Saturday, July 24, 2010

Peach & {Wild} Blueberry Cobbler

Except for a handful of stragglers, I have now used up the last of my wild blueberries. I made several batches of pancakes, a dud of a broiled-yogurt dish (we ate it but we did not enjoy it), and last but not least a cobbler.

Now I want to mention something that has been on my mind a lot lately: I don't like really heavy rich desserts (or savory dishes either actually). They make me feel bad inside and out. I particularly find that I don't like it when fresh delicious (and precious) fruit is suffocated in butter and sugar. Basically, I have been searching out recipes that show off my lovely produce, rather than stifle it.

This cobbler is very summery, and the fruit is very straightforward. The combination of blueberries and juicy baked peaches is sticky perfection. The cornmeal-buttermilk-biscuit topping is tender and rustic and neither too sweet or too heavy. Let's just say that we had firsts, seconds, and then polished off the leftovers for breakfast.
Peach and {Wild} Blueberry Cobbler
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's adaptation from Simple Fresh Southern

4 cups peaches (1 1/2 lbs), pitted, peeled** and sliced
2 cups (1 pint) blueberries, rinsed and dried
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (I left this out)
1/4 tsp salt

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 425°. Toss peaches with blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon (if you are using it), and salt in the bottom of a 2-quart ovenproof dish (because I halved the fruit I used a pyrex pie dish).

Make the biscuit dough. Stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix the butter into the flour mixture with a fork, pastry cutter or your hot little hands. Stir in the buttermilk until the dough comes together.

Drop spoonfuls of the dough over the filling. Bake until the juice from the fruit is bubbly and the tops of the biscuits are browned, 20-25 minutes.

Be careful: it's sticky, addictive, and I'm pretty sure it stains.
*I halved the amount of fruit so that it would be a better amount for two (just enough for seconds the night of, and maybe a little bit for breakfast the next day). The ratio would have been better with more fruit though.
**As smitten kitchen suggests, a simple way to peel the peaches skin off is to slice an X into the bottom of each peach and then submerge them in boiling water for 30 seconds.

Homemade Buttermilk Pancakes with Wild Blueberries

Blueberry pancakes may be unoriginal but they are very good. The way that the blueberries cook within the pancake batter so that they get hot and juicy and practically burst is reliably delicious. I was especially happy to find a recipe for buttermilk pancakes that is very simple. In fact, it is so easy to make and requires so few ingredients that it puts box mixes to shame.

The recipe I followed, from Gourmet Today, was for plain buttermilk pancakes--a simple base ready to be adapted in any number of ways. I added half a cup of blueberries, but if a plane trip to New Hampshire for fresh-picked berries sounds too indulgent, you can follow Gourmet's suggestion of sour cream and caviar. So versatile!
Buttermilk Pancakes (with blueberries)

From Gourmet Today

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg (lightly beaten)
1 cup well-shaken buttermilk*
vegetable oil for brushing the griddle

1/2 cup blueberries (optional)

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, egg, and buttermilk in a bowl until smooth. Gently stir in the blueberries.

Heat a griddle or a large heavy skillet over moderate heat until hot enough to make drops of water scatter over its surface. Brush with oil (It doesn't need much oil at all - I like to wipe the oil with a paper towel before each batch so that it is barely there).

Working in batches, using a 1/4 cup measure filled halfway for each pancake (I used about double this amount), pour the batter onto the griddle and cook pancakes, turning once, until golden.

If you like, you can place the cooked pancakes onto a heatproof platter, cover, and keep them warm by placing them in a 200° oven while you cook the remaining pancakes.
*Buttermilk is the only ingredient that I don't always have in the refrigerator. Luckily, there are several ways to come up with a substitution in a pinch. One way is to mix 1 Tbsp lemon juice or white vinegar to a cup of whole milk, which will make it curdle and thicken and sour. The other way, which I much prefer, is to thin 2/3 cup yogurt with 1/3 cup water. I think that the yogurt substitution is much tastier and the tangy plain yogurt is more substantial and appealing. The other versions are a little funky and often have a strong lemony (or worse) vinegar-y flavor.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wild Blueberries

While visiting Loon Island during my recent trip to Squam Lake in New Hampshire, I lucked into a windfall crop of wild blueberries. Normally picking tiny wild blueberries is more for the fun of it then for any real expected bulk gains, but this time the bushes were so full that I ended up with a substantial quantity. Not only enough to actually make something, but in fact enough to make multiple things (more on that later).
The first thing I did with the pretty, tiny, dark blue berries, was to eat some right away. Plucked straight off the bush, still on the island. I guess this might not seem like a huge treat to people who live where blueberries grow, but for me this is something I only get when I go to Loon Island, which is not often. Regardless of how often you get to eat berries straight off the bush, you have to admit that nothing really can compare. Blueberries, blackberries especially -the fresher and the wilder the better. Nothing is more summery and delicious than hard earned berries that stain your fingers, lips, and teeth, eaten in the very spot where they grew. Of course, it doesn't hurt if that place happens to be very beautiful.