Research has shown that the same phytonutrients and antioxidants that give a ripe blueberry such an interesting blue color (one of the most rare colors in nature, by the way) may also play a significant role in reducing the risk of maladies such as inflammation, heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Some evidence points to the role that phytochemicals may play in memory and even in reducing symptoms of depression. All for just 84 calories per cup, no fat and 4 grams of fiber!
While I am an advocate of eating for health and balance, I mostly like blueberries, and berries in general, because they are a powerhouse of flavor. My favorite way to eat a berry (or really any food) is fresh and simple. That quintessential taste of summer is best revealed when it isn’t coated in sugar or covered by pastry flour.
My family however, definitely loves their berries sweet and baked. Pancakes, muffins, pies, tarts, panna cottas, custards, jams and jellies are their preferred vehicles from bush to belly. And these are the things summer memories are made of, and so I indulge.
First-a drink. it’s always nice to cook with a drink in one hand and whatever tools you need in the other. You can make this virgin if necessary.
Summer Thyme Blues Cocktail
by John Miller, proprietor of Level A Small Plates Lounge in Annapolis
- 1.5 oz Blue Coat gin
- 1 oz lemon sour
- .5 oz blueberry syrup*
- 1 oz soda
- 12 oz sugar
- 1 pint blueberries
Add 1 pint blueberries. Turn heat to medium high, crushing blueberries and cooking to a boil. Remove from heat, strain into a clean container. Refrigerate.
- muddle thyme sprig in a mixing glass
- add gin, lemon sour & syrup
- shake with ice
- pour through a fine strain over fresh ice.
- Top off with soda. Garnish with thyme sprig and berries
A note: I had already made syrup earlier in the week when I received this recipe from John. I made mine by making a simple syrup by boiling equal parts water and sugar until the sugar dissolved. I added strips of lemon zest to the mixture before boiling. Then I added blueberries that I had boiled and crushed with lemon rind and lemon thyme sprigs. I brought this blueberry/syrup combination to a boil, then removed from heat to steep. I strained it all into a jar and that’s it. Good for all manner of applications, not least of which was blueberry pancakes!
Classic Blueberry Pie with KAF Guaranteed Pie Crust By King Arthur Flour
- 2 ½ cups Round Table Pastry Flour or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 3/4 ts salt
- 1/3 cup vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water
- 10 5/8 ounces Round Table Pastry Flour or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1.3/4 ts salt
- 2.2 ounces vegetable shortening
- 3.4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter
- 4.4 1/2 to 5 ounces ice water
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Cut in the shortening until it’s in lumps the size of small peas.
- Add the water, two tablespoons at a time, mixing with a fork as you sprinkle the water into the dough.
- When the dough is moist enough to hold together when you squeeze it, transfer it to a piece of wax or parchment paper. It’s ok if there are some dry spots in the pile. Use a spray bottle of water to lightly spritz these places; that way you’ll add just enough water to bring the dough together without creating a wet spot.
- Fold the dough over on itself three or four times to bring it together, then divide it in half and pat it into two disks 3/4-inch thick.
- Roll the disk on its edge, like a wheel, to smooth out the edges. This step will ensure your dough will roll out evenly, without a lot of cracks and splits at the edges later. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling.
Blueberry Pie Filling This filling is from my mom, not sure where she got it, but it is always delicious.
- Gently toss 6 cups fresh clean dry blueberries with
- ½-3/4 cup sugar
- 1 ts lemon juice plus
- the zest of one lemon
- ¼ ts allspice
- ½ ts cinnamon
- ¼ ts ginger
- 3-4 tb Minute tapioca, depending on ripeness and juiciness of the berries
Roll out two 12 inch circles of dough. Transfer one circle to a pie plate. Spoon the filling into the plate. Top with 2 TB butter, cut into small pieces. Top with the remaining curcle of dough. Trim the top and edges, crimp.
Brush with beaten egg white. Sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar.
Bake at 425 until the crust is golden, about 25 minutes. Rotate the pie, reduce heat to 375 and cook ntil the juices bubble and the crust is deep golden brown, about 30 minutes more.
If you can resist this next dessert, you just aren’t human.
For the blueberry filling
- 2-3 cups blueberries
- ½-3/4 cup sugar or less if the berries are very sweet
- 2 TB flour
- 1 to 2 TB lemon juice, depending on how tart the blueberries are
- ¼ ts salt
- ¼ ts nutmeg
- 1 ts cinnamon
- 1 ts vanilla
For the crumble
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ½ cup quick-cooking oats
- ½ cup light or dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes and softened just a little, plus more for the pie plate
1. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Generously butter a 9-inch pie plate.
2. Nibble a blueberry or three to determine how sweet or tartness. Toss the blueberries with the sugar, flour, lemon juice, spices, vanilla and salt, adjusting the amount of lemon juice and sugar according to the relative sweetness or tartness of the berries. Transfer the berries to the pie plate.
3. Separately, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Blend in the butter with your fingertips or a pastry cutter until well combined. Crumble the topping over the berries in large clumps.
4. Bake the crunch until the berry filling is bubbling and the crunch is set and browned in places, 25 to 35 minutes. Let the crunch cool slightly, serve with vanilla ice cream.
We’d better give some savory applications the chance to shine.
Savory Blueberry Sauce
Not everything in life has to be sweet, after all. Here is a versatile sauce for seafood, poultry, pork or vegetables
- 1 ½ cup water or chicken broth
- 1/2 sweet Vidalia onion
- 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
- 1/2 large sweet apple, such as Fuji
- 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, lemon thyme or pineapple sage
- 1 pint blueberries
- Juice from one small lemon, plus 3 long strips of zest
- S & P to taste—a dash of each
- 2 TB butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
In a small saucepan, make a stock by simmering the water or stock, onion, celery, apple and herbs until reduced by at least half.
Strain into a clean pan. Add blueberries and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the lemon juice, salt, and pepper and stir, seasoning to taste rather than to the recipe. Add the butter piece by piece, whisking until each piece is completely melted and emulsified. Sauce can be made up to several days ahead, refrigerated, and gently reheated over low heat before serving.
For the salad
- 2-3 cups seedless watermelon cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 cup seeded cucumber, small dice
- 1/2 small sweet red and/or yellow pepper, small dice
- ½ cup sliced Kalamata olives
- palmful finely minced red onion
- palmful each minced cilantro, mint and basil
- diced feta cheese
For the vinaigrette:
- 3 TB fresh lime juice
- zest of one lime
- 2 TB extra virgin olive oil
- 1 TB honey
- TB or more Sciracha
- sea salt & pepper to taste
Combine watermelon, cuke, pepper, olives, red onion, herbs in a large bowl.
Whisk together the vinaigrette.
Just before serving, drain excess liquid from watermelon mixture, then add vinaigrette and feta to the salad and toss lightly to coat.
Keep in mind that the watermelon and cucumber in this recipe
will start to release their juices and water down the salad. If you make it ahead, you will want to drain some of the juices before serving.
Burrata with Blueberry Compote
Burrata is a super hip cheese at the moment. A soft shell of fresh mozzarella encompasses a filling of ritagli-shavings of more fresh mozzarella and cream. The cheese is soft, mild, creamy, buttery and utterly delicious served with pasta, salad, crusty bread or in this case, a blueberry compote. It is seasonal so you have to get it while you can. Find it at Tastings Gourmet Market in the Clocktower Plaza.
- 2 ½ cup fresh blueberries
- 4-5 whole lemon thyme, lemon verbena or lemon basil sprigs
- 1 ts fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup agave nectar or honey (more or less depending on how sweet the berries are)
- ¼ cup water-more or less depending on how juicy the berries are
- Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste
- High quality olive oil to drizzle
Add 1 ½ cups blueberries to a medium heavy bottomed pot with the lemon juice, water, agave nectar or sugar and herbs.
Stir over medium heat until the berries begin to pop open. Add the remaining berries, then lower the heat and cook until the juices begin to thicken but the berries don’t collapse completely.
Add in the salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat, discarding the herb sprigs and cool completely. The compote will thicken slightly as it cools.
To serve, place the Burrata on a plate or platter carefully, as it is very delicate. Gently break open the Burrata, allowing the creamy center to ooze out. Spoon the compote over the Burrata. Drizzle lightly with some very good olive oil and serve with crusty bread…or skip the oil and eat it with a spoon for dessert.
Note: if you don’t like Burrata, bring very good quality goat cheese or stilton to room temperature. Drizzle with the compote. Garnish with berries. Serve with toasted pitas or good crackers.Feel free to share...