Foods deserve delicious case of the blues

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Friends attempting to create a slice of rural life in the city once planted blueberries at the corner of their driveway. Much to my surprise, they flourished there, amid the car fumes and the blacktop.

The knee-high bushes bore clusters of berries that practically fell into the bowl.

And it's that time of year again. Find a pick-your-own spot. Take a bowl and position it beneath the bush. Brush a hand along the clusters of berries, and the ripe ones will drop into the bowl.

Blueberries help pancakes transcend themselves. Whether eaten out of hand, added to a summer sorbet, pie or crisp, blueberries are, as my grandmother says, good eating.

In pies, they need nothing more than a touch of sugar, a dash of cinnamon and dots of butter as enhancement between crusts.

Or whip up a sauce for dressing plain pancakes or any number of desserts.

Here's how Sharon Kramis does it in "Berries: A Country Garden Cookbook" (HarperCollins): In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups blueberries, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest, 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg and a dash of salt. Cook over medium heat for 4 or 5 minutes. Serve warm.

At the market or in the field, choose blueberries that are plump and taut -- and definitely blue. Avoid wrinkled berries; they're VTC past their prime.

At home, place the unwashed berries in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. They'll keep for a couple of weeks if properly refrigerated.

To prepare, rinse berries in cold water, checking each berry to ensure stems and caps are removed.

Add blues to pancake batter after the batter is poured into the seasoned iron skillet. Adding them before results in red batter.

If perfect blueberry muffins are your aim, freeze the berries before adding them to the batter. But add a few moments of cooking time to muffins.

Here's how to freeze them: Place washed, paper-towel-dried berries in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan or baking sheet with sides.

Freeze berries until firm, then place in a freezer bag.

This recipe comes from "Something Sweet" by Jack Bishop (Simon & Schuster, $15).

Best-Ever

Blueberry Cobbler

Serves 6

3 cups blueberries

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup orange juice

2/3 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1 large egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Toss berries, 3 tablespoons sugar and orange juice in 8-inch-square oven- proof glass or ceramic dish that measures about 2 inches deep. Set dish aside.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cream butter and remaining 1/2 cup sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy and light in color. Beat in egg and vanilla extract until smooth. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients using low setting on mixer.

Drop batter by rounded tablespoons over berry filling. Cover as much of the surface as possible with small clumps of batter. Some uncovered spots will remain but drop batter so that the open areas are as small as possible.

Bake until crust is golden brown and berry filling is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove pan from oven and cool briefly.

H

Serve as is, or with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Per serving: calories, 335; protein, 3.22 grams; carbohydrates, 45.3 grams; total fat, 16.6 grams; cholesterol, 76.9 milligrams; saturated fat, 9.89 grams; sodium, 37.9 milligrams; sugar, 32.9 grams;

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