I missed paying homage to one of my favorite fruits, blueberries.
July is the month designated to celebrate this tiny fruit packed with nutritional benefits. Blueberry cravings don’t follow the calendar and they can be enjoyed year-round. The North American blueberry season runs through late September. During our winter months, South America is enjoying summer and, luckily for us, imports from Chile, Argentina, Peru and Uruguay enable us to fulfill our cravings.
I learned from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council that people in the early 20th century didn’t think blueberries could be domesticated, but Elizabeth White, the daughter of a New Jersey cranberry farmer, was determined to grow a flourishing industry for cultivated blueberries.
In 1911, she teamed up with USDA botanist Frederick Coville to identify wild plants with the most desirable properties, crossbreed the bushes and create vibrant new blueberry varieties. Coville and White harvested and sold the first commercial crop of blueberries out of Whitesbog, N.J., in 1916.
Thirty-eight states grow blueberries commercially, but ten states account for more than 98 percent of U.S. commercial production — including New Jersey, the second-largest producer, and birthplace of the cultivated highbush variety.
The majority of all blueberries are eaten fresh. I often eat them as a snack, right from the plastic clamshell container. The rest are frozen, pureed, concentrated, canned or dried to be used in a wide range of food products. When cooking with or incorporating these blue gems, it most often is in sweet items such as pastries, muffins, pies, pancakes and yogurt. Why not explore using them in savory dishes, too?
The U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council provides informative information and recipes in its monthly newsletter and on its website, including savory ones using blueberries. Here is an easy one to try.
Recipe by Executive Chef Albert Paris of Zanzibar Blue, Philadelphia, Pa. The headnote says, “Anchor your salad offerings with this appealing combination of blueberry and gorgonzola salad with mixed greens. Then dream up more salads that capitalize on blueberries’ bright flavor and deep color.”
To prepare poppy seed dressing: In a blender container, combine oil, sour cream, honey, vinegar, poppy seeds, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Process until blended.
To plate each serving: In a bowl, combine 2 cups salad greens with about 21/2 tablespoons poppy seed dressing. Toss. Place greens on serving plate. Top with 1/4 cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese. Garnish plates with additional endive leaves, if desired.
An addition to my collection is the recently published “The Blueberry Cookbook” by Sally Pasley Vargas (2019, Down East Books, $19.95). It celebrates the flavor and versatility of the wild blueberry, also known as low-bush blueberries. The recipes are traditional, but also reflect today’s vibrant and imaginative cooking style. Emphasizing the low-bush variety’s Maine roots and its standing as a “superfood,” the cookbook profiles the industry and is peppered with fun features and health facts. Recipes range from muffins to tasty entrees to desserts, cocktails, and preserves. The blueberry pantry starts off the book educating the reader about the characteristics of and how to best use wild, fresh cultivated, dried, freeze-dried, and frozen blueberries. Although there are recipes for entrees such as pancakes, they are of a sweet nature. A few savory recipes, perhaps would have rounded out the book.
The photos of the recipes are mouth-watering and enticed me to pick up some blueberries to try a couple of the recipes. Connecticut’s Dorie Greenspan’s recipe below, featured in the book will soon be in the oven. Later, the Black and Blue Crumble. For the recipe for blueberry cornmeal muffin cake visit https://bit.ly/2NAdOBT.
The headnote says, “Dorie Greenspan’s cheesecake is the perfect cheesecake, bar none (and I have tried a lot of them). One bite and you will start swooning over its sumptuous, creamy texture, which is exactly what cheesecake is all about. Dorie is the popular, award-winning author of at least thirteen books and a New York Times magazine contributing writer. I’ve topped her cake with a pretty blueberry swirl. You could use graham cracker crumbs for the crust, but I love the spice-infused Belgian Biscoff or Speculoos cookies that are thankfully now available outside the confines of the airline aisles. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it will help you judge the precise doneness of the center of the cake so it is perfect, just like Dorie herself.”
Butter a 9x23/4-inch spring-form pan. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, stir the crumbs, sugar, and salt together. Add the melted butter and thoroughly mix it into the crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to the pan and use your fingers to press them into the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. Place the pan in the freezer while you heat the oven (or cover and freeze for up to 2 months).
Center a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Set the cake pan on the baking sheet and bake the crust for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool while you make the filling.
Blueberry swirl instructions: In a small saucepan, stir the blueberries, sugar, salt, and tapioca flour or cornstarch together. Set the pan over medium heat and bring the berries to a simmer, stirring often. Stir and cook for 1 minute, or until the mixture thickens. Add the lemon juice.
Remove the pan from the heat and cool briefly. Pour the berry mixture into a blender and puree until very smooth. Refrigerate while you make the filling.
Have on hand a roasting pan that is large enough to hold the cake pan with 2 inches of space all around it. Wrap the bottom and sides of the cake pan with foil. Bring the oven temperature to 325 degrees.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed, beat the cream cheese for 4 minutes, or until soft and creamy. With the mixer running, stream in the sugar and salt and beat for another 4 minutes, or until the cream cheese is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla.
One at a time, add the eggs, beating a full minute after each addition so the filling is well aerated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the sour cream and heavy cream. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and give it a good stir to incorporate any unmixed batter at the bottom of the bowl.
Place the cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the filling into the pan. With a teaspoon, gently dollop the blueberry puree on top of the batter, spacing the dollops randomly. Use the point of a skewer or a toothpick to swirl the blueberries into a pretty pattern.
Fill a pitcher with the hottest tap water you have. Slide the oven rack about a quarter of the way out and set the roasting pan on it. Pour the hot water into the roasting pan so it comes halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Gently slide the rack back into the oven.
Bake the cake for 1 hour. Check the top of the cheesecake. If it has started to brown, place a sheet of foil loosely on top. Continue to bake for another 30 minutes, or until the sides are puffed and the center of the cheesecake is only very slightly wobbly—the center should register 150ºF to 155ºF on an instant-read thermometer. (Total baking time is 11/2 hours.) Turn off the oven, open the door, and prop it open with a wooden spoon. Let the cake cool for 1 hour in the water bath in the oven.
Remove the roasting pan from the oven and lift the cake pan out of the water and wipe the bottom dry. Remove the foil and transfer the pan to a cooling rack. Let it cool to room temperature.
When completely cool, cover the cake loosely with foil and chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
To serve, unlatch the spring and lift off the sides. Transfer the cake to a serving plate. Makes one 9-inch cake
The headnote says, “Juicy plums — any kind will do here — are one of my favorite fruits for baking for their sweet-tart juiciness, and combined with blueberries and blackberries, they make a can’t-stop-eating-it casual dessert. I always think that a crumble is as good as a pie, but without pie anxiety. Serve it warm or cold, with or without ice cream or a drizzle of heavy cream. Make a double batch of the topping if you like, and freeze half of it so you have a head start on the next crumble you make. And yes, you will want to make it again.”
For the topping:
For the filling:
Topping instructions: In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on low speed, mix the flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon until combined.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add the butter pieces and mix for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they are pea size. Add the oats and mix to combine.
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a shallow 8- or 9-inch square baking dish. Have on hand a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, mix the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt until blended. Add the plums, blueberries, and blackberries to the bowl and toss until combined.
Transfer the fruit to the baking dish. Spread the oatmeal topping over it. Set the dish on a baking sheet. Bake for 45- 50 minutes, or until the fruit juices bubble and the topping is golden. Serve warm with cream or ice cream. Serves 4.
Brewfest at the Beach sponsored by the Rotary Club of New London Sept. 6, 6-9 p.m. Ocean Beach Park, 1225 Ocean Ave., New London, $25 in advance, $30 at door, proceeds benefit Camp Rotary, a nonprofit camp for New London students. Features tastings of more than 150 beers, brew-friendly food, pizza, chili, wine tasting and live music. Info at newlondonrotary.org. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2Z2f87k.
Hoptoberfest, Sept. 7, 1-5p.m, Rotary Pavilion at Shelton’s Riverwalk, 100 Canal St., Shelton, $35, $40 at the door. Beer sampling, food from area businesses and live ’80s music from Pop Rocks. Tickets and info facebook.com/SheltonHoptoberfest.
Beer & Oysters On The Sound, sponsored by New Haven Land Trust, Sept. 15, 4-7 p.m., Carousel at Lighthouse Point Park, New Haven. Beer from a selection of local breweries, Copps Island oysters, live music, food trucks, carousel rides and more. $40 in advance, includes beer tastings and 6 oysters, plus a commemorative pint glass; $25 (ages 14+) includes non-alcoholic beverages, 6 oysters, and light snacks; $5 (ages 5-14) includes non-alcoholic beverages and light snacks. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2TA9rru.
“Chefs of Our Kitchen” presents Rinku Bhattacharya, chef and author of “Instant Indian: Classic Foods from Every Region of India Made Easy in the Instant Pot.” Sept. 18, 6:15 reception; 7p.m. dinner. Gateway Community College, 20 Church St., New Haven, 203-285-2617. $65 includes a signed copy of her book, reception and dinner; benefits Gateway Community College Foundation. Rinku will demonstrate recipes from the book, using this popular new kitchen appliance. Validated parking in Temple Street garage. Bring ticket for validation. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2zTfUWf.
Consiglio’s Demonstration Cooking Class: Sept.19 or 26, 6:30 p.m., Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, 203-865-4489 (reservations required), $75 (beverages, tax and gratuity not included), https://bit.ly/2Nd0xAg. Menu: Beet Salad with Feta Cheese over Whipped Cauliflower, Shrimp Bisque, NY Strip au Poivre with Chive Compound Butter, Apple Crostada.
Consiglio’s Mystery Dinner Party: “Sour Grapes” Sept. 20, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.), Consiglio’s Restaurant, 165 Wooster St., New Haven, reservations at 203-865-4489, https://bit.ly/2O3TQzQ, $65 includes dinner and show (beverages, tax and gratuity not included). An interactive comedy show that goes on throughout the evening during a 3-course meal. Cast mingles table to table, dropping clues for a mystery only you can solve. When the matriarch of a winery dynasty dies, the will is read. The folks mentioned are going to be surprised when they hear who gets what! Dress in purple to compete for a prize.
Worth Tasting, culinary walking tour of downtown New Haven, Sept. 21, 10:45 a.m., downtown New Haven, reservations required, 203-415-3519, 203-777-8550, $65. Enjoy tasty samplings from several of New Haven’s favorites. You won’t be hungry after this tour. I will lead this one. Tickets at https://bit.ly/2FjiwMP.