June 2004: From Our Kitchen
If you've ever known the pleasure of walking barefoot across dew-tinseled grass and gathering a handful of fresh blueberries, you'll want to grow your own. Although blueberries are available in stores almost year-round, they're never as deliciously sweet as the homegrown ones we find in the South during the summer months.
Whether you stock up at the local farmers market or corner grocery store, choose firm, plump berries with smooth, dark blue skins and a silvery sheen. Check the underside of the container for signs of mold or leakage; juice stains indicate the blueberries are overripe or bruised. Refrigerate them in the original plastic package or in a storage container, and wait to wash them until just before using.
Freeze unwashed blueberries in a zip-top plastic freezer bag. The dry berries will freeze individually, allowing you to remove them as needed. Rinse quickly under cold running water, and add to your favorite recipes while still frozen.
For information on the incredible health benefits of blueberries, visit www.ushbc.org.
We always look forward to pancakes in the Test Kitchens, especially when someone shows up on a summer morning with a basket of fresh-picked blueberries or peaches. The secret to light and fluffy pancakes is in the batter--stir just enough to moisten the dry ingredients.
Having the griddle at the right temperature before adding the batter is also important. Preheat the griddle or skillet, and then sprinkle with a few drops of water. If the water bounces and spatters across the surface, start spooning on the batter. (Water that sits and simmers indicates the temperature is too low; if the water vanishes, the temperature is too high.) When adding fruit, do so as soon as the batter is spooned onto the griddle.
Pancakes are ready to turn after 2 to 3 minutes, when bubbles appear on the surface and the edges begin to look dry. The second side will take only about half as long to cook as the first. Keep cooked pancakes warm in a 200° oven.
Lemon-Blueberry Pancakes: Add 1 to 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind to your favorite pancake batter. As soon as batter is spooned onto the griddle, sprinkle with blueberries. Serve with bacon, if desired. Garnish with fresh mint sprigs, lemon slices, and fresh blueberries, if desired.
The Cake Pan Lady
Throw away the masking tape and pack up that fuchsia nail polish because we've discovered the end all and be all in personalized cake pans. These high-quality Nordic Ware pans come with colorful snap-on lids for easy storage and delivery. Both the lid and the bottom of each cake pan are personalized with an engraved name. Choose from dozens of different designs ($27-$29 plus shipping). For more information call toll free 1-866-892-7267, or visit www.thecakepanlady.com.
Three Quick, Cool Menus for Summer Entertaining
The heat is on, and it's time to party! Head south of the border with a Fire-and-Ice Fiesta featuring mix-and-match margaritas and spicy Tex-Mex appetizers. Move the dining room table outdoors for our Backyard Steak Out, or set up the side porch for a leisurely Seaside Brunch.
All of the recipes except the Shrimp and Grits can be prepared a day ahead. If you decide to use fresh rather than frozen shrimp as called for in the recipe, just peel and devein the day before so that they'll be ready to cook in the morning.
Mix-and-match these festive Tex-Mex recipes to your heart's content! Choose as few or as many beverages and appetizers as you would like, depending upon the number of guests and the length of time you plan to celebrate.
Backyard Steak Out
This easy menu is special enough for a wedding rehearsal party yet casual enough for an outdoor dinner with friends. Make as many or as few of the recipes as you'd like. If you're short on time, substitute bottled soft drinks or beer for the Citrus Iced Tea or chips and assorted dips for the Two Tomato Tapas. Purchase a container of presliced melon for the Cantaloupe-Spinach Salad--or simply pick up some bags of your favorite salad greens and a bottle of Ranch dressing. Make the Horseradish Potato Salad a day ahead, but add the crumbled bacon just before serving.