Wild Blueberry Cream Cheese Scones

split with butter 3 625 sqChances are, unless you live in the northeastern area of North America, it is unlikely you have ever experienced the wonder of a fresh from the bush wild blueberry. They differ wildly (pun intended!) from their sibling, the cultivated blueberry. They are smaller, sweeter and more flavourful. The majority of them are frozen and used by commercial bakers all over North America. But, if you are lucky to live in The Maritime provinces, Ontario, Quebec or Maine, you will understand why I squeal with joy when they finally arrive in late July each summer.

In our increasingly global economy, where you can get anything at any time of year, fresh wild blueberries remain one of the few holdouts! They are only available late July-September. And for that I am grateful. There is something to be said for delayed gratification. Sure, you can get cultivated blueberries all year long, from other parts of the world, but nothing compares to the sweetness and burst of blueberry flavour that explodes in your mouth when you eat the wild ones.

There are those who believe that it is a crime to bake with wild blueberries. They are purists and feel that the wild ones should be saved for eating raw and that coercing them into a baked good is heresy. They postulate that only cultivated blueberries should be used for baking. To that group of extremists I say, “Try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!” If you have ever created a muffin or cake with cultivated blueberries, you know of the baking fiasco I refer to. They burst during baking  turning the whole cake a disgusting shade of greyish blue. Wild blueberries are well behaved. They hold their shape perfectly during baking and do not explode.

While each summer I certainly I eat more than my body weight in raw wild blueberries, mixed with Greek yogurt and Double Coconut Granola, I defend the right to use them in baked goods  as well.

I recalled a blueberry cream cheese scone I used to make many years ago, but could not find the recipe, so I did a google search. The blueberry cream cheese scone from Honolulu restaurant Diamond Head Market & Grill kept popping up in my search. Studded with blueberries and chunks of cream cheese,everyone raved about it. Although the bakery refuses to share their secret recipe, Hawaii food blogger Bonnie has cracked the code. Thanks Bonnie! We loved these scones fresh from the oven, but they were even better, split and toasted the next day! mise en place 1The key to these scones is to mix in the blueberries very gently and then carefully push small chunks of cream cheese into the dough. I scooped the dough with a spring loaded ice cream scoop and lightly pressed them with my palm to flatten. A brushing of cream and a sprinkling of turbinado sugar, and they were ready for baking.

gently fold in berries 2piled up 2

Click here to print recipe for Wild Blueberry and Cream Cheese Scones.

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Sunny Summer Salad

oval platter 1Had I presented this salad to Mr. Langley, my former culinary school instructor, I would have miserably failed the assignment. His mantra of “Balance, in colour, texture, size and shape” plays in the soundtrack of my memories, right before Stacy and Clinton’s “Colour, texture, pattern and shine!” (Anyone else mourning the end of WNTW, as much as me?) This all yellow salad would not have pleased him. Thankfully, I’m not in Culinary School anymore and I just cook to please myself. This sunny summer salad pleased my daughter and I greatly!

We were rummaging around in the kitchen trying to figure out what to make for lunch last week. I suggested our usual standby; tomato, watermelon and feta salad but we had no watermelon. We did have some gorgeous ripe nectarines, with wildly blushing skin and flesh reminiscent of goldenrods. They got chopped up, along side some tiny sun gold tomatoes and some mini yellow pear tomatoes. Of course I sautéed some corn (fresh corn goes into every salad I make in the summer!) We diced up some feta cheese and chopped up some fresh basil and mint for brightness.raw ingredientsThe sweet crunch of the sautéed corn played so well next to the creamy salty tang of the feta. Mildly acidic tomatoes balanced the lushly sweet nectarines. Harmony in every bite, despite the  monochromatic ingredients. I think if we blindfolded Mr. Langley and gave him a taste, he would give this salad an A+.2 plates 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Sunny Summer Salad.

Almond Joysicles…If this is vegan, sign me up!

hands 1 I intended to blog about peach raspberry sorbet this week but somehow, here I am telling you all about Almond Joysicles. It all started with a little culinary challenge. We were having 12 friends up to the cottage for the weekend and I was in charge of Friday night dinner and dessert. (Everyone is assigned a different meal). Most of these friends keep strictly kosher and since I was making Miami Ribs, dessert had to be dairy free.

I must confess that I am always thrown off balance when challenged to bake dairy free desserts.  I don’t like to use butter or milk substitutes so I took the fresh fruit sorbet route. I settled on a tangy lemon sorbet and a peach-raspberry combo. While surfing for inspiration, I came across an article on seriouseats.com titled, “How to make Great Vegan Ice Cream”. Vegan Ice cream?? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Ordinarily, my visceral reaction to the word vegan causes me to recoil.

But, as I read through the article and recipe, I discovered that it did not contain any ersatz dairy products, but utilized instead, the dynamic duo of coconut milk and coconut cream.  With this double coconut whammy, this ice cream would be high in fat, which means lots of flavour.

I whipped up a batch of this along with the peach raspberry and the lemon. Most requested flavour and winner by a long shot was the coconut sorbet.  If this is vegan, sign me up!in cone 2I was telling my daughter about these and she suggested I freeze them in Popsicle molds. As I whipped up second batch, I upped the fun factor, and mixed in some chopped salted almonds, toasted coconut and bittersweet chocolate chunks. Outstanding! Then, my girlfriend Marla, who is one of the most intelligent people I know, suggested, dipping them in melted bittersweet chocolate. I know… brilliant, right?3 blue 625b sq

Click here to print recipe for Almond Joysicles.

 

Peach, Green Bean and Pickled Onion Salad

Oval Blue Platter 2 625 sqWhen Mother Nature shows up at the farmers market flaunting her peaches (and beans), you don’t mess around too much with perfection like this. Keep it simple!peaches in collander 2beans in basket 1I have made this salad four times already this summer. The first time I made it, it was part of a celebratory dinner* for 12. (Big football game victory – Go RedBlacks!!) Luckily I had a wonderful sous chef with me in the kitchen that day; my niece Samantha was visiting. We have collaborated in the kitchen before, on a 6 braid challah, so I knew I had some exceptional assistance.

As the afternoon wore on and we continued our prep, I noticed the level of blanched beans in  the colander was diminishing. My niece could not stop eating them. She told me that her beans never tasted like this, and asked what I had done?  I explained that they were fresh from the farmer’s field and I that I had heavily salted the cooking water. (almost 1/4 cup Kosher salt for a big pot of water). This seasons the beans perfectly and they do not taste “salty”.

Sautéing the peaches in a bit of vegetable oil for just a few minutes really enhances their natural sweetness. The pickled onions add a welcome piquant note. This is a beautiful fresh summer salad. two plates with prosecco 625 sq

Click here to print recipe for Peach Green Bean Pickled Onion Salad.

close up* If inquiring minds are curious, we rounded out the feast with Flatbread and Dukkah, Rib Steaks, Smashed Roasted Potatoes with Smoked Paprika and Rosemary, Arugula, Corn, Tomato and Avocado Salad, Blueberry Coffee Cake and Hazelnut Almond Waffle Ice Cream Sandwiches.

Hazelnut Almond “Waffle” Ice Cream Sandwiches

stacked 625 sqThis started out as a post about some simple “Nutty Crunch Cookies” that were featured in the March 2014 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, in their “Fast, Easy, Fresh Weeknight Favourites” column. I think that there is no better way to end a meal than with a cookie, so I am always on the hunt for new cookie ideas. I filed it away and got on with more important stuff like the actual eating of cookies.

Somehow, a simple cookie seems to have snowballed into” waffle” ice cream sandwiches. If you have ever read the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” (or the ever popular sequel, and my personal fave, “If You Give a Pig a Pancake”) , you will understand how these things happen.

It all started with my taking some photography classes with a talented food photographer. He encouraged me to start thinking less like a cook and more like a food stylist. I interpreted that to mean I needed to go shopping. A few trips to Target, HomeSense and Zone, and I had filled a baker’s rack with some lovely new props.baker's rack
One of my favourite finds was this adorable cookie press set.cookie stampsI knew I had to use them to make those Nutty Crunch Cookies. stamping 1As I was styling a “Milk and Cookies” shot, I kept staring at the “waffle” design on these cookies, thinking that they would be quite fantastic with a scoop of ice cream sandwiched between  them.   milk and cookies 1The Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche Ice Cream sitting in my freezer called out to me.ice cream sandwich 1One of my favourite childhood memories is going to the CNE (The “Ex”) with my older sister and our Auntie Susie. After going on all the rides and playing all the games with us, we would head to the Food Building for Tiny Tom Doughnuts, Candy Apples and Ice cream Waffles. We used to beg for the treats before the rides, but Auntie Susie, wise beyond her years, knew that ice cream waffles prior to a wild and crazy ride on The Scrambler would not end well.

When my kids were little I would sometimes make them waffles and ice cream for dinner. Dinner and dessert all in one! I was a very efficient mother. Steaming hot crunchy waffles, wrapped around a cold scoop of ice cream is one of life’s perfect food combinations.  While these cookies are not real “waffles”, the combo of the nutty crunch from hazelnut and almond cookies and the swirled caramel ribbons of dulce de leche ice cream is quite an unbeatable duo.

Click here to print recipe for Hazelnut Almond _Waffle_ Ice Cream Sandwiches.