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Blueberries for Sal

It was another good weekend. We headed to Maine after work on Friday and awoke to a perfectly blue sky on Saturday morning. It was chilly. In fact, the temperature was only 43 when Howard took Bella on her morning walk. Brrrrr. That’s a little cold for the first week of August!

This weekend was the Maine FiberArts Tour. I had read in the local (Maine) paper that there were two farms open for visiting in New Gloucester, so we went to see. First, we visited Acker’s Acres Angoras, where Beth has about 100 angora rabbits, and she spins their hair into yarn. I bought a skein and can’t wait to make a very soft scarf for the winter.

Next, we visited Betsey Leslie at Ewes to You. She was a very interesting person. She gave us an in-depth tour of her farm, walking us through the entire process from sheep to fleece to yarn. We met her 8 Border Leicester sheep, two parents and 6 offspring. She does everything by hand and had demos of her dying, carding, and spinning processes. She had a wonderful color palette, and I couldn’t resist and bought a skein of Spring Tweed, a blend of gold, blue, and green.

Shortly after we returned home, my cousin Debbie and her family returned from their trip to Acadia. We spent a pleasant evening hearing about their week of adventures. I gave Debbie a cooking lesson, teaching her to make last week’s guacamole. Then we all shared a dinner that everyone pitched in to make. Howard made the burgers. Debbie shucked the corn and made the salad. Scott sautéed the zucchini and summer squash. Michael made the salad dressing. Kyle kept us company. I guess I didn’t really do anything except supervise. After dinner, Scott, Kyle and I played Monopoly, and Scott creamed us. Fortunately, we set a time limit on the game, as Kyle and I were going down fast.

I took advantage of having company to make a Blueberry Bannock Scone for breakfast. In the past month, we’ve picked 3 or 4 quarts of blueberries from the bushes at our house in Maine, mostly from one abundant bush near the dock. Our blueberry picking is relaxed, home turf foraging, not a dramatic mother/child separation tale (human and bear) like my childhood favorite book, Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey.

Mostly we’ve been eating them for breakfast with melon or yogurt. I wanted to make this breakfast cake, which is baked like a cake, but you cut it into wedges. It isn’t very sweet and has the texture of scones with a blueberry filling. It seemed like the perfect thing to make for company, especially because it’s not something that Howard would ever eat and not something I need to each all of!

Blueberry Bannock Scone
Adapted from Martha Stewart

1¼ c all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting the pan and your hands
½ c finely chopped almonds (or almond meal)
½ c wheat germ
1 Tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
5 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup (5-1/3 Tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled
½ c buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 cup blueberries
1 tsp water

Preheat the oven to 400F. Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour (to prevent sticking) and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, almonds, wheat germ, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and 2 Tbsp of the sugar. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers (or cut in with a pastry blender or fork), until it has the consistency of small crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk with 1 of the eggs. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just moistened. The dough will be wet and sticky.

Divide the dough in half. With well-floured hands, pat one half into a 9-inch circle on the floured baking sheet. Spread the blueberries over the circle, and sprinkle with 2 Tbsp sugar. On a lightly floured piece of wax or parchment paper, pat the rest of the dough into a another 9-inch circle. DON’T FORGET TO FLOUR YOUR HANDS. Carefully place the dough on the wax paper on top of the dough with blueberries, like a sandwich. Gently press the edges together.

Beat the remaining egg with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the egg wash over the top of the scone cake. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp sugar.

Bake until cake is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Once it’s cool, you can cut into wedges and serve.

Serves 8 or more.

The Routine of Summer

Now that we’ve passed the midsummer point, we’re definitely into our summer routine. Typically, we work hard all week, then Friday evening, we travel to Maine, where we spend two days doing not much of anything. Despite sometimes being tired for the drive, it’s worth it to be able to wake up Saturday morning and be where we want to be.

We usually have no agenda. Typical highlights are: sleeping late (for me), eating relaxed meals with fresh local ingredients, reading on the dock, swimming when it gets hot, canoeing or kayaking around the lake for a change, doing some garden work if we’re feeling inclined.

The past few weekends, the blueberries have been ready for picking. We have a huge bush next to the dock and other bushes scattered in the woods. We’ve already picked a couple of quarts. These are not the lowbush blueberries that have tiny blueberries that people think of as “wild Maine blueberries”. These are highbush, but also wild. The berries aren’t as big as Jersey blueberries, but they are sweet and tasty. Mostly I’ve been eating them straight or mixed into thick Greek yogurt. I think a batch of blueberry scones is somewhere in my future.

The local farmstand has started to sell freshly picked corn. I like, but don’t love, corn. On the other hand, Howard LOVES corn. He’s eating at least two ears a day now, and that should keep up for another month or so.

The local farmstand also has tasty, ripe tomatoes. For lunch on Saturday, I made a tomato and goat cheese tart. It was yummy and very elegant looking. The tart dough was rather soft, so next time, instead of trying to roll it, I think I’ll just press it into the pan with my fingers. Even though the dough was soft, it baked up to be quite crisp. We ate half, the but leftovers held up for another day quite well.

French Tomato Tart
Adapted from David Lebovitz

One unbaked tart shell (see recipe below)

Tart Filling
2-3 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 large ripe tomatoes
1 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 generous tablespoons fresh thyme
4 ounces (250 g) fresh goat cheese, sliced into rounds (I used Vermont Creamery)

Tart Dough
1½ cups flour
4½ oz (9 Tbsp) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
2 Tbsp ice water

Preheat the oven to 425F.

To make the dough, whisk together the flour and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and use your hands, or a pastry blender, to break in the butter until the mixture has a crumbly, cornmeal-like texture.

Whisk the egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the beaten egg mixture, stirring the mixture until the dough holds together. If it’s not coming together easily, add another tablespoon of ice water.

Gather the dough into a ball and, with well-floured hands, press the dough into a 9-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, covering the bottom and sides of the pan.

Spread the mustard evenly, covering the bottom of the tart dough. Let it sit a few minutes to dry out.

Slice the tomatoes into ½-inch slices and arrange them over the mustard in a single, even layer. Drizzle the olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with about half the chopped thyme. Arrange the slices of goat cheese on top. Add the remaining fresh herbs.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes, then check to make sure it isn’t burning. Turn the heat down to 350F and bake another 5-10 minutes until the dough is cooked, the tomatoes are tender, and the cheese on top is nicely browned.

Serve hot or at room temperature. (The crust held up to microwaving, when eating the leftovers.)