be even better reheated in the toaster oven!

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With 2 cups of blueberries, these muffins are really all about the blueberries.  My mom exclaimed excitedly (and with mouth full) that she had never had such blueberry-y blueberry muffins!  I usually use muffin tin liners, but since we didn’t have any, we buttered the muffin tins and I must say, I may never use liners again.  The result was that not only the tops got crisp on the outside, but the bottoms too, which helped to seal in the moisture for a nice spongy interior.  I also decided to throw in some cornmeal the second time I made these, because, why not?

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Blueberry Muffins
From Food52

Makes 12-16 muffins

Ingredients:

2 2/3 cups flour (I subbed 1 cup cornmeal for 1 cup of the flour)
2 2/3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar, scant (you can also use a sugar substitute, like coconut sugar and it is possibly even more delicious, because it acts like a brown sugar and caramalises)
4 TBSP melted butter, slightly cooled (or canola oil – I can never be bothered to melt and cool butter and canola works just as well)
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh blueberries

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F (218C) and line muffin tin with cups or butter/spray the tin well.
  2. Mix the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl (you will be adding the wet ingredients to this). Then mix together the butter, egg and milk, and add to the flour mixture, mixing quickly with a fork.
  3. Fold in the blueberries.
  4. Divide the batter between the muffin cups.
  5. Bake 18-20 minutes.


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Seven-Fruit Fruit Salad

My mom, Gil, and I are all gathered in the living of our doublewide trailer, home away from home, in Virginia.  I’m standing at the bar separating the kitchen from the dining room (if it can be called that – it’s really just a table and some chairs with a few feet separating it from the couch in the so-called living room), on the kitchen side, slicing banana into three bowls, already nearly overflowing with fruits.  It has probably taken me upwards of twenty minutes just to cut the fruit.   What can I say?  I have a meticulous eye for equal portions.  Plus, it’s just plain relaxing.  The rhythm of knife and thumb working in harmony pushes any stressful thoughts into the farthest reaches of my mind.  And when you finally put that first spoonful into your mouth and the sour of the kiwi mixes with the cool-fresh-picked taste of blueberries and the sugary sweet strawberries… throw in some peaches and banana, maybe some mango, what the hell, throw in any and every fruit you can dream up.  It’s heaven; in it’s simplest sense.  It tastes of sun and fresh starts.  It tastes of summer breezes and auspiciousness.

Sorry, was I saying something?  Oh right!  I was just putting the finishing touches on our fruit salads for consumption on a particularly summery March morning.  ‘How many fruits are there in it?’ asked Gil.  ‘Four.‘  ‘Then it’s not a fruit salad.  Gotta have five fruits to be a fruit salad.’  I protest that we can only use what we have and we only have blueberries, bananas, strawberries, and clementines.  So, sorry if that’s not five fruits.  I know it is a fruitless (sorry!) road to go down, as I’ve been hearing the same story since I was seven years old.  Suddenly I have a thought – well, do you not want yours then, Gil?  I’ll gladly take one for the team…

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As you might have guessed, he sucked it up and ate his [gasp!] four-fruit-salad.  I mean, who’s going to turn down a fruit salad?  Unless it’s one of those desperate fruit cups sadly resigned to a life in the refrigerator section of the local market or the airport café.  I will admit to having succumbed to these specimen in moments of weakness – aka waiting for a flight and not wanting to partake in any of the baked goods that would inevitably mean death by wheat for me.  And you know what?  They’re not that bad.  Still, I’ll take the fresh, real version any day.

Guess what, Gil!  Today, not only did I have five fruits for my fruit salad, I had seven.  That’s right, seven!!  Thank goodness for the coming of summer!  Oh, and, perhaps, globalisation for bringing me kiwis from Italy and nectarines from South Africa…

What follows is a recipe for one BIG bowl of fruit – aka a fruit salad.  You could share, but trust me you won’t want to.  If there are multiple yous that want to partake, just make twice as much and employ that meticulous eye to make sure none of your portion accidentally ends up in someone else’s bowl…

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7-Fruit Fruit Salad

Ingredients:
1 kiwi
1 nectarine
1 banana
A handful of blueberries
4 or 5 small strawberries
1/3 of a mango
1 small pear
¼ cup nonfat Greek yoghurt
Your favourite granola

Method:
Slice all fruit into a bowl (It’s okay to day dream a bit, but don’t cut yourself!).  Top with yoghurt (I usually use Greek or sheep) and some of your favourite granola.  Mine is Kazzie’s, but it’s not available outside of the Shenandoah Valley yet, so some great alternatives are Lizi’s Original and (if you’re in the mood for a particularly sweet treat) Belgian Chocolate granola.