On Your Table: It’s National Blueberry Month — let’s eat pie!

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By Cathy Branciaroli, Food Correspondent, The Times

What better way to celebrate National Blueberry Month than with a mouthwatering pie.

“Everybody in the car!”  On scorching hot July Ohio mornings, my mother, siblings and I headed out in our trusty station wagon to an abandoned blueberry farm near town where we filled turkey roasters with scads of perfectly ripe dusky-colored blueberries for canning, baking and just plain eating.  It was quite a job for us little ones.  “Reach higher,” mom urged but our short arms could barely reach the top branches as we worked our way down what seemed like endless rows of bushes.

The sun was merciless on those mid-summer mornings, but we filled our roasters, loaded up our haul and returned home where we beat the heat by enjoying kid stuff like running through the sprinkler on the grass.  It was only after dinner that mom gave us our reward.  And what a treat it was.  We gobbled down our hard-earned fruit on top of vanilla ice cream thinking the world was pretty cool.

Blueberry pies developed into a specialty of the house.  Mom became an expert at making them, especially for my father’s birthday in mid-July.  He craved nothing more than blueberry pie for his celebration.  No cake for him.  Nothing of the sort. Just those luscious pies topped with lighted candles.

It might seem like an odd choice, but why not?  After all, July is National Blueberry Month and they are the ideal fruit for pies.  While other berries melt and fall apart under heat, blueberries blossom.  They puff up and stiffen, never losing their shape.  Heat intensifies their tart yet low acid flavor.  They also are the perfect ingredient for a guilt-free indulgence, with more antioxidants per ounce than any other fruit, high in Vitamin C and low in calories.

In Chester County we we share the same climate sweet spot as New Jersey where they happen to be the state fruit.  And luckily for all the blueberry pickers out there, we have two nearby farms offering pick-your-own blueberries this month.  Both Highland Orchards at 1000 Marshalltown-Thorndale Rd near West Chester (610) 269-3494 and Linvilla Orchards at 137 W. Knowlton Rd just outside of Media (610) 876-7116 have blueberries for the picking or for sale at their farm market stands.  Call first if picking is your preference to make sure they are still available.

Folks use blueberries in so many ways, from pancake toppings, to muffin enhancers, to red-white-blue parfaits, to pies.  Myself, I’m partial to pies like my father.  As a fair-to-middling blueberry pie baker, I’ve tried many variations, and they were all wonderful. But my curiosity was piqued in seeing a recipe with a twist.  This approach takes a savory turn with the addition of goat cheese and basil.   The crunch of toasted almond slivers scattered on top create a satisfying texture contrast, and tossing in lemon zest brightens the dessert.  Scoops of ice cream are almost unnecessary to complete this lovely summer treat.

 

Blueberry Goat Cheese Pie
Inspired by 3 Sisters Café, Indianapolis
Ingredients:
For Crust:
2 cups flour
½ to ¾ cup cold butter
1 tbs sugar
Pinch of salt and 2-3 tbs cold water
For Filling:
½ cup softened goat cheese
½ cup heavy cream
1 large egg
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup flour
Pinch of salt
1 tbs finely chopped fresh basil (or less to taste)
5 cups fresh blueberries
For Topping:
¾cup sliced almonds lightly toasted
¼ cup sugar
2 tbs melted butter
1-2 tbs zested lemon reserved for final finishing
Preparation:
For the crust:  Combine flour, butter, sugar and salt.  Pulse lightly in a food processor till size of small peas.  Slowly add water until dough comes together.  Turn out in a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill for 30 minutes.
For the filling:  Mix the goat cheese, cream, egg, sugar, flour, salt and basil in a bowl.  Add the blueberries and stir by hand till combined.
For the topping: Melt butter in a pan with a large surface.  Add the toasted almonds, sugar and butter.  Stir till almonds are fully coated with the sugar.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll out the chilled dough to fit the bottom of a 10-in pie pan, leaving an overhang in order to crimp edges.  Pour the filling into the crust and sprinkle the topping over the top.  Bake 25 minutes, rotating pie halfway through.  When cool, sprinkle zested lemon on top of the pie.

Cathy Branciaroli also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her award-winning blog Delaware Girl Eats

 

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