Blueberry season is nearly over here in South Louisiana, so many people have their fridges and freezers full of bulging bags of “bluebs.” That’s what my friends and I started calling them one year on a sweltering trip to Pearl River Blues Organic Blueberry Farm. Delirious from the heat and hyperfocus on those berry-laden branches, our brains turned into frosty midnight blue orbs. We could only think, see, smell, say: BLUE.
When the kids complained for lunch: “No more blueberries.”
When someone found a dense cluster: “Oh my bleub!”
Just to break the silence: “Bleuuuuuub!”
We returned to our picnic blankets in the shade with our fingers stained purple and our children red-faced under their sun hats. My daughter took some of her first steps that day. The rest of the summer was a blueberry party: one friend made blueberry wine, another shared a blueberry pound cake at a potluck, and I came to ask for a drink daily blueberry lemonade.
It was the summer of 2018, before the world changed — one of those perfect summer days when a hangout with friends didn’t carry the brunt of social distancing or indoor avoidance. I think of this summer every time I find myself rich in blueberries.
When this happens, I always start with the breakfast cake. Easy enough to make before I finish my first cup of coffee, this is my lazy take on a “Joy of Cooking” recipe for blueberry-peach “loop” or streusel-topped fruitcake. I did the loop, and it’s delicious, but the streusel adds a few steps and too much sweetness for my taste, so I simplified and have no regrets. It’s so good that I made it several days in a row, after the first one disappeared faster than expected.
My parents’ signature salad, something they eat at least several times a week, features blueberries and blackberries on romaine lettuce, with feta or goat cheese and toasted slivered almonds. It never disappoints, but here I’ve included my version of “minimalist” food writer Mark Bittman’s carrot and blueberry salad. These are just three ingredients, but when their powers combine, it’s one of the most refreshing, portable, and impressive salads to grace a picnic table.
Blueberry Peach Buttermilk Breakfast Cake
Adapted from Joy of Cooking (2006). It is a cake that is not too sweet, not too rich, perfectly satisfying to enjoy for breakfast or as a snack. Add fresh whipped cream or pastry cream and it becomes a dessert. I’ve made this several times with whole wheat flour and it works wonders; just be very careful not to overmix. Don’t have buttermilk? Add a small tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of plain milk and stir.
1¾ cups all-purpose or whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
1 large egg, preferably at room temperature.
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup buttermilk, preferably at room temperature.
1 peach, cut into chunks (nectarines work just as well)
1 to 1½ cups of blueberries
1. Grease a 10 inch round or 9 inch square baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy using a hand mixer or wooden spoon, about 1-2 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
4. Gradually add buttermilk to wet ingredients.
5. Add the flour mixture to the large bowl and gently fold or stir to incorporate, until just moistened. Gently stir in the peach pieces and blueberries; be careful not to overmix.
6. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
7. Leave to cool for 20 minutes in the pan before serving.
Carrot and blueberry salad
It’s no understatement to say that Mark Bittman’s 2009 Summer Salad Roundup for The New York Times rocked my culinary world. As in the recipe adapted here, he delivered on simplicity, without even giving measurements – who needs that, when a flavor combination like this works as well as it does. For 4 people.
4 medium to large carrots, grated
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon)
1 cup blueberries
2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
A generous pinch of red chilli powder (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, lightly toss the grated carrots with the lemon juice and salt. Stir in blueberries.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the ghee or olive oil. When the fat is hot, add the cumin seeds and red pepper. Cook for up to 30 seconds, being careful not to burn the seeds. If it smells burnt, throw it away and start over.
3. Pour the fat over the salad, mix and serve.
Blueberry Mint Lemonade
Adapted from CelebratingSweets.com. Blueberry lemonade is pretty good on its own, but I love the crunchy freshness the mint brings to the party. I prefer my pie to lemonade, so if you want to make it sweeter, add ¼ cup sugar to the honey-mint mixture. For 6 to 8 people.
⅓ cup sweet honey
3 small sprigs of fresh mint
3 cups blueberries
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 to 6 cups water, divided
blueberries and extra lemon slices, for garnish
1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Add honey and mint leaves (and additional sugar, if using); stir until honey is dissolved. Let the mint infuse for 3 to 5 minutes, then let cool.
2. Add blueberries, lemon juice and 1 cup water to a blender and blend until pureed. Strain through a fine mesh sieve.
3. Combine the blueberry-lemon purée and the honey-mint mixture, plus the remaining 3-4 cups of water. Cool and serve over ice.