GREENLIGHT: On Fresh BC Blueberries And Cooking With Chef Todd Bright Of Wild Rice
by Claudia Chan | Here in BC, we’ve been endowed with one of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts – blueberries! Our rich fertile farmlands are home to almost 20,000 acres of blueberries. It’s the top, high-bush growing region in the world. As the season rolls around again at this time of year, bountiful supplies of this delicious fruit can be found on the countless local farms as well as in the wilds of our greater backyards. Considered “nature’s candy,” blueberries are a superfruit; an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins C, A, E, potassium and calcium.
They’re also are a personal favourite – I have been spoiled summer after summer with visits to my best friend Nancy Zenger’s family farm in Chilliwack where they grow the best organic local blueberries. I’ve grown up with very fond memories of berry-picking and processing these fine blue orbs. There’s just so much you can do with them – make jam, desserts, coulis, breads, and more!
I was recently very glad to receive an invitation from the Blueberry Council for a tour of Silver Valley Farms in Maple Ridge, followed by a cooking lesson in the new Wild Rice kitchen at the River Market. Chef Todd Bright gave me a demonstration on how to give blueberries a sweet Asian twist.
What follows after the jump are two of his recipes that might just inspire you to include blueberries in your summer meals. One is savoury and the other is sweet. Both are ridiculously good…
Pan-seared Duck Breast
with smoked potato purée and blueberry gastrique
4 duck breasts, trimmed of excess fat
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes
3 Tbsp. Yunnan tea leaves* (any black tea will work)
3 cloves garlic
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 cup coconut milk
salt & pepper to taste
4 cups dry red wine (Cab Sauv is great)
2 cups sugar
1 cup Banyuls or sherry vinegar
4 cups fresh blueberries
fresh lime juice to taste
special equipment: steamer basket*
method – duck breast (must be started 1 – 2 days ahead of when you wish to serve):
· Score the skin of the duck breast in a diamond pattern, place in refrigerator uncovered for 1-2 days to dry out.
· On the day you wish to serve, in a large sauté pan place the duck breasts skin side down over low heat.
· Drain off excess fat as it collects.
· Let the fat render out until the skin is crisp and golden brown.
· Flip the breast to skin side up and continue cooking for about a minute.
· Once cooked, let rest on a cooking rack for about 5 minutes.
method – potato puree:
· Dice potatoes into large cubes.
· In a pot of boiling salted, boiling water boil until cooked through.
· Place cooked potatoes in a steamer basket.
· Place the basket over a pot with the tea leaves in the bottom.
· Turn the heat to high and heat until tea starts to smoke.
· Turn the heat off and allow potatoes to remain in the smoke for about 5 minutes with the lid on.
· Meanwhile, place the coconut milk in a small pot with the thyme and the garlic.
· Let come to a simmer and then remove from the heat.
· Place the potatoes in a large mixing bowl and strain the coconut milk over them, mash gently with a potato masher or a fork and add salt and pepper to taste.
method – gastrique:
· In a saucepan, bring the wine to the boil and boil gently until it is reduced by half. Set aside.
· Heat a large pot over high heat.
· Once hot sprinkle the sugar slowly over the bottom of the pot to form a caramel, continue adding sugar constantly and quickly until all the sugar is incorporated and an even caramel has formed.
· Off the heat pour the vinegar into the caramelized sugar, add the reduced wine and berries.
· Return the mixture to medium heat and whisk until well blended.
· Reduce the mixture to a syrupy consistancy about 3-5 minutes.
· Season with salt and pepper.
· Brighten with lime juice.
on vanilla bean cake with caramel and orange glass
blueberry ice cream:
½ cup whipping cream
3 cups frozen blueberries
4 tsp. powdered sugar
1 lime, zested
· Whip the cream to a soft peak.
· Place the blueberries, sugar, and lime zest into a food processor and blitz for 1 minute.
· Add the cream and continue processing until smooth consistency.
· Serve immediately or reserve in an airtight container in your freezer.
vanilla bean cake:
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean
3 cups cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
8 egg whites
· Preheat oven to 350°F
· Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and oil spray.
· Scrape the beans from the vanilla pod.
· Cream together vanilla beans, butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
· In separate bowl combine cake flour, baking powder and salt.
· Incorporate the flour mixture and milk into the butter mixture – alternating between flour and milk; starting and ending with the flour mixture.
· Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
· Gently fold egg whites into cake batter in 3 batches.
· Spread the batter evenly onto the prepared cookie sheet.
· Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden and springy.
1 cup sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
1 vanilla bean
2/3 cup cream
· Scrape vanilla beans from pod.
· Place sugar, corn syrup, water, salt and vanilla bean into a sauce pan.
· Over medium heat, let caramelize to a medium amber color.
· Deglaze with the cream.
· Bring to a boil and cook smooth and all the sugar is liquefied.
½ cup corn syrup
1 orange, zested
· Preheat oven to 350°F.
· Place a silipat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
· Pour the corn syrup into the centre and sprinkle with the orange zest.
· Bake for about 10 minutes until the corn syrup mixture starts to bubble and turn a light caramel colour.
· Remove from the oven and let cool.
· Once cool it can be broken into small pieces with a knife.
· For plating the dessert you will need 4 shallow bowls.
· Take a slice of the cake and place in the bottom of the bowl.
· Scoop out a portion of the blueberry ice cream and place on top of the cake.
· Drizzle with caramel sauce and sprinkle the orange glass over the top.
Claudia Chan is an advocate of all things green. Born and raised in Vancouver, she is inspired by the work of local urban farmers, eco artists and policy makers who make this city the most lush and livable to work and play in. Her mission with Scout and her “Greenlight” column is to impart her enthusiasm for bike lanes, community gardens, farmers’ markets and more to her fellow Vancouverites.