Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fresh Blueberry & Sweet Polenta Crumbles

Perhaps I’ve been living under a rock all this time; a massive savory one where only limited forays to the sweeter side of flavor is possible (or desired). A rock where the status quo… especially on things you aren’t particularly partial to (like sweets)… means going with what you know… when you’re even inclined to go.

And then… you venture out from under your rock. In my case, a little jaunt to New York where dining out is as much a part (or more) of the experience as the sights. This occasion allowed visits to Gramercy Tavern, Red Farm, Eataly, and Mercer Kitchen… all delivering in the taste department and all inspirational in lifting that rock you can sometimes get a little too comfortable under.

In this particular take on a treat from the folks at Mercer Kitchen, it’s the topping that grabbed my attention… polenta instead of the tried and true mix of oats, flour and nuts. And, of course, those fresh, plump blueberries! (The Mercer staff noted the use of cornmeal in their crumble which is certainly delicious, but I went for optimum crunch and elected to use coarse polenta instead… either is a great choice.) The result is a guaranteed crisp topping that leans just ever so slightly to a more savory profile. While that may seem to be an obvious personal fit, it truly works wonders in delivering a satisfying dessert that showcases an abundance of subtly sweet, fresh blueberries bubbling under this crusty, crisp… and also subtly sweet… crunchy crumble. It’s a perfect match that invites an ever-returning dip of the spoon. And if you’re also inclined… a good scoop of vanilla ice cream cradled atop only improves each bite.

As in the Mercer Kitchen plating, I went for a dish-to-be-shared-by-two. After all, there’s really nothing better than diving into something sweet together when out from under the rock.

Fresh Blueberry & Sweet Polenta Crumble
Makes 4 large crumbles (each serves two nicely)

Each of these crumbles is nestled in an 8.5 ounce, low-profile baking dish with 1-inch sides. And each is a more than generous serving for one, or a nice sweet share for two. While the crumble may seem to be more than you’ll need… keep piling it up as it will tame upon baking (and you don’t want to lose any of that crunch). Baking them on a foil-lined baking sheet will help contain spill over and make for an easier clean up.

For filling:
6 cups fresh blueberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon lime zest
3 tablespoons vegan buttery spread (or unsalted butter), cut into small bits, plus more for coating dishes

For topping:
1 cup coarse polenta (corn grits)... or cornmeal, if preferred*
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ sticks (6 ounces) vegan buttery spread (or unsalted butter), roughly cut into tablespoon portions
½ cup whole, unsalted, roasted almonds, roughly chopped

* Coarse polenta produces a very crunchy (subtly gritty) crust... which appeals to me. Cornmeal will produce a less coarse, yet nice crisp crust as well.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, prep filling by combining blueberries, sugar, flour, lemon juice, and lime zest until the dry ingredients are just incorporated throughout (taking care not to over handle blueberries). Set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine first four ingredients for topping (polenta through salt), pulsing until just mixed. Add butter and pulse several times, until butter resembles pea-size bits. Add chopped almonds and pulse until just mixed through. Set aside.

Lightly butter each ramekin/dish. Portion blueberries among dishes (approximately 1 ½ cups per dish), dot each with a bit of the remaining 3 tablespoons butter. Then portion the crumble mixture over each dish of blueberries, mounding and patting crumble to best adhere. It will seem like you have too much crumble... but don’t fret… it reduces upon baking.

Place crumbles on a foil-lined baking sheet (you'll thank yourself later) and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let crumbles cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

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