Use the blues this month

Fresh blueberries are at their best flavor right now and won’t be around forever. With only 82 calories per cup and about 1/3 the recommended dietary allowance for vitamin C, blueberries also contain the same compound as cranberries for preventing the growth of bacteria that cause urinary tract infections. And now, during National Blueberry Month, the best ways to enjoy blueberries are in recipes that require no cooking, so you get their full nutritional value. Besides, you’ll spend less time in the kitchen and not have to turn on the stove or oven. Store them in the refrigerator, unwashed and uncovered, for a day or two; don’t wash them until ready to use. One of my favorite cheats is to purchase a small New York-style cheesecake, spread the top with a thin layer of strawberry or apricot jam, then add a generous layer of fresh blueberries. Easy and lush. Here are a few more delicious ways to use the blues this summer.

Blueberry Vinegar

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A cinch to make with only three ingredients, this vinegar is delicious on fruit salads, smoked meat or fish, cheese or use in place of other vinegars in salad dressing. It will keep in the refrigerator for months. Recipe from “The Buffet Book” by Carole Peck.

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups white wine vinegar, warmed

In a food processor or blender, puree the blueberries and sugar with the warmed vinegar. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. Pour into glass bottles or jars and keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Fresh Berry Salsa

This bright, tangy salsa carries a fiery punch. You can adjust the amount of jalapeno if desired. Serve this with grilled chicken or fish. Recipe from “Berries: A Book of Recipes” makes about 2-1/2 cups.

1 fresh jalapeno pepper

1/2 red onion, minced

2 scallions, chopped

1 tomato, finely diced

1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and minced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon raspberry vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup strawberries, hulled

1 cup blueberries

1 cup raspberries

Finely mince the jalapeno, discarding seeds and membranes if you don’t want it too spicy. Place pepper in a medium bowl. Add onion, scallions, tomato, bell pepper and cilantro; stir to blend thoroughly. In a small bowl, whisk together the salt, vinegar, orange juice, honey and oil. Pour over jalapeno mixture; stir well. Coarsely chop the strawberries; add to jalapeno mixture with blueberries and raspberries; stir to blend. Let stand at room temperature for 3 hours. Store in refrigerator until ready to use; bring to room temperature to serve.

Just a Trifle

This anyone-can-make-it dessert just requires cutting a pound cake into 1-inch squares, making a half-pint’s worth of whipped cream with a little vanilla extract added in, and layering the cake squares, whipped cream, and a layer of fresh blueberries (repeat so you have two layers of each) in a clear glass serving dish. Top with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, and you’ve got something that looks fancier than the effort it took to make it.

Blueberry Pudding

A fast, easy dessert or snack, this is a healthy alternative to the pre-packaged varieties. Recipe from “The Healing Foods Cookbook” by the editors of Prevention Magazine.

2 cups low fat cottage cheese

2 cups blueberries

1 cup nonfat yogurt

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons honey

In a food processor or blender container, blend the cottage cheese until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add blueberries; blend again until smooth. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Whisk in the yogurt, lemon juice and honey. Divide mixture among six custard cups and chill before serving.

Instant Berry Granita

A simple refresher to eat alone or as a light dessert. Recipe from “Great Food Without Fuss” by Frances McCullough and Barbara Witt; makes 4 servings.

2 pints blueberries, picked over and rinsed, then frozen in a single layer on a baking sheet

1/2 to 3/4 cup superfine sugar

Lemon juice to taste (about half a lemon)

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1 tablespoon Grand Marnier liqueur (optional)

A few minutes before serving the granita, put the frozen blueberries in a food processor with remaining ingredients. Process until smooth; serve immediately.