We awoke Sunday morning and decided it would be a great day to go berry picking. Early afternoon, after a quick vote to survey the family faves it was decided that blueberries and raspberries outweighed strawberries. So, we headed to Monadnock Berries in Troy where we were greeted with an abundance of berry bliss perched atop a beautiful hilltop with a breathtaking view of Mt. Monadnock on the horizon. Row after row of raspberries were ripe for our pickin’. The blueberries were just as abundant and we quickly filled our buckets and bellies in no time. In about an hour, under the hot summer sun, the four of us gathered about 10 pounds of bounty. If we had been asked to weigh-in before picking and after, chances are we would’ve added another 10lbs to the loot picked. Thankfully, it’s not polite to ask a strangers weight.
It was towards the end of our picking, feeling berry-filled and heat exhausted but not yet ready to quit, that I began to daydream about the creations we might spice up at home with all these sweet and tart fruity inspirations in our midst. When my mind hit upon the idea for a blueberry cardamom coffee cake I became fixated. You see, cardamom is one of my favorite spices, ever. It is known as the “Queen of Spices” and that’s a rightly royal title in my mind. It holds a special spot on our spice shelf, right next to the mortar and pestle so we can easily grab it and grind some fresh to use in our morning coffee brew. Cardamom is the fruit of a large perennial bush that grows wild in southern India, Sri Lanka and now cultivated heavily in Guatemala. It has been used for thousands of years in India and Scandinavian countries where it is used in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s aroma is strong and requires only a small amount to impart flavor. It’s taste is floral and a touch lemony with just a hint of camphor which gives it that fresh and clean scent. Use your imagination and experiment with this extremely versatile spice to add a touch of exotic elevation to your food. Here are a few ideas to get you going:
*Baked Goods: Raspberry Cardamom Cocoa Muffins; Blueberry Cardamom Coffee Cake; . Poached Pears with Cardamom. It pairs especially well with berries, apples and pears, orange, chocolate and cinnamon.
*Drinks: Add a touch to your coffee directly with the coffee grounds for a nicely spiced morning brew or combine with cinnamon, clove, star anise, ginger and black or green tea for a chai-tea infusion.
*Savory: Rice Pilaf (add a couple of pods along with cinnamon, clove and cumin) into the water while cooking; Add to your pickling jars; Slow-cooked meat dishes and poultry.