Friday, June 19, 2009

Frozen Fruit Temptations

At the veggie and fruit CSA last week, we got two baskets of fresh strawberries. The first one we almost finished in the car on the way home. The second one I decided to freeze for the winter. I was going to cut out the stems, slice the strawberries in half (they were small), and lay them out on a baking tray in the freezer overnight, then transfer them to a plastic bag with a bunch of rhubarb washed and sliced into ½” pieces. I might even add right in ½ cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of white sugar, and 3 T tapioca. In December I’d have a strawberry rhubarb pie halfway prepped. It turned out that by the time I got home I had to start dinner, my son was so hungry he needed a plate of chips and salsa to tide him over, we wanted to eat on the porch so unless we planned to chat across strings of underwear and socks I had to get the laundry off the line, and the dogs needed a walk. I only got around to cutting out the stems and tossing the strawberries into a freezer bag. I could have still used them in December. If the berries got all stuck together from not being frozen on the tray first, I could defrost them before I used them. As long as I was cooking them, they weren’t going to hold their shape anyway. But the next morning, as I was getting a new bag of coffee from the freezer and wondering what to make for breakfast, there was the bag full of scrumptious frozen berries. If I were a squirrel, I’d spend all winter stealing from the bird feeders. Instead of savoring the thought of eating the berries in a few months when no fresh or local ones will be available in any store, I grabbed the bag and dumped the whole thing in the blender with a few other goodies for one of my favorite on-the-go breakfasts: licuado.

In Mexico, licuados are everywhere. They come in milk-based and water-based varieties and in every possible combination of scrumptious fresh tropical fruits. Every breakfast place, every icecream shop, and many little storefront stands have a big blender, a shelf of fruit, and a little fridge with milk. You make your selection, then watch a machete whip around the pineapple, the navaja fly over the mango, then after a few chops and a dash of liquid the blender whirrs and your meal is ready. Between trips to Mexico, I keep my own blender on the ready, and try to infuse that fresh wonder into the transport-dependent sugar-laden American smoothie tradition. One of the things I’ve discovered is that in order to achieve the kind of thickness that the fiber-rich tropical fruits of Mexico lend to a licuado, I can use frozen New England fruits, a dollop of yoghurt, and a frozen banana. I know bananas are never local in New England, but I buy them anyway. As soon as they start to get more black spots than I want, I peel them and toss them in a plastic bag in the freezer for licuados. The other thing I’ve realized from the Mexican tradition, is that that wild and widely varied combinations of fruits are often wonderfully rewarding.

Basic Licuado

about two breakfast-sized licuados

1 cup fruit juice

3 cups frozen fruit

½ cup yoghurt

1 frozen banana

Suggested variations: Juice and Fruit

For the juice, I usually use orange, but in season (not quite now), I’ll replace the juice with chopped watermelon, or I’ll use apple juice or cider.

For the fruits, in Spring strawberry is a perennial favorite and this early it’s all there is, but in a few weeks we'll be able to have Strawberry-black raspberry and then strawberry-black raspberry-blueberry.

In summer, there are of course more fruit options:

Blueberry-peach or nectarine (peeled)

Mulberry-red raspberry

Mulberry-peach or nectarine (peeled)

Red raspberry-peach or nectarine (peeled)

Plum (peeled)-peach or nectarine (peeled)