That blueberry must have the best PR team in town! Fruits and vegetables have been getting all kinds of positive attention these days, but Blueberry, you are the Queen. Blueberries seem to be on every nutritionist’s top-ten list for best foods you can possibly eat. They are rich in antioxidants that only food chemists can pronounce. But for us hedonists, blueberries are tops because they’re just fun to eat. I love the feeling of blueberries popping open in my mouth, juicy and sweet and just a little bit tart. Blueberries are also wonderful as accessories in muffins, on top of cereal, stirred into yogurt, or as a team player in fruit salad.
Why am I writing about blueberries in January? We’re about as far away from blueberry season in the Midwest as one can be!
In my halfhearted attempt to start eating more seasonally, I hit the frozen food aisle for a gigantic bag of frozen blueberries. Fresh blueberries aren’t in season these days, but frozen blueberries are always in season. Frozen foods, picked and flash-frozen at the height of freshness, preserve the nutrients and the flavor. Or so the nutritionists say. I’ll vouch for the flavor, though. I never get enough blueberries in the summer, so I feel absolutely entitled to eat blueberries in January, especially if they are frozen.
A few months ago, my beautiful sister-in-law, Amanda, gave me a copy of a nifty cookbook called Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way. The author, Leanne Ely, has written a whole series of “Saving Dinner” books. Amanda tells me she’s a big fan of these books and has a whole set of fast, easy Saving Dinner recipes that she and her family love. I love the concept: dinner is worth saving! Dinner is worth the effort! A homecooked meal is not a luxury; it’s a pleasure that we all deserve. Time spent on dinner is time well spent.
I’m still testing recipes out of Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way, so stay tuned for more about that book. In the meantime, at the library I found Saving Dinner Basics, a beginner’s cookbook from Ely. A delicious-looking recipe for Blueberry Crumble caught my eye, and it was indeed delicious. The crumble topping was a bit skimpy for my taste, so I will double the topping the next time I make it. The blueberry filling, made from frozen berries, is quite sweet, so I would recommend either cutting back on the sugar a bit or using this dish, skimpy topping and all, as a sweet accompaniment for a not-so-sweet base such as hot oatmeal cereal or Multigrain Pancakes for Two. As an oatmeal topping, it’s really outstanding, especially when topped with a dollop or two of luscious sour cream. My friend Daphna gave me the oatmeal suggestion—thanks, D!
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Saving Dinner Basics by Leanne Ely, the “Dinner Diva”
For the berry base:
3 c. blueberries, frozen or fresh
2/3 c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
For the crumble topping (double if desired):
½ c. rolled oats
¼ c. whole-wheat flour
¼ c. (half a stick) of butter, cut into small pieces
¼ c. brown sugar
Sprinkling of cinnamon (I love cinnamon and I’m lazy, so I never bother measuring it. I just dump.)
1) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.
2) In a large saucepan over medium heat, stir the berries and 2/3 c. brown sugar together. Stir constantly (or almost constantly) until the berries become juicy and the liquid has thickened. Stir in the lemon juice. Turn off the heat and scrape the berries into the prepared baking dish.
4) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the crumble topping ingredients until they look, well, crumbly! Sprinkle the topping over the berries, pop the whole thing in the oven, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the topping is lightly browned.
5) Remove from the oven and cool for as long as you can stand to wait before diving into those berries spoon-first. As it cools, the berry mixture will start to gel similarly to jams or fruit preserves.
6) Store leftovers covered in the fridge.