You know what looks beautiful? A sleek wood cutting board, topped with a handful of roly-poly blueberries. The contrast of warm wood and deep blue fruit is a gorgeous one.
And there is no better time of year to stage that tableau. July is the height of blueberry season and it is National Blueberry Month, which means there’s no better time to get out and pick some of your own. So if you’re in a part of the country where you can make that happen – and really, that’s everywhere in the U.S. – find a farm and get out there to gather some berries.
But when you’re finished collecting your haul, what should you do with the berries? I love them plain, by the handful, muddled with minty lemonade (with vodka!) or mixed with Greek yogurt and granola. The blue fruit is sweet-tart, packed with health benefits, like calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K and potassium, and incredibly versatile.
And the experts agree! Chef Dyan Ng, the pastry chef at Wit & Wisdom, a restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel here in Baltimore, told me she loves blueberries as much as I do. "When blueberries are just right, it's hard to beat,” she said. “Their floral, sweet flavor and hint of acidity along with the contrasting texture of the soft flesh and the almost crisp pop you get from biting through the thin skin makes for an addicting snack.”
Chef Dyan gets super creative with her berries – her desserts are works of art. In my kitchen, I’m not quite as ambitious, but even still, with a good bunch of berries (and the help of my trusty wood cutting boards), I’ve been known to create some pretty great dishes.
Here are two of my favorite recipes – one savory, one sweet, both simple enough for hot summer nights.
The Savory: Green Salad with Feta, Almonds, Chicken & Blueberries
This salad is so quick, but really tasty. If you prefer, you can use store bought dressing, which makes the process even simpler.
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoon honey
Salt and pepper
1 bag of mixed salad greens
About ½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 ½ cups blueberries
¼ cup almond slivers
4 small chicken breasts, seasoned and grilled
Whisk together vinegar, olive oil and honey. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss greens with feta, blueberries, and dressing until evenly coated.
Divide the salad mixture between four plates. Top each with a grilled chicken breast – and eat!
I love crumbles. They’re such an easy way to use fruit in desserts. This recipe, which is based on one I found on the Whole Foods website, is just a starting point, too – you can always add a little more topping, or more fruit, depending on your preference. But whatever you do, make sure you serve it with vanilla ice cream!
6 cups blueberries, rinsed and dried
2/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon flour, divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Place berries, lemon juice and one tablespoon flour in a mixing bowl. Toss until berries are coated then place the mixture in the bottom of a 10-inch pie plate.
Using a food processor, combine sugar, oats, cinnamon and butter until the mixture is the texture of coarse breadcrumbs.
Sprinkle the mixture on top of the berries and bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is brown and fruit is hot and bubbling.
Scoop the warm crumble into bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream. Yum!