Florida blueberries are in season so the time is now to put them in salads, baked goods and smoothies, among other berry-friendly dishes. You'll find Florida blueberries in stores and markets through June. There will be blueberries after that, too, but from other states.
The season got a late start this year because of winter's record cold, but like the strawberry season, it could run a little longer. Also, most of Florida's blueberries are coming to harvest at the same time so there's likely to be a lot of berries on the market. That could drive prices down a bit.
Blueberries get high marks for disease-fighting power because of their high level of antioxidants. They are a boon to dieters, too. The little berries pack a lot of sweet flavor without many calories and no fat. A cup of blueberries is just about 80 calories.
Blueberries are tailor-made for baking, their sweetness amplified by the heat. Plus, the firm centers go a bit gooey when warmed. That's what makes the berries so delicious in crumbles and crisps.
Besides baked goods and fruit salads, consider these ways to use up Florida's blueberry bounty:
• In pancakes. Rather than add them to the batter, scatter a handful on top of the pancake before flipping it on the skillet.
• In yogurt. Add fresh blueberries to thick, tangy Greek yogurt and sweeten with honey.
• IN SALADS. Don't limit berries to fruit salads. Use in green salads and pair with nuts, feta, goat or blue cheese and pears. Use a fruity vinaigrette.
• In syrups. Simmer blueberries with a bit of water and sugar (or artificial sweetener) and drape over vanilla ice cream, pancakes or waffles.
• In bowls. Blueberries swathed in milk or decadent half-and-half is a delicious snack.
One thing not to do with blueberries: Don't get them on your clothes or you'll carry that lovely blue shade for quite a while.
Blueberry Pudding Cake
1/3 cup plus 1/2 cup sugar, divided use
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 cups (10 ounces) blueberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan.
Stir together 1/3 cup sugar with water, lemon juice and cornstarch in a small saucepan, then stir in blueberries. Bring to a simmer, then simmer, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a medium bowl.
Whisk together egg, milk, butter and vanilla in a large bowl, then add flour mixture, whisking until just combined.
Spoon batter into baking pan, spreading evenly, then pour blueberry mixture evenly over batter (berries will sink). Bake until a knife inserted into center of cake portion comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes.
Note: Cake can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then kept, wrapped well in foil, at room temperature.
Serves 6 to 8 as breakfast or dessert servings.
To Die For Blueberry Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
For crumb topping:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners. (This recipe only makes 8 muffins, so fill the other cups halfway with water to provide balance and facilitate even baking.)
Combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1-cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Don't overmix. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
To make crumb topping: Mix together sugar, flour, butter and cinnamon. Mix with a fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.
Makes 8 large muffins.
Mixed Greens With Feta, Almonds
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper
1 (5-ounce) bag baby salad greens
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 pints blueberries
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
Whisk vinegar, oil and honey in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine greens, feta and blueberries in large bowl. Add dressing; toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.