Blueberries: Beyond Just Baking, with Crystal Barto of Emily’s Restaurant

Beyond Baking with Blueberries: Unique Blueberry Recipes with Crystal Barto from Deep Focus on Vimeo.


Crystal Barto, head chef at Emily’s in Mohnton, is a master at creating recipes using seasonal fruits and vegetables.  At her cooking class at Weaver’s Orchard on Tuesday, July 15,2014 she shared some of her secrets.  The title Blueberries: Beyond Baking intrigued me.

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When it comes to blueberries, I have to admit I was stuck in the muffin stage. I kind of thought that’s where blueberries belonged.  But Tuesday’s class challenged me to expand my horizons and consider some unconventional uses for these sweet little fruits.  Thanks to Crystal, I’ve now discovered blueberries are not just for muffins; they’re also delicious mixed into salsa, poured over salmon, and tossed into green salads.

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Here’s her first recipe, along with some tips.

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Blueberry Salsa
Recipe type: Appetizer
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped blueberries
  • 1 cup whole blueberries
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (or use 3 teaspoons dried)
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • ⅓ cup diced red bell pepper (or green or yellow)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl. Serve immediately or cover and chill for about 8 hours. Serve with toasted tortilla chips, baked pita chips or vegetable chips.
  2. Crystal’s Tips:
  3. Making this ahead will allow the ingredients time to marinate, creating a more flavorful salsa.
  4. Frozen blueberries can be used, but the salsa’s texture will be different.
  5. As a general rule for all of her recipes, buy fresh, local fruit in season if possible.
  6. To save time when preparing for a party, do as much as you can the day before by chopping fruits and vegetables and pre-measuring ingredients.

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When the audience tested the salsa, it was obvious from the chorus of “mmmms” that they approved. Next, Crystal’s assistant for the day, Janell Weaver Gutierrez, began frying pieces of salmon as Crystal prepared:

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Blueberry Pan Sauce (for salmon, chicken or duck)
Recipe type: Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup sliced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt (plus some for additional seasoning)
  • ⅛ teaspoon allspice (or cinnamon)
  • ¼ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (or dried)
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sliced fresh mint
  • Freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots. Saute until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, kosher salt, thyme and allspice. Stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add blueberries, water and vinegar. Stir to blend. Mash berries with potato masher or back of fork until sauce thickens, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes. Season with freshly ground pepper. Remove from heat and stir in the sliced mint.
  3. Crystal’s Tips:
  4. Red or white onions may be used, but shallots are sweeter and milder.
  5. The sauce can be prepared 2 hours ahead of serving. Let it stand at room temperature and re-warm before using.
  6. Raspberries may be substituted for blueberries, but Crystal recommends cooking a blander fish, such as trout or bass, with raspberries.
  7. Red or white onions may be used, but shallots are sweeter and milder.
  8. The sauce can be prepared 2 hours ahead of serving. Let it stand at room temperature and re-warm before using.
  9. Raspberries may be substituted for blueberries, but Crystal recommends cooking a blander fish, such as trout or bass, with raspberries.

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While the audience tasted savory samples of salmon with blueberry pan sauce, Crystal served lemonade with:

Blueberry Ice Cubes
  • About 1 cup blueberries
  • ½ cup white cranberry juice (or white grape, pear or apple)
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped mint leaves
  1. Place 5 or 6 blueberries in each compartment of an ice cube tray. Stir together white cranberry juice and water. Pour over berries. Freeze 4 hours or until firm. Store cubes in a airtight container in the freezer for up to one month. Add to summer drinks, cocktails or soda.

 Or try this tasty thirst quencher:
Summer Berry Drink
Recipe type: Beverage
  • 3 cups cherry juice or cherry flavored drink
  • 6 cups white cranberry juice
  • ¼ cup sugar
  1. Mix ingredients together and serve chilled.

Blueberry pan sauce livens up an ordinary entrée and goes well with the next salad Crystal prepared. I made this for dinner last night. And lunch today . And probably dinner again tonight. It was that good!

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Mixed Greens with Feta, Nuts and Blueberries
  • 1 ½ tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 5-ounce bag of baby salad greens
  • Sliced red onion, if desired
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 half pint container of blueberries
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
  1. Whisk vinegar, oil and honey in small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine greens, cheese and blueberries in large bowl. Add dressing. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with pine nuts and serve.
  2. Crystal’s Tips:
  3. Make a meal out of this by adding cooked chicken or shrimp.
  4. Avocado also goes well with blueberries in a salad.
  5. Balsamic vinegar may be used instead of red wine.
  6. Almonds or cashews may be substituted for pine nuts and fresh mozzarella or Parmesan cheese for feta.
  7. To toast the pine nuts, bake them in the oven for a few minutes.

The last treat was a chilled fruit soup, which Crystal recommended as a deliciously different first course for barbecued chicken, ribs or burgers.

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Chilled Blueberry Soup
Recipe type: Soup
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 pint half and half
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh mint
  1. Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring often. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  2. Process cooled blueberry mixture with lemon juice in a blender or food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Cover and chill until ready to serve.
  3. Stir in half and half just before serving. Serve in stemmed glasses. Garnish with sliced mint. For a creamier soup, add a dollop of plain yogurt to each serving.
  4. Crystal’s Tips:
  5. Blackberries may be used instead of blueberries.
  6. Leftover soup makes great ice cream! (I’m definitely going to try that!)

If you missed out on this class, you can watch Emily’s chefs prepare seasonal dishes before your eyes at the next Farm to Table dinner in September. The chefs will whip up a five course dinner, complete with wine, as the guests relax by the pond, surrounded by the beautifully landscaped rock garden.  Check the website for more information about date, time and cost.

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Article written by Nancy Tirrell and coordinated by VanDuzer Design & Marketing for Weaver’s Orchard and may also be syndicated on Fig: West Chester and Rachel’s Farm Table.


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