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Vail seasonal: Find your thrill on blueberry hill

Sue Barham
Vail, CO Colorado
Sue Barham/Special to the Vail DailyVail seasonal: Start the day with a healthy blueberry banana smoothie.
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VAIL, Colorado –Whether a Vail Valley resident prefers Louis Armstrong or Fats Domino, “Blueberry Hill” is a classic. First recorded in 1949, it’s a love song, and you can write your own version by falling in love with summer’s crown jewel, the blueberry – it even looks like it’s wearing a crown.

These tiny berries, one of three fruits native to North America, really pack a healthy punch. The blueberry has emerged as nature’s No. 1 source of antioxidants among fresh fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants can best be described as a group of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that act as tiny heroes in our body fighting off the ‘bad guy,’ also known as free radicals. Blueberries are also a very good source of vitamins C and E, manganese, and fiber.

With the exception of the desert states, blueberries are grown across the nation in woodsy and mountainous regions. Summertime is when they are at their peak, and if you are lucky enough to find a “you pick ’em” farm, take advantage and spend some time there.

Blueberry bushes grow between five and eight feet tall and the berries start a foot off the ground, making picking your own a great activity for kids. Blueberries grow in clusters and range in size from that of a small pea to a marble. The plumper and riper the berry, the sweeter the taste. The skin color should be silvery blue and the insides inky.

Blueberries were not cultivated until the beginning of the 20th century, becoming commercially available in 1916. Cultivation of blueberries was spearheaded by a botanist at the United States Department of Agriculture who pioneered research into blueberry production. His work was continued by Elizabeth White, whose family established the first commercial blueberry fields.

Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale, says he likes the versatility of blueberries.

“Blueberries are a summery add-in to pancake batter or salads or just use them to top cereal, ice cream or yogurt,” adds Bill Fitzgerald, Avondale’s pastry chef. “The sweet-tart flavor works well with lemon, and blueberries are equally tasty in elegant or homespun desserts.”

1/2 cup ripe blueberries

1/2 cup blueberry yogurt

1/2 banana

1/2 cup crushed ice

Blend the banana, ice and yogurt together until the banana is well blended. Add the blueberries and blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Makes 1.

Blueberry Vinaigrette:

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon onion

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 – 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

In a blender, whirl the berries, garlic, onion, vinegar and sugar until berries are pureed. Drizzle the olive oil through the top while the blender is running until you reach your desired consistency. Makes 1/2 cup.

Salad:

2 cups mixed salad greens

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 pint ripe blueberries

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

1/2 cup blue cheese

Grill chicken and slice into strips. In a large bowl, combine greens, blueberries and walnuts. Toss with vinaigrette. Arrange on two plates. Top with chicken strips and blue cheese.

4 cups fresh blueberries, washed, drained well

1/2 cup granulated white sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 cup flour

3/4 cup quick cooking rolled oats

pinch of salt

1/2 stick softened butter (4 tbsp)

Vanilla ice cream

In a bowl combine the blueberries, granulated sugar, corn starch, and lemon juice, and mix to combine evenly. Pour into a lightly buttered baking dish.

In the same bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, oats, salt, and butter. Stir with a fork until the mixture is crumbly and evenly blended. Spread the mixture over the berries and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until the blueberries start to bubble up around the edges. Let cool to warm before serving. Top with ice cream.

Serves 6.

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.


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