Summer’s Second Act & Blueberry-Lemon Shortcakes

Summer in New Hampshire is a special time. Perhaps because it is so brief. Oh sure, we get a little peevish when July turns hot and humid. Luckily, those heatwaves only last a few days. And by the way, for all of you who mutter, “it’s not the heat; it’s the humidity” – it’s both and more. Let’s not forget the insidious rattle and hum of those noisy old air conditioners we strategically place around the house. When the heat breaks, it’s a relief to turn them off and throw open the windows. It’s a joy to hear to birds instead of the air conditioners’ loud drone.

Anyway, imagine my surprise last week when I spotted the first signs of Hospital Days. My goodness, how did we reach midsummer so quickly? Before you get all cranky about what has passed or what you might have missed, now would be a good time to look forward. Just think of all the good stuff that is still to come before Labor Day. Think of it as summer’s second act.

First and foremost on the list, no doubt about it, it has got to be fresh local corn and lots of it. I’ve already had a few ears but they were from Massachusetts. If it isn’t picked in town or close by, it’s just not the same.

Of course, my favorite way to cook corn is also the easiest. Throw the ears into boiling water for four minutes (three if you are impatient), pull them out, slather on a little butter or your favorite spicy aioli, season with salt and enjoy. As for second best, that’s a tie between any and everything else you can and should make with fresh corn. Grill it, throw it into cornbread, stir it into soup or chowder, add it to risotto, polenta or salsa or toss it with pasta. The options are many; try them all.

While we’re on the subject of food, August is prime time for blueberries. Blueberries always make me think of my Nana Nye. She baked a lot of blueberry pies in her day. I don’t think a week went by in late July or August that she didn’t pull at least one blueberry pie from the oven.

A favorite tradition in our house is pie for breakfast. When I was kid, by some good luck, more often than not, there would be an extra piece of blueberry pie at the end of the evening. Whether we were six or a dozen or more, whether Nana baked three pies, two or one, there always seemed to be just one piece left over. If you wanted pie for breakfast, you had to be the first up in the morning.

There is still plenty of time to take in a summer bandstand concert. The first bandstands were built in urban parks. After a seventy- to eighty-hour work week, weary factory workers were grateful for an afternoon of sunshine and music. Today, bandstands can be found throughout New Hampshire from old mill towns to rural communities. Throughout the summer, both locals and vacationers gather to enjoy an evening of fun and music. At least three, maybe four, days a week, you can find a free concert playing somewhere within thirty miles or less.

The full moon will rise on August 15. A full moon is great anytime but it is especially wonderful in the summer. Perhaps it reminds me of playing hide and seek in the dark or catching fireflies as a child. It’s wonderful to be out on a warm summer night. There something special about watching the moon rise over the water or a mountain. For that matter, watching the moon rise over the trees in your own backyard isn’t so bad either.

If you are still pouting, just remember, it’s summer until the autumnal equinox at the end of September. Enjoy act two and bon appétit!

Blueberry-Lemon Shortcakes
Be sure to make enough to have one leftover for breakfast. (if you are hankering for pie, you can find my blueberry pie recipe here.) Enjoy!
Serves 8

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for your work surface
About 1/4 cup sugar plus more for the berries
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup plus 1-2 tablespoons heavy cream
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2-2 quarts blueberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicon mat or parchment paper.

Put the flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, pulse until it is fully incorporated and the dry ingredients resemble fine meal. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl.

Put the sour cream, 1/2 cup heavy cream and vanilla in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and stir until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, pat into a ball and knead a few times.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions, pat into rounds, place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops with the remaining cream.

Turning the sheet pan at the mid-point, bake the shortcakes in the center of the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. While the cakes bake and cool, make the Mascarpone-Lemon Cream.

To assemble: toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon sugar. (If the berries are very fresh and local, you may not need sugar.) Slice each shortcake in half horizontally. Top the bottom halves with blueberries and dollops of Mascarpone-Lemon Cream. Add the top halves, more blueberries and cream. Serve immediately.

The cakes, cream and blueberries can be prepared in advance and assemble right before serving.

Mascarpone-Lemon Cream
6 ounces mascarpone
2-4 tablespoons Lemon Syrup (recipe follows)
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 cups very cold heavy cream

Put the mascarpone, Lemon Syrup and lemon zest in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly add the heavy cream and beat until smooth. Continue beating until soft peaks form.

Lemon Syrup
Juice of 2 lemons
1/3 cup sugar

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Stirring frequently, cook on medium until the sugar melts. Increase the temperature to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Store extra Lemon Syrup in a clean glass jar in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Nana Nye’s Blueberry Cake
Two Years Ago – Blueberry-Ginger Cobbler
Three Years Ago – Grilled Filets Mignons with Salsa Verde
Four Years Ago – Corncakes
Five Years Ago – Grilled Corn, Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas with Fresh Tomato Salsa
Six Years Ago – Summer Salad with Green Beans, Blueberries & Goat Cheese
Seven Years Ago – Shrimp Salad Niçoise
Eight Years Ago – Insalata Caprese
Nine Years Ago – Mojito Melons
Ten Years Ago – Grilled Antipasto
Eleven Years Ago – Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

Do you have a favorite blueberry recipe? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2019

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