Archive for the ‘Blueberries’ Category

Centennial Songs and Recipes

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

Like most human beings, I like thinking about summer when snow is on the ground outside. So I started contemplating my summer concert this past January when the air was crisp and cold.

I knew that Leonard Bernstein had been born in 1918 and that I wanted to salute him in the concert, particularly because I knew that he had spent some time (well, one summer) down the road from my house, at Singing Brook Farm here in Hawley, Massachusetts.

Leonard Bernstein (center) at Singing Brook Farm in 1949 with his Sister and Brother

I also knew that my voice (which is just fine but not exceptional) wasn’t up for an all-Bernstein concert. It occurred to me that the concert might be expanded to cover a range of musical figures born in 1918.

I did a little research, and it turned out that quite a few American composers and singers came into the world that year: lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, of Lerner and Loewe; Patty Andrews, of the Andrews Sisters; singer/actress Pearl Bailey; crooner/actor Robert Preston, best known as the loveable con artist in The Music Man; and many more.

I wasn’t 100 percent I wanted to make 1918 the focus of my concert until I recalled that my late mother, Janice Hallett Weisblat, was also a 1918 baby.

Baby Janice with her Mother, Clara

Jan, whom I called Taffy, didn’t have a professional-quality voice. In fact, she lost much of her vocal range singing too hard while suffering from a cold one evening when I was a small child. Nevertheless, she adored music and used the range she had left to sing her heart out whenever possible. Singing a couple of her favorite songs seemed like a wonderful way to celebrate her centennial year.

My concert, called “A Century of Songs and Singers,” will take place next Saturday, August 25 (Bernstein’s birthday), at the Federated Church on Main Street (Route 2) in Charlemont, Massachusetts. I will be accompanied by Jerry Noble, a delightful person and musician.

Please join us if you’re in the neighborhood. If you can’t come to the concert, you might like to make a dish or two from 1918 babies, as I did this week on Mass Appeal. I made Pearl Bailey’s Corn Fritters and my mother’s Blueberry Sally Lunn.

The blueberry recipe appears elsewhere on this blog as Blueberry Snap. I share the corn recipe below, along with the videos in which I make the dishes.

Pearl Bailey

Pearlie Mae’s Corn Fritters

Pearl Bailey’s “cookbook,” Pearl’s Kitchen, is pretty vague about the proportions in this recipe so I had to more or less construct them myself. I recommend her book and her music nevertheless. Pearl’s Kitchen shows off its author’s remarkable spirit. She writes:

To cook is to share, and it is as important to me as walking onto the stage to full applause. Cooking is as crucial as anything I do in life, because I like to see the smiles on people’s faces when they enjoy something I have prepared. I cook as I live.

Amen.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 cups lightly cooked corn kernels
butter as needed for frying

Instructions:

In a bowl combine the flour, the sugar, the baking powder, the salt, and the pepper. Make a well in the center of this mixture.

In another bowl or a measuring cup whisk together the milk and egg. Pour them into the dry ingredients, and mix. Stir in the corn kernels.

Put a pat of butter in a frying pan over medium-low heat. The butter should melt and begin to bubble but not burn. Pop in small scoops of the corn batter.

Fry on both sides. “Just let it bubble away until it browns, then turn it over,” said Pearl Bailey. Serves a crowd.

And now the videos:

Pearly Mae’s Corn Fritters

Taffy’s Blueberry Sally Lunn

Tarzan Was My Sous Chef

Thursday, August 2nd, 2018

You Tarzan, Me Cook

This week on Mass Appeal I cooked lovely seasonal foods and had an unexpected helper.

One of the fun things about appearing on this lifestyle show is that I get to meet other guests, some of whom have become friends over the years.

On Tuesday the main other guests were members of the Berkshire Theatre Group in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, who came on the show to talk about their new production of the musical Tarzan.

A nice young man named Tim immediately came into the kitchen and offered to help me prepare my food, telling me that he loved to cook. I ALWAYS say yes when someone offers to help cook. Tim turned out to be the star of the show; he is playing Tarzan.

I hope to see him swing through the jungle next week. Meanwhile, although Tim was in training (Tarzan’s muscles have to be impressive) I managed to persuade him to nibble just a little. After all, no one should cook and then not be able to eat!

We made peach cobbler, rendered extra flavorful, and extra crunchy, with cornmeal. I am teaching an all-corn class at the Baker’s Pin in Northampton, Massachusetts, in a couple of weeks, and I have been pondering how to incorporate corn into a dessert since I always like to serve a full meal. Using cornmeal might be cheating—but it IS corn based!

We also made a lovely bright blueberry salsa.

Happy August!

Crunchy Peach Cobbler

Ingredients:

for the fruit base:

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
4 cups chopped peaches (or half peaches and half blueberries or raspberries)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, diced

for the cobbler crust:

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 1-1/2-quart casserole dish.

Begin by making the base. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in a smallish nonreactive pot. Stir in the fruit and lemon juice. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Boil, stirring gently, for 1 minute. Remove the fruit from the heat and stir in the cinnamon. Spread the fruit in the prepared pan. Dot the top with butter.

To make the crust whisk together the flour, the cornmeal, the sugar, the baking powder, and the salt. Cut in the butter, but don’t overdo the process. You should still have tiny pieces of butter in the mixture.

Whisk together the milk, egg, and vanilla. Add them to the dry ingredients, and mix just until moist. Drop the resulting mixture onto the peaches, and spread it around to cover the fruit. Sprinkle brown sugar over all in little clumps. Bake until lightly browned, about 25 minutes. Serves 8.

Blueberry Salsa

Ingredients:

2 cups blueberries
the juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 to 4 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

Chop or lightly crush about 1/2 cup of the blueberries. Stir them back into the remaining berries.

In a bowl stir together the lime juice and the salt. Stir in the pepper, the onion, and the cilantro; then add the berries.

Refrigerate the salsa for a couple of hours for maximum flavor. Serve with tortilla chips, over chicken or fish, or with crackers and cream cheese. Makes about 2 cups.

And now the videos…..

Crunchy Peach Cobbler

Blueberry Salsa

Blueberry Sugar-Top Muffins

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

muffsweb

These simple, super tasty muffins are best made with the tiny, low-bush blueberries we have locally in western Massachusetts at this time of year. I call them blue pearls and can’t get enough of them. As I have probably mentioned too many times on this blog, I find them smaller, sweeter, and more freezable than those clunky high-bush berries.

The recipe will work with any kind of blueberry, of course. If your berries are frozen, you will no doubt have to increase the baking time.

This muffin formula comes from a musical acquaintance of mine named Theresa Kubasak, who obtained it from a teaching nun named Gen Cassani. My nephew Michael wolfed down several of these muffins the morning I first baked them.

So of course I made them on Mass Appeal this week, where they were once again a hit. If you watch the video below (and I hope you do, if only to see my spectacular hat in its full glory!), you will have all the information you need by 6:15. I just kept the video rolling so you could see co-host Lauren Zenzie’s enthusiastic reaction to the muffins a couple of minutes later.

Happy blueberry weather!

blue hat wideweb

The Muffins

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (1 stick) sweet butter
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
sanding sugar (or regular sugar if that’s all you have) as needed

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin tins with cupcake/muffin liners. Melt the butter over low heat (or in a microwave oven), and set it aside.

In a medium bowl combine the dry ingredients. Place the blueberries in a smaller bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the dry mixture to the berries, and toss with a spoon.

Return to the dry ingredients. Stir in the milk and then the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the melted butter, followed by the floured berries. Use a cookie scoop or a tablespoon to fill the prepared muffin tins with batter. Sprinkle sugar on top.

Bake until the muffins begin to brown on top and have no wet batter in the middle, 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 18 small muffins.

And now, the video….

Blueberry Scones at the Leyden Café

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Leyden sign

I know! I post a LOT of scone recipes.

If I had to choose only one pastry to eat for the rest of my life, it would be a scone. Scones include fruit (so they give the eater the illusion of eating vaguely healthily), they are easy to make, and they satisfy the eater … this eater, at any rate.

Of course, I don’t eat them all the time. I’m still on my nutritional cleanse. For a few days a month, however, I allow myself to stray. This month I strayed with a scone (and promptly gave away the rest of the batch!).

This particular recipe was inspired by Karyn Brown, a professional baker who is the culinary brain of the Leyden Café in Leyden, Massachusetts.

I first heard about the Leyden Café last summer as I stood in line waiting for posters at a local copy shop. A woman and her children stepped away from the counter with a brightly colored banner that read “The Leyden Café” in a lively font.

leyden logo web

I told the woman, who introduced herself as Amy St. Clair, that I was unaware that Leyden HAD a café. Leyden has more than twice as many people as my small town of Hawley, but that population doesn’t qualify it as a metropolis by any means. I was surprised to learn that it could support a café.

Amy explained that the café was a very part-time affair, started in the fall of 2014 by a group of townspeople that included her and her friend Robin Neipp. Their aim was to give Leyden’s residents a gathering place and a stronger sense of community.

The café is located on the lower level of the Leyden Town Hall. In general, Amy and Robin informed me, the café is open only once a week, currently on Sundays from 9 to 11:30 a.m. It also operates as needed at town meetings and events.

The Leyden Town Hall in better weather (courtesy of John Phelan)

The Leyden Town Hall in better weather (courtesy of John Phelan)

The café hosts special offerings from time to time, including a market day last fall featuring, in Robin’s words, “Leyden bounty and wares”; movie nights; pottery workshops; and concerts. February’s highlight will be a game night this Friday, the 19th, beginning at 6 p.m.

The café also offers collectibles, maple syrup, and local pottery for sale. Robin Neipp told me that the café regularly welcomes 16 to 20 visitors.

“We are hoping to establish a habit for residents to come to the café, utilize the space, create community events, and maybe someday somewhere somehow perhaps have a store,” she explained.

Meanwhile, she said, she and her colleagues have a lot of fun “reconnecting with and meeting new neighbors and solving world problems in [their] little space.”

Of course, they also enjoy Karyn Brown’s baked goods! Karyn graciously shared this scone recipe with me.

I have to admit that Karyn’s version of the scones is a bit different from mine, and her baked scones probably look much better than mine. She rolls out her scone dough. I am a less expert roller so I resorted to patting mine out.

As you can see, my version of the dough (decorated here with the berries) is a bit rough.

As you can see, my version of the dough (decorated here with the berries) is a bit rough.

She also manages to incorporate 1-1/2 cups of berries into her scones. I could only manage 1 cup. I added a little vanilla to make up for the lost flavor.

The scones were still delicious, denser and richer than my customary scone. My sister-in-law Leigh took one bite and said, “Wow.”

Karyn makes her scones with her own organic blueberries. Luckily, given the season, they are best prepared with frozen berries.

leyden sconeweb

The Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar, plus additional sugar as needed just before baking
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold sweet butter, cut into cubes
3/4 cup heavy cream, plus additional cream as needed just before baking
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup frozen blueberries

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Process the 4 dry ingredients until mixed well in a food processor. Scatter the butter cubes evenly over the mixture and pulse until the butter is pea-sized. Place this mixture in a large bowl.

(If you don’t have a food processor, whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and cut or grate the butter into them).

Measure the cream into a liquid measuring cup; then add the egg yolks and vanilla and mix with a fork or small whisk until the yolks are incorporated.

Add the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and bring the dough together with a rubber spatula. Knead it a few times in the bowl, without working it too much, and pat into a smooth thick rectangle that is about 12 inches long.

Scatter the blueberries evenly over the dough, leaving about an inch border around the edge of your rectangle. Press the berries lightly into the dough.

Roll the dough up like a jelly roll, pressing it gently as you make each rotation and checking to make sure that the dough isn’t sticking; add more flour if it is. When the dough is rolled up, transfer it to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Let the roll sit in the freezer for 20 to 30 minutes to firm up to make cutting the scones easier.

After chilling the dough, cut it into four pieces with a serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion. Cut each section in half on the diagonal.

Return the scones to the lined baking sheet, spacing them evenly. Brush the tops lightly with a small amount of cream; then sprinkle on a bit of sugar or some seasonal sprinkles.

Bake the scones until they are golden and set to the touch (about 25 minutes), rotating the pan halfway through the baking time.

I had no trouble getting the scones off the baking sheet, but if you have any trouble let them cool completely before removing them.

Leftovers will keep for a couple days, although these treats taste best the day they are baked. Makes 8 scones.

Cutting the scones

Cutting the scones

Summer Fruit Key-Lime Pie

Friday, August 10th, 2012

I have mentioned before how much I love key-lime juice and key-lime pie. I love being able to buy key-lime juice from Nellie & Joe’s just about anywhere. (No, Nellie and Joe didn’t pay me or give me anything to say that. It’s the plain truth.)

I had a request for key-lime pie a couple of weeks ago. I also had a whole bunch of lovely fresh fruit in the house, including gorgeous tiny blueberries and the first peaches of the season. So I decided to add a little local fruit to my key-lime creation.

The result was an incredibly easy to make (and easy to eat) melding of north and south, sweet and tart.

My camera is broken, but luckily one of my guests, Alison Seaton, brought along her IPhone and took a photo of the pie before it disappeared completely.

The Pie

Ingredients:

for the fruit layer:

2 cups mixed fruit (peaches and blueberries … or peaches and blueberries and raspberries!)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons key-lime juice
1/1-2 teaspoons cornstarch

for the key-lime layer:

1/2 cup key-lime juice
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
3 egg yolks

for assembly:

1 uncooked 8- or 9-inch graham cracker crust (I made this from scratch, but store bought will do in a pinch)

for presentation:

whipped cream to taste (optional but good)

Instructions:

This recipe is best prepared several hours in advance.

Combine the fruit, sugar, and 2 tablespoons key-lime juice in a nonreactive saucepan. If you have time, let them sit for half an hour or so. Otherwise, forge ahead!

Stir in the cornstarch. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and set it aside to cool. When it is at room temperature, cover and refrigerate the fruit mixture.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl whisk together the ingredients for the key-lime layer. Pour them into the pie crust.

Bake the pie for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and let it cool to room temperature; then cover it and place it in the freezer.

About an hour before you are ready to serve your pie, pour the fruit layer on top of the key-lime layer and put the whole thing in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it.

Serve with whipped cream as desired. Serves 6.