Crazy for Cranberry

Let this floating berry throw you a lifeline

The cranberry bandwagon continues to grow as researchers learn more about the nutritional power within the tart, yet potent, fruit.

To many, the virtue of cranberry juice for overcoming urinary-tract infections (UTIs) is nothing new. Recent research has identified proanthocyanidins (PACs) as some of the berry’s more important health-promoting constituents. Overall, the berries pack more antioxidant power than grapes. Because they are so tart, however, the juice needs diluting and sweetening to make it palatable—and that drops cranberries to second place among the high-powered antioxidant fruits (second only to blueberries).

The link between cranberries and urinary-tract health is well documented. Cranberries have long been used in treating urinary-tract infections (to learn more, read our article on UTIs in this month’s issue). Researchers believe that cranberries contain substances that prevent infection-causing bacteria from sticking to the urinary-tract walls, giving you body the upper hand in flushing E. Coli out of your body. The benefits provided by cranberries is more beneficial for women who are prone to urinary tract infections.

Health benefits derived from cranberry consumption extend far beyond UTIs. Earlier this year, researchers at the Mayo Clinic and College of Medicine, found that two glasses of cranberry juice a day may protect against hardening of the arteries. With more research afoot on the fruit’s effect on heart disease, viral infections, cancer, and stroke, it’s becoming clear the cranberry ranks near the top of the healthy-food pyramid.

Cranberry consumption does not need to be limited to juice. Puréed or infused in oil, they make an excellent addition to low-fat vinaigrettes. Dried, they can be added to dry cereal or oatmeal, mixed into wholegrain pancakes, used to top salads, or mixed with yogurt. They are also a tart addition to homemade trail mix.

Just one-third of a cup of cranberries has the same health benefit contained in one cup of cranberry-juice cocktail. They can also be frozen for up to two years. Cranberries are a cholesterol free, fat-free, and low-sodium food.

Fun Facts

>> Contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not grow in water. A perennial plant, cranberries grow on low-running vines in sandy bogs and marshes. Because cranberries float, farmers flood the marsh at harvest time.

>> The cranberry is a genuine Native American, Vaccinium macrocarpon, a member of the heath family and a relative of the blueberry and huckleberry. Europeans named the fruit “crane berry” because they thought the cranberry blossom looked like the head of a sandhill crane.

>> In 2011, 87 percent of cranberries produced in the United States came from Wisconsin and Massachusetts

>> Americans consume over 5 million gallons of jellied cranberry sauce every holiday season.

 

Recipes

Risotto Spoons with Scallops & Cranberries

Serves 12

These creamy risotto spoons combine scallops, cranberries, parsley, lemon zest, and chili for a unique palate-pleaser.

60g (about 1/3 cup) vialone nano rice

1 teaspoon shallot, chopped

1 teaspoon celery, chopped

¼ clove of garlic, chopped

2 1/4 cups vegetable stock

2 tablespoons dry vermouth

6 scallops finely chopped

1 tablespoon dried cranberries, reconstituted in a little boiling water

1 tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

zest of ½ a lemon, finely grated

very small pinch of dried chili

squeeze of lemon juice

½ tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon grated parmesan

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

Heat a large saucepan and add ½ tablespoon butter. Add the shallots, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly until soft. Add the rice and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the vermouth and cook until it has evaporated. Start adding the chicken stock slowly, stirring continuously. After 15 minutes, add the cranberries, chili, lemon zest, and scallops. Stir to combine. Cook for another 5 minutes and stir in the butter, parmesan, and parsley. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to serve.

 

California Brown-Rice Salad with Figs and Goat Cheese

2 cups medium-grain brown rice

3 cups water

1 tablespoon sea salt, divided

6 ounces Black Mission figs, cut into six wedges each

2 ounces baby leek, thinly sliced on a 45-degree bias

12 ounces Pippin apple, julienned

1 lemon

11 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

3 ounces julienned red bell pepper strips

1 bunch Italian parsley, chopped

1/2 cup golden balsamic vinegar

1 1/4 cups extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons shallots, minced

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Rice: Combine brown rice with water and salt in a saucepan. Stir, bring to a boil on high heat. Turn heat down to a slow simmer and cook, covered for 30 to 35 minutes. When all of the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat and let rest, covered, for 5 more minutes. Lay cooked rice out on a sheet pan and cool in refrigerator.

Garnish: Stem Black Mission figs and cut into six wedges, set aside. Thoroughly wash baby leeks and slice thinly on the bias, half way up the green tops, using all of the white bottoms. Put 2 cups cold water in bain marie with lemon cut in half and squeezed. Wash apples and julienne with skin on, putting the apples in lemon water. Crumble the goat cheese and set aside. Julienne the red pepper and set aside. Finely chop the Italian parsley and set aside.

Dressing: Put Balsamic vinegar in a bowl. Add minced shallots, salt, pepper, sugar, and Dijon mustard. Whisk together and slowly add olive oil. Whisk until dressing is nicely emulsified.

Finish: Toss half of the finished dressing with all the prepared leeks, red peppers, and cooled, cooked rice. Add apples, goat cheese, and parsley, then combine, tossing gently as to not break the apples. Add figs and fold into the finished rice salad, trying not to break the fig wedges. Salt and pepper to taste.

This dish can be enjoyed as a light lunch or side dish with poultry or fish. Serve remaining vinaigrette in small ramekins to allow guests to drizzle onto salad as they desire.

Serving suggestion: Enjoy the salad with lettuce leaves and eat like “lettuce wraps,” or fill endive leaves with the salad for a sweet-and-crunchy, handheld delight.

 

Peppy Cranberry Salsa

1 6-ounce can frozen orange-juice concentrate

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 chili pepper, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 cup parsley (Mexican if available)

1 tablespoon cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

zest of small orange

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Place in a glass jar and store in the refrigerator until flavors are well blended.

 

Cranberry-Blueberry Muffins

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 cup milk

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

2 teaspoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400ーF. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin, or line cups with paper muffin cups. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt in medium mixing bowl. Combine egg, milk and oil in small bowl. Add liquid to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently stir in blueberries and cranberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.

Sprinkle muffins with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Bake in 400ーF oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove muffins from pan; cool on wire rack. Serve warm.