Blueberry season is nearly over here in south Louisiana, so plenty of folks have their fridges and freezers packed with bulging bags of “bleubs.” 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 the hyperfocus on those berry-laden branches, our brains turned into frosted midnight blue orbs. We could only think, see, smell, say: BLEUB.
When the kids whined for lunch: “More bleubs.”
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 sunhats. My daughter took some of her first steps that day. The rest of the summer was a rolling bleub-fest: one friend made blueberry wine, another shared blueberry pound cake at a potluck, and I came to require a daily glass of blueberry lemonade.
That was summer 2018, before the world changed — one of those perfect summer days when an outing with friends didn’t carry the weight of social distancing or avoiding the indoors. I think of that summer every time I find myself rich in blueberries.
When that happens, I always start with breakfast cake. Easy enough to put together before I finish my first cup of coffee, it’s my lazy take on a recipe from “Joy of Cooking” for a blueberry-peach “buckle,” or a fruit-studded cake topped with streusel. I’ve made the buckle, and it’s delicious, but the streusel adds a couple steps and too much sweetness for my taste, so I simplified and have no regrets. It’s so good that I’ve made it on consecutive days, after the first one disappeared more quickly than expected.
My parents’ signature salad, something they eat at least several times a week, stars blueberries and blackberries atop 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-blueberry salad. It’s 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). This is a not-too-sweet, not-too-rich, perfectly satisfying cake to be enjoyed at breakfast or snacktime. Add some fresh whipped cream or custard sauce and it becomes dessert. I’ve made it with whole wheat flour many times and it works beautifully; just be extra careful not to overmix. Don’t have buttermilk? Add a scant tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of regular milk and mix.
1¾ cup all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, preferably room temp.
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup buttermilk, preferably room temp.
1 peach, cut into chunks (nectarines also work well)
1 to 1½ cup blueberries
1. Grease a 10-inch round or 9-inch square baking dish and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Position a rack in the middle of the oven.
2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat the 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 the wet ingredients.
5. Add flour mixture to the large bowl and fold or gently stir to incorporate, until just moistened. Gently fold in peach chunks and blueberries; be careful not to overmix.
6. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
7. Let cool 20 minutes in the pan before serving.
It’s not an 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 the simplicity, not even giving measurements — who needs them, when a flavor combination like this works as well as it does. Serves 4.
4 medium-to-large carrots, shredded
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
Generous pinch red pepper powder (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, lightly toss grated carrots with lemon juice and salt. Fold in blueberries.
2. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt ghee or olive oil. When fat is hot, add cumin seeds and red pepper. Cook for up to 30 seconds, making sure not to burn the seeds. If it smells burnt, throw it out and start again.
3. Pour fat over the salad, toss and serve.
Adapted from CelebratingSweets.com. Blueberry lemonade is good enough on its own, but I love the crisp freshness that mint brings to the party. I prefer my lemonade tart, so if you want to make it sweeter, add ¼-cup sugar to the honey-mint mixture. Serves 6 to 8.
⅓ cup mild honey
3 small sprigs fresh mint
3 cups blueberries
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 to 6 cups water, divided
additional blueberries and lemon slices, for garnish
1. Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add honey and mint leaves (and additional sugar, if using); stir until honey is dissolved. Let the mint steep for 3 to 5 minutes, then set aside to 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 blueberry-lemon puree and honey-mint mixture, plus remaining 3 to 4 cups water. Chill and serve over ice.