Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Boozy Blues
What’s cooking? Tequila-infused Blueberries

Summer is a season of fruits. Fruit-based ice creams and sorbets, fruit tarts, fruit salads, fruit smoothies, fruit shortcakes, and just plain old fruit. And now, the Kitchen Goddess reminds you of a twist on fruit that you might have forgotten: mixing fruit with alcohol. Really, people, can you think of a better way to enjoy nature’s bounty?

I know, I know, you’ve made sangria, and you’ve poured Triple Sec or some other orange-based liqueur over raspberries or strawberries. This is a new take on that sort of thing, with a combination I’ve never heard of before. I discovered it on one of my foodie newsletters, Tasting Table, and blueberries will never be the same for me. The berries, soaked in a tequila-lime syrup, retain their slightly tart taste, but now have a boozy sweetness added to the flavor profile. And the tequila-lime syrup reminds me of a sort of intense margarita.

A warning from the Kitchen Goddess: It’s a good idea to put the ingredients together the night before (make the tequila-lime syrup, and deposit the blueberries into it), as overnight marination helps the flavors enormously. BUT... you should wait until AFTER breakfast the next day to sample them. The Kitchen Goddess was trying to figure out ways she could tell you to use them, and in the process tasted them, well, two or three times, and oooo-eee, they are mighty fine. But then it was time for a short nap. So have breakfast first. In fact, have breakfast and lunch first – tequila isn’t really a morning drink.

These little baubles take almost no time to make and can be used in a number of ways. If you find one not listed here, I hope you’ll let me know.

■ My husband’s favorite is to spoon the blueberries and a tiny bit of the “juice” over vanilla ice cream. I don’t know why ice cream and this tequila-lime syrup are so good together, but as the singer Iris Dement would say, “Let the mystery be.” Just enjoy it.

■ My personal fave is to muddle a couple of tablespoons of the blueberries, then stir in 2 tablespoons of the tequila-lime syrup and 1-1¼ teaspoons of fresh-squeezed lime juice. Serve it as an aperitif cocktail.

■ Serve the tequila-lime syrup and berries together in a shot glass. But you may want to limit the number you offer per guest. It’s potent stuff.

■ STOP THE PRESSES. The Kitchen Goddess has just discovered her own version of a blueberry margarita. If you rim a small glass with margarita salt, and add ice, the berries and syrup together can be a cocktail on its own. You might even add club soda and see how that goes. So I don’t have a photo of it, but it would be a little like the above photo if I’d added salt and a couple of cubes of ice, and a bit more of the tequila-lime syrup in a slightly larger glass. Okay, so it’s nothing like this photo, but you are a smart bunch and can figure it out.

Tequila-Infused Blueberries

Adapted from the Tasting Table

Chiles de árbol 

1¾ cups tequila, preferably one that is 100% agave (I bought Familia Camarena, $21)
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
4 strips of lime zest (use a vegetable peeler)
2 chiles de árbol (or other milder chile)
2 pints blueberries

Start by making the tequila-lime syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the tequila, sugar, water, lime zest and chiles. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring just until the sugar dissolves. Allow the mixture to simmer 5 minutes. [Kitchen Goddess note: The KG and her hubby go for a minimum of spicy heat, but wanted the flavor of the chiles, so I split them and scraped out the seeds. If you want more heat, leave the chiles whole.]

While the tequila-lime syrup is still warm, add the blueberries and transfer the entire mixture to a 1-quart jar. Seal the jar and let the contents cool to room temperature before transferring to the refrigerator. For best effect, chill at least 24 hours before using.

The blueberries will keep for up to 1 month, but only if you’re not trying. The Kitchen Goddess’s batch made it less than a week before her husband was whining for more.

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