Berries

Strawberries

May 13, 2021

Though they are available year-round in grocery stores the best strawberries are to be found in farmer’s markets in spring and early summer.

Look for smaller berries, preferably organic ones, with a rich, glossy red color and shiny green leaves. Avoid berries with white or green shoulders and brown or limp leaves. Never buy them if they are moist, overly soft or show signs of mold. Do not buy berries if their cartons are leaking and wet, a sure sign that unseen fruits will be moldy.

Although fresh strawberries should be rinsed, do not soak them for any length of time since they will absorb the water and turns mushy. For eating on their own, strawberries, even very large ones, should be left whole. Hull strawberries before freezing them or using them for most preparations. Use a small paring knife or a strawberry huller to carve out the white center core from the stem end of each berry. To improve the flavor of lackluster strawberries, hull and slice them, place in a bowl and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of sugar for every pint. Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. The sugar draws moisture from the berries to make a sweet natural syrup.

Fresh strawberries are fragile so handle them with care. Don’t wash the berries until just before you are ready to eat them, as the moisture will encourage mold. To store strawberries, line a glass or plastic container with paper towels, carefully arrange the berries inside and cover with the lid. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2021 All Rights Reserved

Enjoying Summer’s Abundance

July 6, 2020

July has given us bright sunny days, low humidity and cool evening temperatures and a great way to capture summer’s splendor is with a picnic. Whether you find respite under the shade of a magnificent tree, spread a blanket on a sandy beach or enjoy your own patio or yard, dining “en plein air” is a delightful diversion to current world conditions.

Simplicity is key for a pleasant picnic. With farm markets opening, stock up on fresh fruits, berries, and vegetables for the picnic basket. Luscious, seasonal asparagus can be lightly grilled, steamed or roasted, then spritzed with fresh lemon juice and adorned with fresh parmesan cheese shavings for a light and lovely picnic lunch that packs easily. Freshly picked asparagus can also be served raw. Shave each stalk using a vegetable peeler, into long strips and dress with olive oil, rice vinegar, salt and pepper. Embellish at will with goat or feta cheese, pine nuts or almonds and plenty of minced herbs.

Fresh herbs perk up picnic recipes and eliminate the need for excess sodium. Chives will add a slightly sharp bite to potato, egg or pasta salads, as well as a nice little nip of flavor to deviled eggs. Poach a nice piece of salmon and dot it with creamy dill sauce for an elegant picnic entrée. Cilantro and Thai basil elevate rice noodle salads, and the snappy tang of fresh parsley is just the right addition to grain bowls. Fresh basil with ripe tomatoes is a classic combination. For something sweet, pack fresh berries, such as native strawberries, blueberries or raspberries, sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey.

If your picnic involves grilling use sturdy rosemary to imbue vegetables, meat, and fish with Mediterranean flavor and flair. Marinate chunks of lamb, beef or chicken with fresh rosemary, garlic, and olive oil. Let rest for several hours, then grill as desired.

Have picnic supplies at the ready to take advantage of gorgeous weather. Stash a small roll of garbage bags, hand sanitizer, salt and pepper packets, a small cutting board and knife, bug spray, sunscreen, and a blanket in your picnic basket. Keep small ice packs in the freezer. Gather your food and drink and enjoy the healthy benefits of picnicking all summer long.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Freezer Essentials

March 16, 2020

These freezer essentials will help you with your weekly meal prep as well as last minute meals that you need to get on the table fast.

Bagged frozen vegetables, like mixed peppers, broccoli, and spinach.
Bagged frozen fruit, like blueberries, mangos, bananas, and strawberries.
Bagged frozen pastas, like tortellini and ravioli.
Frozen waffles and pancakes.
Frozen potatoes, like tots, fries, and breakfast potatoes.
Rice and prepared side dishes.
Pre-made dough, pie crusts, and breads.

Frozen foods are not limited to frozen dinners. You can stock your freezer with healthier ingredients to make putting dinner together easy. There are endless possibilities with what you can make with frozen ingredients. As always, be creative and “work with what you got!”

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2020 All Rights Reserved

Blueberry Muffin Mug Cake

June 25, 2019

You may substitute any berries for this delicious mug cake.

“Work With What You Got!”

©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2019 All Rights Reserved

Strawberries

May 20, 2017

Strawberries are the irresistible taste of spring. They’re juicy, refreshing, great for pies, excellent for picnics, and perfectly in season.

Strawberries aren’t truly berries, because of their seeds that are on the outside. An average strawberry has approximately 200 seeds. If you don’t want the seeds on your strawberries, you can gently peel off the outside with a paring knife.

Strawberries are known for sweet jams and tarts, but they are an excellent base for savory recipes as well, like spicy salsas, glazes for meats, and endless fresh green combinations in strawberry salads.

Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more vitamin C than an orange. They are also full of antioxidants. Consuming a serving a day (about 1 cup of sliced strawberries) will even boost your immune system. These same qualities make strawberries a great exfoliating face mask. Just mash 9 strawberries, mix in 2 tablespoons of honey, and apply over your face (avoid your eyes). Wash away the mask after 10 minutes and your skin will shine.

It’s so disappointing to buy strawberries and they end up having no flavor. Here are ways that you can tell if you’re buying the best strawberries.

The Smell Test! Strawberries that are ready for eating have a sweet, delicious scent.

Color Check! Look for a bright red color. That’s the best indication of flavor. A strawberry with too much white was not picked in its prime.

Bottoms Up! Most of the strawberries are hidden in the box interior. Check the bottom of the box will let you see if there are small pools of juice leaking and if any strawberries have been squashed.

After you’ve brought home your delicious strawberries make sure to keep them dry. Don’t wash them until just before you’re ready to use them. This will keep them lasting longer.

When hulling strawberries you may want to give this trick a try. Instead of chopping off the whole leafy top of a strawberry, poke a drinking straw into the bottom of the strawberry and push it all the way through to the other side, until the top pops off, or use a paring knife or teaspoon to scoop out just the green.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Making The Most Of Seasonal Berries

May 6, 2017

Just a few fresh berries add color and nutrients to a salad, cocktail, or mocktail.

Stock up on fresh berries, wash and freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Then transfer to a freezer bag for future smoothies and baked goods.

Add a handful of berries to a parfait, with yogurt for breakfast or ice cream for dessert.

Gently fold berries into muffin and pancake batter. Cook a big batch and freeze some for easy breakfasts later.

Make into a savory salsa and serve as a dip or over grilled chicken or wild-caught salmon.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2017 All Rights Reserved

Cranberries

November 3, 2016

Cranberries

These tart, bright ruby-red berries grow wild on evergreen shrubs in peaty marshland all over northern Europe and North America. They are closely related to blueberries and bilberries, but are much more sour and are always served cooked. They are closely related to cowberries and lingonberries.

Cranberries are sometimes known as bouceberries since they were traditionally tested for firmness by being bounced seven times. Any berries that failed the bounce test were too squashy and were, therefore, discarded. Because of their waxy skins, cranberries keep for much longer than other berries, which helps to explain their popularity.

Cranberries contain useful amounts of vitamins C and D, potassium and iron. They used to be considered to be good protection against scurvy, and they are known to contain a natural antibiotic. Cranberry juice has long been recommended as a natural remedy for cystitis, kidney, bladder and urinary tract infections.

Look for plump, firm, bright, red berries and check the base of the carton in case of squashed or shriveled berries. Fresh cranberries will keep in the refrigerator for four weeks, or freeze them in plastic bags.

Cranberries can be used in both sweet and savory dishes or can be juiced and served as a drink. Their most famous incarnation is as cranberry sauce. The berries are high in pectin, so they make excellent jams and jellies. They also combine well with orange and apple, and can be mixed with blackberries and raspberries for an autumn version of summer pudding. Cranberry sorbet is a delicious treat. When cooking them for a sweet dish, do not add the sugar until the skins have popped or they will become tough.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved

Care & Handling Of Berries

August 10, 2016

Care & Handling Of Berries

Strawberries: Pick strawberries at their peak of ripeness. Look for symmetrically shaped berries; a brilliant sheen and rich even red color; fresh unwilted green caps; avoid strawberries with seedy tips or white shoulders. A white “core” in your strawberries is not an indication of ripeness. The internal pigment of strawberries ranges from white to bright red and is a characteristic of the berry plant variety and not of the berries’ ripeness or flavor.

Raspberries: When choosing raspberries look for plump, evenly colored berries that have a soft and hazy gloss and are free of dents and bruises. Raspberries have tiny hairs on them called “styles.” These are a completely natural part of the fruit’s defense mechanism and do not affect the taste or ripeness of the berries.

Blueberries: Choose blueberries that are dry, plump, round and free of dents and bruises. Blueberries should have a soft , hazy white coating, which is called “bloom.” Bloom is a completely natural part of the berries’ defense mechanism and helps protect them from the harsh rays of the sun. Avoid blueberries that are shriveled or lack bloom.

Blackberries: Look for deep, evenly colored blackberries with a nice sheen. Berries that are plump and dry and free of dents or bruises. Blackberries range in color from deep blue/purple to deep purple/black. Blackberries are often two-tone in color, which is perfectly natural and does not affect ripeness.

All fresh berries are highly perishable and should be refrigerated at all times until eaten or used as an ingredient. Refrigeration will extend freshness and shelf life.

It is recommended that you wash all berries before using them. However, you should never wash your berries until just before you are ready to eat or use them, as the moisture will decrease their shelf life.

Fresh berries can be easily frozen and enjoyed until you are ready to use them.

Wash strawberries carefully in cold water and pat dry. Remove the stems and any soft spots. Pack the berries into freezable containers or freeze them on a baking sheet and then pack them into containers as soon as they are frozen. Seal containers and keep frozen until you are ready to use them.

Raspberries and blackberries are very fragile and fresh raspberries are very sensitive to freeze damage. To freeze raspberries and blackberries rinse them gently in cool water then allow them to dry in a colander or on paper towels. Place a sheet of wax paper on a baking sheet then place berries in freezer. After berries are frozen, pack them into sealed containers until you are ready to use them. By freezing the berries this way, they won’t stick to each other which allows you to easily measure out the needed amount once you are ready to use them.

If you plan to freeze your blueberries, do not wash them before freezing as doing so will make the blueberry skins tough. Instead pack your blueberries into freezable containers, or freeze them on a baking sheet and then pack the into containers as soon as they are frozen. Seal the container and keep frozen until you are ready to use them. Be sure to wash the thawed blueberries prior to use.

Berries are delicious, nutritious, disease-fighting fruits. With their high antioxidant levels, berries are also considered “superfoods” because their health benefits may help the body fight off disease and slow the effect of aging. Berries are also high in vitamins and low in calories so they are a perfect fruit to include in your daily diet.

Antioxidants are natural substances found in plants, which are known, to aide in the prevention of heart disease, cancer and strokes. They provide protection by neutralizing free radicals, which are substances that form when oxygen is burned by the body. Free radicals travel through cells, disrupting the structure of other molecules, causing cellular damage. This cell damage is believed to contribute to aging and various health problems. In addition to boosting your immune system, antioxidants have been found to slow the effects of aging by improving memory, balance, coordination and motor skills. Berries are some o the most delicious and powerful disease-fighting foods available. Considered “superfoods,” antioxidant levels in berries are measured by their ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) Value.

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2016 All Rights Reserved

Passover Menu Ideas

April 3, 2015

Passover Menu Ideas

If you’re wondering what to serve for Passover here are some handy menu ideas.

Soups & Appetizers
Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo Balls
Chopped Chicken Liver

Side Dishes
Quinoa Salad (Avocado, Mandarin Oranges, Toasted Walnuts, Citrus Vinaigrette)
Spiced Applesauce
Potato Kugel
Potato, Carrot & Prune Tzimmes
Walnut, Fig & Apple Haroset
Potato Latkes
Haricots Verts With Wild Mushrooms
Mélange Of Asparagus, English Peas, Carrots & Pearl Onions
Honey Roasted Baby Carrots

Main Courses
Black Angus Brisket With Caramelized Pearl Onions & Dried Apricots
Roasted Salmon With Mango Pineapple Salsa
Brined & Roasted Turkey Breast With Peach Cranberry Chutney
Roasted Chicken Breast With Apricot Ginger Glaze

Desserts
Baked Apples Stuffed With Walnuts & Dried Cranberries
Individual Pavlovas (Flourless Meringue Shells Filled With Lemon Curd & Fresh Berries)
Chocolate Truffle Cake
Apple Walnut Honey Cake With Matzo Crust
Chocolate Covered Matzos
Flourless Assorted Macarons (Lemon, Raspberry & Peach)

“Work With What You Got!”

© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen

Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part V

September 21, 2013

 

Constitution Week

Constitution Week – Foods of Our Forefathers Part V

In her food preparation and preservation, the early American housewife was tied tightly to the calendar and the clock – much more tightly than today’s homemaker is.  Local availability of foodstuffs and the limitations of existing food preservation techniques meant that nature largely called the shots on timing.  Fruits and vegetables had to be picked at the right moment and processed quickly.  Animals had to be slaughtered at their peak to keep best, and the peak varied from animal to animal.  Even cheese and butter had a better likelihood of successful preservation depending on the season of the year in which they were processed. 

Weather conditions played a major role: herbs had to be picked on a dry day to retain color and flavor; slaughter had to be done in cold weather to allow the carcass to cool rapidly; milk winters produced little ice for the following summer.

Also, once begun, preservation techniques sometimes had to be carried uninterruptedly through a long and tedious series of steps.  There was no turning back – or time for vacations.  Hams being cured had to be turned regularly, fish being dried had to be restacked four times a day, pickles had to have their brine skimmed and changed – or the product would be lost. 

The labor involved in such food preservation was frequently heavy, but the routine of the rest of the house went on as usual.  Organizational ability and endurance were essential, and woe betide the housewife who didn’t “keep up appearances” with her neighbors. 

Just as the make-up of the early American’s diet varied with his geographic location, so did his needs – and abilities – in food preservation. 

For example, the southern areas had access to a more varied food supply over the course of the year and consequently had less need to provide stores for the hard winter.  At the same time, it was more difficult and expensive to get ice for short-term protection against the warmer climate. Ice was actually shipped from Massachusetts to the Southern states and to Cuba and Jamaica in the early 19th century, but it was obviously only available to the wealthier residents.  The ice-box itself didn’t become popular until the mid 1800’s.

The shorter growing season in the North reduced the variety of produce available, but it also made cold storage in root cellars practical in small towns and rural areas.  Above-ground ice houses and ice-saws, invented in the mid-nineteenth century, drastically reduced the cost of storing ice into the summer, and simplified storage of dairy products, fish and meat. 

In many respects, the northern colonies had the greatest difficulty in providing a nutritious, varied diet throughout the year.  Although fruits, berries, and summer vegetables were plentiful from the midsummer to early fall, proving vitamin-rich foodstuffs, during the winter and spring took special care. Many food items, of course, could be stored in relatively simple root cellars – where winter temperatures hovered between 30 and 40 degrees.  In especially cold weather, a large tub of water was placed on the floor.  This water gave off heat as it froze, which kept the vegetables safe.  Turnips, beets and squash were kept in the driest areas.  Carrots would keep anywhere.  Cabbages and celery were buried in sand, cauliflower was set in holes and covered with straw, while cranberries were floated in water in a tub.  Other crops were arranged loosely on slatted shelves for free air circulation, sometimes lying on straw. 

Some vegetables, such as summer squash and potatoes, kept better at somewhat higher temperatures, and these were usually stored in the dark basement of the home.  Temperatures between 50 and 60 degrees were ideal. 

Eggs could also be stored in the root cellar, or in the basement of the house.  Two methods were common.  In one, the eggs (which the housewife was instructed to collect “in fine weather”) were dipped in boiling water for 20 seconds, then coated all over with butter or “sweet oil” (glycerin) and packed in sawdust.  They would keep this way for some two to three weeks.  Other housewives kept their eggs in crocks, submerged in “water glass” (sodium silicate).  In this technique, it was important not to wash the eggs first, since their shells possess a natural coating which prevented the water glass from penetrating through the shell and ruining the egg.  Even stored at room temperature, such eggs would keep for several months, while the hens sulked through the dark winter days. 

If a family didn’t have room for a root cellar, it could accomplish somewhat the same effect with a pit, with the vegetables in layers separated by straw, and the whole covered with earth.  Obviously, retrieving vegetables thus buried was a messy chore, and needed careful planning. 

Under either type of storage, frequent examination was necessary, in order to detect spoilage and eliminate those items of fruit or vegetables which had gone rotten.  The proverb about “one rotten apple spoiling the barrel” was not taken lightly!  In fact, many housewives wouldn’t put apples in barrels, but spread them out, in order to “pick them over” more easily as the winter progressed.  Spoiling apples were cut up, and the good parts made into applesauce as the winter progressed.  Early cookbooks instructed the housewife to add a teaspoon of tartaric acid to the apples when making sauce late in the winter, as the apples lost their flavor.  New Englanders even had a name for the period after the vegetables had spoiled or been used up, but before the dandelion greens appeared.  They called it “the six weeks want.”

In the South, storage of this sort was less necessary, and the typical New England vegetables such as Hubbard squash and turnips were rarely seen on Southern menus. 

To Be Continued…

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