Frozen Blue

More than any other food, blueberries bring summer to my kitchen. They taste best right at the start of the season, when they are almost tart and very firm. As soon as they show up in the markets, I pop them into pancakes, muffins, tarts, sauces, cakes and pies. I also freeze some blueberries to brighten my winter cooking.

Here's how to freeze blueberries: Transfer the berries from their cartons and spread on a jelly-roll pan, sorting through to discard stems, leaves and any soft or spoiled berries. Freeze berries just like that, exposed on the pan. As soon as the berries are frozen solid (takes no more than two hours), load the berries into a plastic food bag, tie it airtight, then enclose that bag inside another plastic food bag, again tying it airtight.

This way, the berries don't absorb off-odors from the freezer. Also, they remain separate so you can use just a few at a time without thawing the rest. Don't thaw frozen blueberries before mixing them into your recipes--they'll become mushy (which is why they can't be used uncooked). It just may take a little longer in the cooking or baking.

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A cooking note about blueberries: No matter the preparation, their flavor always seems enhanced by a little lemon--zest, a splash of juice or a combination of the two.

MULTI-GRAIN BLUEBERRY HOTCAKES

1/4 cup buckwheat flour

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons lemon zest

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons melted butter

Butter

2 cups blueberries, if frozen, do not thaw

Maple syrup or raspberry preserves, warmed

Cake flour lightens up these hotcakes. If you prefer a heavier texture, decrease the cake flour and increase the other flours. For a fairly even distribution of blueberries, I prefer to dot the pancakes with the blueberries rather than mixing them into the batter.

Combine buckwheat flour, whole-wheat flour, cornmeal, cake flour, baking soda, zest, sugar and salt in 2-quart bowl. Mix well. Add buttermilk, eggs and melted butter. Whisk until smooth. Can be frozen or made 1 day ahead and refrigerated (thaw overnight in refrigerator). Before using, stir well, adding more buttermilk as needed, if batter is too thick.

Grease griddle with butter and heat until very hot. Pour batter on griddle, using scant 1/4 cup batter for each cake. Scatter about 5 blueberries on each. Cook until bubbly on top. Flip over and cook other side. Keep cooked hotcakes warm in 200-degree oven while cooking rest. Serve hot with maple syrup or raspberry preserves.

Makes 32 pancakes, 6 to 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

362 calories; 369 mg sodium; 85 mg cholesterol; 7 grams fat; 63 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0.95 gram fiber.

PERFECTLY PLAIN DEEP-DISH BLUEBERRY PIE BASIC PASTRY

Blueberry pie should be abundant with blueberries, enhanced with just a little lemon. No other flavorings are necessary. A food processor mixes pastry extremely well if you don't overprocess it. The glaze is optional, giving the pie a shiny finish but not affecting the taste.

BASIC PASTRY

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter

6 tablespoons shortening

1 large egg yolk

6 to 7 tablespoons cold water

Combine flour, salt and sugar in food processor fitted with metal blade. Mix well. Cut butter into 6 pieces. Add to processor along with shortening. Use short on/off spurts to cut into flour, leaving obvious small lumps. Combine egg yolk and 6 tablespoons water in small dish. Use spoon to scatter over mixture. Again, use on/off motion to mix dough until lumps form but not 1 cohesive ball. Add remaining water, if dough seems too dry.

Transfer dough into large plastic food bag and compress dough into 1 ball, then flatten into disk. Place in freezer briefly until firm enough to roll out. Can be refrigerated as long as 2 days or frozen up to 3 months, wrapped airtight. If too firm to roll, let stand at room temperature until pliable enough to roll out without splitting.

Divide dough into 2 balls, 1 slightly larger for bottom crust. On well-floured surface, roll out bottom crust until 2 inches larger than pie pan. Roll out top crust.

FILLING

9 cups blueberries, if frozen, do not thaw

Zest 1 large lemon

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons flour

2/3 to 1 cup sugar, depending on sweetness of berries

1/4 cup quick-cooking tapioca

1/4 teasponn salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small bits

1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream, for glaze, optional

1/2 tablespoon sugar, for glaze, optional

Ice cream, optional

Put berries in large bowl. Toss with zest and lemon juice. Combine flour, sugar, tapioca and salt in small dish. Add to berries. Toss well to combine. Let stand 20 minutes.

Ease bottom crust into 9-inch glass pie plate. Pile berries in bottom crust, mounding in center. Berries will cook down. Dot with butter.

Center top crust over filling. Fold in and crimp edges. Cut air vents. Place pie on baking sheet. If using glaze, gently spread cream over crust surface and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie in 450-degree oven. Immediately decrease heat to 400 degrees. Bake until crust is deep-brown and blueberries are bubbling, about 1 hour (Bake about 15 minutes longer if blueberries are frozen.) Protect edge of pie with strips of foil if becoming too dark.

Remove from oven. Let cool on rack until juices are thickened, about 2 hours. Serve slightly warm. Gently reheat in 300-degree oven 15 minutes. Cut into wedges. Top with ice cream.

Makes about 6 servings.

Each serving contains about:

666 calories; 313 mg sodium; 87 mg cholesterol; 30 grams fat; 96 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams protein; 2.98 grams fiber.

OLD-FASHIONED BLUEBERRY CAKE WITH CINNAMON SUGAR

Straightforward and simple, this blueberry cake is perfect to make with the season's first blueberries. Serve warm at a leisurely weekend breakfast or as a delicious dessert, topped with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

Sugar

1 large egg

3 tablespoons light sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups blueberries, if frozen, do not thaw

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Use mixer to cream 1/4 cup butter with 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg, sour cream and vanilla extract. Mix well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and salt. Mix until smooth. Transfer batter to greased 9-inch springform pan. Use spatula to smooth surface.

Put blueberries, 3 tablespoons sugar and lemon juice in small bowl. Toss until well mixed. Spoon blueberries evenly over batter. Cut up remaining tablespoon butter into small bits. Dot surface of blueberries with butter.

Bake at 350 degrees until well browned and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Combine 2 teaspoons sugar with 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over cake. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Use knife to loosen cake from sides of pan and remove sides of pan. Serve warm.

Makes 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

226 calories; 151 mg sodium; 46 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 37 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.51 gram fiber.

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