Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

As much as I enjoy sleeping in on Saturday mornings, given the amount of gorgeous produce in season at the green market right now, I make sure I wake up in time to get in on the action at Union Square. For the last month, blueberries have been a top priority, not only on my grocery list, but on many pastry chefs’ menus as well. As the summer starts to wind down, I’m savoring every last bit of sun, warm weather, and blueberries. Here are some of my favorite blueberry desserts and drinks around town. Check them out while the fruit is in season. Or make them at home with the recipes included here.

Blueberry Crumble Pie
w/ vanilla ice cream

The thought of summer always conjures up the image of blueberry pie for me. And when I think of blueberry pie, I think of Pearl. Served only in season, I wait three quarters of the year until I can get my pie. So once it’s summer, I would not think of leaving the restaurant without that essential ending to a perfect meal. The pie is served warm, à la mode with vanilla gelato from Il Laboratoria del Gelato. The blueberries ooze out of the pie, enticing you to take a bite. The crumble is nice and crunchy in contrast to the soft tender berries. But what I love most is the perfect crust. The buttery layers of dough are crisp and flaky. Chef Rebecca Charles knows her seafood, but she also knows her pies!

Ricotta Beignets
w/ red wine coulis and fresh blueberries

Just when I think I’ve had enough of beignets, James knocks my socks off with this much-appreciated variation of ricotta beignets breaded with coconut shreds and deep-fried. The ricotta mixture is lighter than regular dough. Drizzled with a refreshing red wine berry sauce, and accompanied by the delightful blueberries, the ricotta beignets make for an ingenious summer dessert. The beauty of the beignets is that they are ephemeral and I’m sure will taste just as good with other accompaniments once blueberry season is over.

Blueberry Soup
w/ yogurt and lime cream

Simple and elegant, the blueberry soup with yogurt and lime cream at Le Cirque Wine Bar is so clean it effortlessly cuts the summer heat. The soup is a rich reduction of blueberry, water and sugar, strained then chilled. I love the blueberry tannins that add an unexpected dimension to this otherwise pristine purée. The piquant lime zest creates perfect harmony with the blueberries’ sweetness. The yogurt cream is whipped to the consistency of Chantilly, which gives the dessert a touch of weightlessness. If all creams were as light as this one, we’d be in serious trouble. The beautiful presentation as the soup is poured tableside over the lime and yogurt cream atop fresh blueberries adds to the allure.

Blueberry Soufflé
w/ blueberry-cardamom compote, yogurt sorbet and granola
(part of the market tasting menu: $89)

Tabla pastry chef Melissa Walnock took her inspiration from breakfast for this dessert: yogurt, granola and blueberries. But her vision is much more elaborate and sophisticated. Soufflés are classic, but blueberry soufflé is original. The texture is perfectly spongy, gooey on the inside, with a nice thin crust on the outside. Cardamom added to the blueberry compote is a welcome use of Indian spices that helps to cut the acidity but still brings out the flavor of the blueberries. The yogurt sorbet is delectably light, and the granola made in-house gives this work of art a contrasting crunchy texture. This dessert has so many components, but it all comes together with subtle fragrance and balance.

Chilled Blueberry Soup w/ immortality herb panna cotta and black pepper crumbs

Annisa’s chilled blueberry soup is not as straightforward as it sounds. It stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from the chilled blueberry soup at Le Cirque. I was expecting it to be a very cool dish, being a chilled soup, but this dessert has got heat! Even well after leaving the restaurant, I felt the spice on my tongue. The heat comes from the black pepper crumble, which also has a touch of cinnamon. The panna cotta is gelatinous in texture, almost like that of almond tofu. The soup is actually light and refreshing with whole cooked blueberries. And the dish is completed with a helichrysum (strawflower) tuile as garnish. The composition of elements is a delightful play on contrasts: cold versus hot, hard crunch atop smooth gelatin, fruit versus spice.

Blueberry and Corn Ice Cream Sundae
w/ black pepper whipped cream and toffee popcorn

When I learned of the blueberry and corn sundae at Gramercy Tavern, I thought I had found a soul mate in pastry chef Nancy Olsen. Corn is another one of my favorites of the season’s produce, and though I’ve never thought of it paired with blueberry, it just seems so natural and right. This sundae is more than just right. As it’s the third year Nancy has put the dessert on the menu during the season, it seems I’m not the only fan. The ice cream is a purée of corn — so smooth it reminds me of Japanese corn potage — and the blueberry compote also contains kernels of fresh corn. The black pepper whipped cream is light as a cloud, with the pepper embellishing but not overpowering the cream. On top of all this is toffee popcorn for added texture. There’s also a warm corn muffin to accompany. The silkiness of the corn ice cream and the fresh corn kernels in the blueberry sauce are enough to have me raving for weeks to come.

Ol’ Lucy Blue Eyes

Though I’m not usually a fan of absinthe, this cocktail demonstrates that when paired with the right ingredients, absinthe makes a good drink. Ol’ Lucy Blue Eyes is a visually attractive drink. The anise flavor of Lucid Absinthe is balanced by the fruity juices of muddled blueberries, Stoli Blueberry, lemon juice and simple syrup. And the concoction is positively refreshing.

Blueberry Pomegranate Yogurt Drink

Ronnybrook’s blueberry pomegranate flavor is the latest addition to their list of yogurt drinks. But in fact, this is not a new flavor. It was developed for the British sandwich chain, Pret A Manger. It’s one of their most popular flavors, so now that Ronnybrook is selling it under its own label, it’ll be available year-round. That’s wonderful news! The blueberry pomegranate yogurt drink is tangy and refreshing, with blueberry and pomegranate skins and seeds laced throughout. It’s a lighter and healthier alternative to a milkshake, and I’d say it tastes even better.

Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

Rebecca Charles
Chef, Pearl Oyster Bar

Serves 8 to 10

This recipe is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tablespoon salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into tiny pieces
¼ cup ice water

1½ cups flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1½ sticks sweet butter, cut into little pieces

3 pints blueberries, wild Maine if you can get them
1 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon finely chopped lemon zest
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

To make the crust, combine the flour, salt, and cold butter in a food processor by pulsing until the mixture has the consistency of sand. Add the cold water, while pulsing, until the mixture comes together; don’t overwork it. (To mix the dough by hand, combine the flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl. Add the cold water and work by hand until the mixture comes together.) Remove the dough from the food processor or bowl and on a lightly floured counter or board shape it into a disk about ½-inch thick. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour before rolling it out.

To make the crumble, mix the flour and brown sugar in the food processor until thoroughly combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture forms a crumble (do not overwork the mixture). Refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

To make the fruit filling, in a large bowl mix all the ingredients well. I crush about 20 percent of the blueberries so the juice mixes with the cornstarch and thickens the filling.

To make the pie, preheat the oven to 350° F. Roll out the dough on a floured surface, place in a pie plate, and crimp the edges. Use a fork to poke holes around the sides and bottom of the crust. Cover with a piece of parchment paper and fill it with dried beans. Bake for 8 minutes, or until the crimped edges are firm. Remove the paper and beans and bake for 3 to 5 more minutes to firm the bottom. Fill crust with the berry mixture, spread out the mixture, and top the pie generously with the crumble. Bake for one hour or until the filling starts to bubble. Cool on a rack.

This recipe is from Lobster Rolls & Blueberry Pie: Three Generations of Stories and Recipes from Summers on the Coast of Maine.

Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

Bryan Calvert
Chef, James

Makes 8 – 10 beignets

Ricotta Mixture
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp honey
½ lb cream cheese
¼ cup fresh ricotta cheese
Zest of ½ lemon
3 eggs
4 tbsp milk
4 tbsp heavy cream

1 cup confectioners sugar
1 cup cornstarch
4 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups grated coconut
Oil for frying

Red Wine Berry Sauce
½ cup light red wine
½ cup sugar
1 pint of Raspberries
1 pint Blueberries

Preheat Oven to 325° F.

Combine sugar, honey and cream cheese in a electric mixer and cream together.

Add ricotta, and zest and mix until combined.

Add 1 egg at a time until blended.

Add milk and cream.

Butter an 8 inch cake pan and place mixture in.

Bake for 1 hour at 325º in a water bath until a skewer comes out clean from the middle of the cake.

Cool for 1 hour.

Mix cornstarch and sugar in a bowl.

Place whisked eggs in a separate bowl.

Place coconut in third bowl.

Using a 2 oz ice cream scoop form beignets from the cake.

Coat balls with sugar mixture, then egg, then coconut.

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 325º and fry beignets to golden brown.

Combine all sauce ingredients in a saucepan. Simmer and reduce to sauce consistency, strain and cool.

Place sauce on plate with berries. Arrange beignets on sauce and serve.

Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

Vincent Jaoura
Pastry Chef, Le Cirque

Blueberry Soup
2 pints fresh blueberry
1 cup water
½ cup sugar

Bring everything to boil, mix and strain. Let chill in the fridge for 2 hours.

Yogurt and Lime Cream
1 cup heavy cream
3 oz Greek yogurt
1 oz mascarpone
1 ½ oz confectioners sugar
1 lime zest

Mix all the ingredients together and whip it to the consistency of a Chantilly.

Serve the soup very cold. In a bowl add a spoon of cream on the top and some fresh blueberries.

Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

Melissa Walnock
Pastry Chef, Tabla

Serves 8

Blueberry Purée
3 cups blueberries
Lime juice

Toss blueberries in sugar just to coat and put into pot. Boil until blueberries break apart and the liquid thickens just a bit. Burr mix, strain and cool. Season with lime juice to taste.

Pastry Cream
1 cup milk
1 cup blueberry purée
8 yolks (160 g)
½ cup sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch

Bring the milk and purée to a boil. Whisk together the sugar and the flour. Whisk yolks and place in a tall bin. Pour in some of the blueberry base while burr mixing. Add the sugar/flour mix and continue burr mixing until smooth. Put everything back into the pot and cook over medium heat, whisking the entire time, until the pastry cream is thick and air bubbles begin to pop.

Soufflé (1 bag)
325 g pastry cream
4 egg whites (120 g)
3 tbsp sugar
Pinch of cream of tartar

Paddle pastry cream until soft and smooth. Make a firm meringue with the whites, sugar and cream of tartar. Whisk 1/3 of the meringue into the pastry cream, then gently fold in the rest.

Blueberry Cardamom Compote
2 cup blueberry purée, strained
1 cup blueberries
½ tsp ground cardamom

Combine all ingredients and cook over medium heat until the blueberries soften and the liquid thickens a bit.

2 cup oats 2 oz brown butter
¼ cup coconut 1 tsp orange zest
¼ cup pecans, finely ground 1 vanilla bean
¼ cup honey ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt

Grind pecans almost into a powder. Whisk together the brown butter, honey, orange zest and the scraped portion of the vanilla bean. Toss together the oats, coconut, pecan powder, salt and cinnamon until combined. Add liquids and spread onto a baking sheet and cook at 275° F until golden brown, mixing with a spatula every 10 minutes.

Yogurt Sorbet
1 kg yogurt
140 g sugar
170 g glucose
4 g stabilizer
1 vanilla bean

Combine the yogurt, ½ the sugar, glucose and vanilla bean and bring just to a boil. Combine the rest of the sugar with the stabilizer and add to the base. Return to a boil, strain and cool.

Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

Anita Lo
Chef, Annisa

Serves 4

Panna Cotta
½ cup milk
¼ cup cream
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp loose Helichrysum
1 pinch salt
¾ tsp powdered gelatin, bloomed with 1 tsp water

1 cup blueberries, hard green ones removed
2 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp sugar, or to taste
½ cup water
lemon juice and lemon zest to taste
pinch salt

Black Pepper Crumble
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 pinch cinnamon
1 large pinch black pepper, ground
pinch salt
2 tbsp butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp water
pinch salt
1 tsp loose helichrysum (immortality herb)

Make the panna cotta: Bring all ingredients except for the gelatin up to a boil, then simmer. Stir and let infuse 10 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the bloomed gelatin. Strain. Divide into 4 oz molds, half way up and refrigerate until set.

Make the soup: Bring the wine up to a boil for 1 minute. Add the blueberries, sugar, water, salt and lemon and simmer, 10 minutes or until well flavored. Taste and adjust seasonings, then chill.

Make the black pepper crumbs: Mix dry ingredients together, then add the butter and mix to form crumbs. Bake at 375° F in a 1/3” layer on a nonstick surface until crunchy and browned. Cool and break into rough crumbs.

Make the sugar tuiles: Bring all ingredients to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until the sugar reaches the hard crack stage, just before caramelization. Pour onto a nonstick surface in a very thin layer and allow to cool. Break into chips.

To serve, unmold a panna cotta into the center of a soup plate. Surround with the blueberry soup. Top with the black pepper crumbs and garnish with the tuile. Serve immediately.

Blueberry Treats

by Celia Sin-Tien Cheng
August 26, 2008

Fred Dexheimer
National Wine and Beverage Director, BLT Group

Makes 1 drink

15 muddled blueberries
1 oz Stoli blueberry
¼ oz Lucid Absinthe
¼ oz simple syrup
Splash of lemon Juice
Drizzle of Massenez Framboise
Ginger beer

Muddle fresh blueberries, add syrup, juice and Vodka, add ice, shake and pour into highball glass, drizzle Framboise, top with Ginger Beer

One Sugar Cube

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