Eric Akis: Beautiful B.C. blueberries in cookies, summer salad

Eric Akis

When B.C. blueberries are in season, I like to keep a basket or two on hand to snack on. They have a sweet, slightly tart, appealing taste and are a good source of such things as vitamin C and fibre.

Along with snacking and adding them to such things as cereal, blueberries are great to use in recipes. Some of the many possibilities include pancakes and waffles, sauces for salmon and chicken, preserves such as chutney and jam, and desserts such as cakes and pies. Today, I opted to use them in recipes for a salad and cookies.

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The salad is a Mediterranean-style one where salad greens are tossed with balsamic vinaigrette, plated and topped with proscuitto, tangy cheese, rich walnuts and fresh blueberries. The recipes serves two and would make a nice summer lunch when served with a baguette and a glass of sparkling wine.

For the cookie recipe, an oatmeal and coconut-flavoured dough is rolled into balls, flattened and topped with blueberries. The dough is folded over the blueberries and formed into disc shapes, sealing the berries inside.

When baked, the sweet, dense cookies look like the top of a muffin. Bite into them and you’ll find that the blueberries have softened and became deliciously gooey while baking.

These cookies are good for when you need a burst of energy for a summer activity such as a long walk, hike or golf game.

Summer Greens with Prosciutto, Blueberries, Cheese and Walnuts

Here’s a colourful, summer salad made with earthy greens, salty, silky proscuitto, sweet/tart berries, tangy cheese and rich, crunchy nuts.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: a few minutes
Makes: two servings

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp olive oil

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/2 tsp honey

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

5 to 6 cups mixed salad greens

1/3 to 1/2 cup fromage frais or soft goat cheese (see Note 1)

2/3 to 1 cup fresh blueberries

12 or 14 walnut halves, toasted (see Note 2)

6 to 8 paper-thin slices prosciutto

Place vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt and pepper in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Add the greens and toss to coat. Divide and mound the greens on two dinner plates. Set small nuggets of the fromage frais (or goat cheese), blueberries and walnuts on each salad. Twist and set three or four pieces of proscuitto on and around each salad, and serve.

Note 1: Tangy, thick and creamy fromage frais is fresh cheese sold in the deli section of many grocery stores. The one I used was from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.

Note 2: To toast walnuts, place in a skillet and set over medium heat. Cook and stir a few minutes, until lightly toasted and aromatic.

Eric’s options: Edible flowers, such as nasturtiums, pansies or calendulas, could also be added to this salad as a garnish. If you don’t have any growing in your garden, you’ll find edible flowers that haven’t been sprayed with anything toxic at some farmers markets and smaller grocery stores.

Oatmeal Cookies with Blueberries and Coconut

These moist, dense, sweet and nicely spiced cookies are rich with fresh blueberries and can be frozen to enjoy at another time.

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes: 15 large cookies

1 1/2 cups large-flake rolled oats

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup unsweetened medium coconut flakes

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

• pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

75 fresh blueberries (about 1 cup or so)

Place oats, flour, coconut, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl and mix to combine.

Put butter and brown sugar in a second bowl, or bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and beat until well combined and lightened. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Add the oat mixture to the butter mixture and beat well to combine.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (my pan was 18 by 13 inches; see Note).

Roll about 2 Tbsp amounts of the dough into balls and set them on a work surface; you should get 15 balls. Flatten each ball into a 2 1/2- to 3-inch wide disc. Set five blueberries in the centre of each disc.

Lift up and hold one of the blueberry-topped pieces of dough in your hand. Use your other hand to fold the dough over the blueberries, sealing them inside. Press and form the dough back into a 2 1/2- to 3-inch-wide disc and set on the baking sheet. Seal and shape the remaining balls of dough into disc shapes and set them on the baking sheet, ensuring there’s at least an inch of space between each cookie.

Bake cookies in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown and set. Cool cookies on a baking rack to room temperature, and they are ready to enjoy.

Note: If you don’t have a large baking sheet, divide the cookies between two smaller ones and bake the cookies one sheet at a time.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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