Blueberry Burgers

 by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

Yes, blueberry burgers. And these are not for vegetarians. As an ex long-term vegan, I still enjoy a good veggie burger, but as a current meat-eater and lover of all things grilled, I’m offering this very loose recipe to the more traditional, meaty burger eaters out there.

If you search for blueberry burgers on the internet, you’ll find a surprising number of recipes. The bottom line is this: combine 1 ¼ lbs of your choice of ground beef with ½ cup of coarsely chopped blueberries. Season as you would your typical burger – a little salt, pepper, maybe a clove or two of chopped garlic. Some folks like to add bread crumbs to their burgers, whereas others stick to meat and spices. I have one friend who adds a little barbeque sauce right to her patty mix to make it a little juicier (the blueberries will do this too) and I personally add cayenne pepper to just about everything I cook. The point is, you can get as creative or classic with your burgers as you like. As long as you can form it into a patty that won’t fall apart on the grill, you’re good.

Of course, you can top your burger with a few slices of fresh onion from the coop as well. If the heat hasn’t wiped out the lettuce, add a leaf. Why not skip the pickle and try a few slices of cucumber instead? Serve with a side of grilled zucchini and eggplant (just brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, skewer with a few thick cuts of onion and toss on the grill) and you’ve got a quick coop cookout meal!

Blueberry Crumb Cake

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

I am very picky about crumb cake. First of all, I don’t like any cake – crumbed or not –  unless it’s exceptionally moist. For some reason, crumb cake tends to be one of those cakes that is often and easily too dry. Maybe this is why I won’t sit down to a piece of crumb cake unless I have a good mug of hot coffee or a tall glass of very cold milk. Most importantly, a good crumb cake must have a good crumb. (And, for the purpose of this week’s blueberry focus, it’s got to have blueberries!)

Every Sunday morning when I was a kid, my dad would go to Dixie Lee bakery to get us breakfast. It was the same bakery he had been going to since his family moved from the city to the suburbs when he was a kid. It was the same bakery we stopped at to pick up pastries before any family birthday or holiday party, any time of night or day. It must have been open close to 24 hours a day, because many a late night playing cards at my grandma’s, someone would suddenly get a craving for Dixie Lee and send my dad or one of the uncles on a bun run. And I’m not talking bread, I’m talking crumb buns. Perfect, moist squares of crumb cake that were at least half crumb, if not more. The perfect midnight snack or Sunday morning breakfast.

Growing up and moving away, I’ve learned not to try to replicate food memories as the replacement will always fall short. In searching for a crumb cake that is different enough from the crumb buns of my childhood, yet still sufficiently moist and crumby, I found Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Crumb Cake. The addition of blueberries to the cake and walnuts to the crumb make her cake seem to me like a slightly more grown-up version perfect for a slightly more grown-up me. The following recipe is adapted from Greenspan’s own, which you can find in her indispensable cookbook, Baking.

 

Crumb Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

 

Cake Ingredients:

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 cups + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2/3 cup sugar

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp

2 large eggs, at room temp

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8-inch square cake pan.

For the crumbs, in a food processor, pulse all ingredients except the nuts until you get a clumpy, wet-sand-like crumb that stays together when pressed between your fingers. Press the crumb mix down into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.

For the cake, use your 2 teaspoons of flour to dust the blueberries. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients, except the sugar. Using your hands, mix the sugar and zest together until the sugar is well infused. Add butter and beat until light, about 3 minutes medium speed. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla extract. Turn down your mixer speed to low to avoid messes and over-mixing and slowly add your dry mix and buttermilk. Once the batter is fully combined, carefully fold in your blueberries.

Pour your batter into the greased pan, let settle, and sprinkle your crumb on top. (I should note here that I am an advocate of extra crumb, making and using 1.5 times the suggested amount. Any more than this may weight down the batter too much, but feel free to experiment and let me know.)

Bake until knife comes out clean and crumbs are cooked but not burnt, about 55 to 65 minutes. Cut and serve cake when it has cooled to warm or room temperature.

 

Tangled Up in Blueberries

Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

I have a complicated relationship with blueberries. As a kid, I didn’t like berries in general. Too mushy. When my brother and next door neighbor would steal handfuls of blueberries from her mom’s jam stocks in the basement freezer, I would mmm obediently and swallow my share whole so as not to ruin the rare inclusive moment of scandalous joy I was supposed to be sharing with the big kids.

I first found my love for blueberries in juice. The sweet, bitter fruit minus the mush. Also, more recently, in the finding itself, and the subsequent picking and eating of wild blueberries. We had gotten somewhat lost while hiking in Maine last summer. Every tree was looking the same and we had stumbled upon the same stoic, gashed boulder in the trail bend more than once. Eventually, we found ourselves in a clearing with a view of the lake that we wanted to get back to. The view was lovely as the fog had finally blown out, but it was also much higher up and farther away than we had hoped to be so late in the afternoon. Some people operate under the eye-on-the-prize mentality, but sometimes, when the thing you want is so dramatically out of reach, the most grounding thing to do is to literally plunk down on the earth beneath your feet and see what sweet permanence you’ve got right there. For me, on that exhausted summer afternoon on a mountain in Maine, it was blueberries.

Maybe it was because I was so tired. In so many ways. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that summer was, finally, the end of two years of intense and recurrent loss unlike any I had known before. The hike was supposed to be a vacation, a challenge whose beginning, middle and end could actually be seen on a map, anticipated, tackled, met. Then I was lost again. But this time, there were blueberries. Tiny, edible secrets to collect slowly, methodically, meditatively and to eat with that same purpose, quiet, and pleasure. They were sweeter than any blueberry I had tasted and, somehow, perhaps because they were so fresh, or because they were slightly smaller and more firm, or maybe because they were a morsel at once gifted and earned, they were, individually and in tiny palms-full, the perfect texture.

All this to say; we have blueberries coming. For those of you who ordered bulk flats this week, keep an eye on the blog for blueberry recipes both sweet and savory.

And please, share your own blueberry stories in the comments below or, send longer pieces to newsletter@farmdirectcoop.org and we will post them here.

Onions

William Matthews, “Onions” from Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991.

Onions

By William Matthews

How easily happiness begins by
dicing onions. A lump of sweet butter
slithers and swirls across the floor
of the sauté pan, especially if its
errant path crosses a tiny slick
of olive oil. Then a tumble of onions.

 

This could mean soup or risotto
or chutney (from the Sanskrit
chatni, to lick). Slowly the onions
go limp and then nacreous
and then what cookbooks call clear,
though if they were eyes you could see

 

clearly the cataracts in them.
It’s true it can make you weep
to peel them, to unfurl and to tease
from the taut ball first the brittle,
caramel-colored and decrepit
papery outside layer, the least

recent the reticent onion
wrapped around its growing body,
for there’s nothing to an onion
but skin, and it’s true you can go on
weeping as you go on in, through
the moist middle skins, the sweetest

and thickest, and you can go on
in to the core, to the bud-like,
acrid, fibrous skins densely
clustered there, stalky and in-
complete, and these are the most
pungent, like the nuggets of nightmare

 

and rage and murmury animal
comfort that infant humans secrete.
This is the best domestic perfume.
You sit down to eat with a rumor
of onions still on your twice-washed
hands and lift to your mouth a hint

 

of a story about loam and usual
endurance. It’s there when you clean up
and rinse the wine glasses and make
a joke, and you leave the minutest
whiff of it on the light switch,
later, when you climb the stairs.

 

 

It’s easy to overdo the onion metaphor, but Matthews does it just right in this poem. Something that can never be overdone? Butter and onions. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cooking from my mom, it’s that everything is made better by first sauteing in butter and onions. In fact, I can’t think of a single recipe that my mom has shared that hasn’t started with, “First, throw a little butter and onions in a pan…” And by a little, she means a half stick of butter and a very large onion.
What do onions make you think of?