These last few weeks of summer may not be the best time to cook, but they are the best time to eat. We have blueberries to thank for our favorite summer foods — blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes and, of course, blueberry pie.
But the berry season is fleeting, so why limit its use to sweet treats?
With the arrival of blueberries at the farmers market also comes an explosion of hearty greens. It’s also the best time for kale. Sure, you can find kale right up to frost. But now it’s most tender and delicious, especially in salads. I’m fondest of dino (or lacinato) kale, with its long, dark lumpy, rippled leaves (which resemble dinosaur skin). While it appears to be sturdier than the other kales, it is actually pretty delicate. Because its leaves and ribs are less rigid and tough than other varieties, I chop them both whole.
Kale salads can be tossed a few hours, or even a day ahead, unlike the tender mesclun salad mixes. Kale, with its slight edge of bitterness, works beautifully with the sweet-tart flavor of blueberries.
This kale and blueberry duo is a do-ahead dish that allows the cook to make it early in the morning, then go out to enjoy the fine weather. Come lunch or dinner, the flavors have melded and softened and the kale is nicely tempered. Add a little chopped serrano ham, crumbled feta cheese, and/or grilled chicken or shrimp and you have a vibrant meal.
Find the best freshest blueberries at the farmers market; know that the smaller berries have the brightest, most intense flavor. When you get them home, do not rinse them until right before using. That light coating that resembles white dust is actually nature’s protection.
Just picked berries will keep several days uncovered in the refrigerator. If they’re in a plastic container, remove and tip them into a bowl lined with a dishcloth or paper towel. Plastic traps moisture that speeds decay.
Like summer, blueberries and kale are best enjoyed right away.
Blueberry-Kale Salad With Balsamic Glaze Onions
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: The bright true flavors of blueberries and kale shine through on this lightly dressed combination. Onions, braised in balsamic vinegar, are slightly sweet and tangy, and their glaze helps to coat the leaves. If you’d like more dressing, drizzle a little more olive oil and a splash of balsamic over the whole thing before serving. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
• 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 large bunch kale, leaves finely chopped, about 6 c.
• 1 pint (2 c.) blueberries, plus a few extra for garnish
• 2 tbsp. freshly chopped basil
Film a small skillet with the oil and set over medium heat. Sauté the onion until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Cover and continue cooking until the onions are very soft and syrupy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
In a large bowl, toss together the kale, blueberries and basil. Toss in the onions with the glaze.
Arrange on a serving platter or individual plates and garnish with a few reserved blueberries.
Nutrition information per serving of 6:
Carbohydrates 12 g
Protein 1 g
Fat 5 g
Saturated fat 1 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 10 mg
Total sugars 7 mg
Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ fruit, 1 fat.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.