Monday, November 12, 2012
Cranberries are a staple this time of year. Use them fresh in a traditional relish or add the dried variety to a salad.
The spectacular cranberry. So many uses, so little time.
My favorite dessert of all time is my mom’s cranberry pudding cake. I love it because it includes two of my top ingredients: caramel and cranberries.
But I have shared that recipe before. If you are nice, I’ll point you to the recipe.
If I wasn’t currently pregnant and therefore not indulging in cocktails, I’d have shared my all-time favorite ginger beer, vodka, cranberry cocktail that I always serve on New Year’s Eve. But I couldn’t bring myself to whip up a batch from which I knew I’d not be able to partake.
So I bring you my third-favorite cranberry concoction. In this case,though, third is still really good, as I have about a hundred favorite cranberry recipes using both the dried and fresh varieties.
This is the simplest thing, but I promise you it’s rockin’. When you feel the need to bring a cranberry dish to your Thanksgiving table but you can’t bring yourself to open a can of that icky quivering gelatinous cranberry mass, you turn to this.
I mean, I am no Susan Stamberg (http://ljw.bz/RMC0tJ), but I daresay this is the best cranberry side dish ever. It is great on turkey, turkey sandwiches, mixed up with your stuffing, or just eaten plain with a spoon.
And it’s ridiculously easy. Four ingredients, a food processor and BAM! Possibly the best, and fastest, thing you’ll have on your Thanksgiving table this year.
Quick Cranberry Relish
- 1 orange (rind and all)
- 2 tart apples, sliced and cored
- 2 cups fresh cranberries
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
Cut the orange and apples into manageable hunks, and give them a quick spin in the food processor. Add the sugar and cranberries and pulse until it’s chopped but not liquid.
That is it! Serve in a pretty bowl.
It tastes like Thanksgiving, and is very welcome because it is fresh and tart instead of goopy, savory, and brown or orange, like most Thanksgiving food generally is. The brightness of the relish — both in color and taste — really makes it a star of the meal even though it’s a minor player overall. I love an underdog, I guess.
There’s a good possibility that even before I ever heard the word “antioxidant” or understood the benefits of vitamin C, I knew cranberries were good for me.
It wasn’t that I was memorizing nutritional data like “Rain Man” as soon as I could read or anything. More, it was all about my grandpa and his gallons and gallons of cranberry juice.
As a kid, I remember sneaking down into my grandparents’ basement to poke around (hey, my grandma kept a deep freeze full of cookies down there!) and having to tiptoe around leaning towers of giant plastic bottles of cranberry juice. My grandpa had a habit of buying several giant bottles of Ocean Spray each time he was at Sam’s Club, which, in looking at their storage room of a basement, was probably very often.
At some point he had been told by a doctor or two that having the deep red juice every day was good for one reason or another. Thus, we could’ve lived several days into a nuclear winter on nothing but the juice alone. (And cookies. We probably would’ve raided the freezer, too.)
Anyhow, now that I’m an adult, I have some idea of why my grandpa’s doctor had made the recommendation that caused us to pay for a good chunk of some Ocean Spray employee’s pension. Not only are cranberries a powerhouse when it comes to vitamin C (25 percent for 1 cup of raw berries), but they have a host of active antioxidants that have been shown to protect our liver and cardiovascular system. Even better are their anti-cancer properties, which are just starting to be studied. What we know so far is that cranberries can trigger programed cell death in cancerous cells and that they have been proven to be beneficial in those with breast, colon, prostate and lung cancer.
Awesome, right? Yes. Which means they’re totally worth eating year-round. I suppose to do this you could go the juice route like my grandpa, or make your Thanksgiving cranberry sauce weekly, but my preferred method is using dried cranberries. To keep them on the healthy side, I go for the ones that are sweetened with apple juice. The recipe below (which I use as both a breakfast and a dessert) takes the apple-juice sweetened berries, though if you don’t like them, go with what you’ll eat. You can’t get the benefits if you don’t eat them.
Sweet and Nutty Cranberry-Chocolate Bowl
- 1 large banana or two small ones
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries (or more)
- 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips
Slice banana(s) into a cereal bowl. Layer other ingredients on top. Serves 1.