One of Stella's favourite past times is creating delicious food with seasonal ingredients. Creating seasonal food not only keeps the cafe menu interesting for the customers it also keeps cooking from getting monotonous. It is also a well known fact that fruit and veggies taste their best when they are freshly picked from a local farm or garden. Stella is lucky, for she has her employee Kevin sourcing the best local produce and even growing some of it in his own garden plot. This week he has found a source for beautiful plump organic blueberries and has brought in a ten pound box. Stella tries a few and remarks on their firmness and sweet juicy flavour which has a slight tartness - perfect. Suddenly she is transported back in time to her own mother's kitchen. She remembers the first heavenly bite of her mother's first fresh blueberry pie of the season, and decides she must make that pie for the cafe.
An email requesting the recipe is dispatched post-haste to Stella's mother, whom they all call Nana, and she responds within the hour - another lucky break for Stella. Nana is always happy to share a recipe as long as she gets some credit in the cafe. Stella and Savannah make the pies in the afternoon, while Kevin serves the customers, and let them chill in the fridge overnight. The next day Savannah draws an appealing picture on the cafe's chalkboard menu and writes in her well practiced script: 'Nana's Fresh Blueberry Pie: a graham cracker crust topped with a thin layer of lemon-infused whipped cream cheese, heaped with blueberries and topped with a sweet blueberry sauce. Whipped cream is optional. Delectable!'
After the lunch rush is over and most of the highly praised pie is gone, the cafe staff take a break. Stella pulls out a pie she'd been keeping in the back of the fridge, gives them each a generous slice topped with cream, and saves two pieces for her girls, Kendra and Zoe, who are at a summer theater day camp. She makes everyone their favourite drinks and then sits down at the staff table with them. 'You worked hard today. You work hard everyday. Thank you!' Words are then said to the effect that Stella is the best boss in the world, but she quickly brushes those aside. 'Oh, just eat your pie,' she says with a laugh, blushing to the roots of her red hair, 'and don't forget to credit Nana.'
Stella is happy to share her mother's recipe with you. A friend of hers has also made it with wild mountain purple huckleberries and it was even better. Another friend tried it with blackberries and it was also quite wonderful.
Nana's Fresh, Almost No-bake Blueberry Pie
1) Graham cracker crust
Mix together and press into the bottom and sides of a pie dish:
1 and 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (either bought already crushed or made from rolling a rolling pin over enough graham crackers to make the correct amount of crumbs)
3 tsp sugar
1/3 cup melted butter
Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees Farenheit, and let cool completely
2) Cream cheese layer
4 oz (1/2 cup) softened cream cheese
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Beat together until fluffy, place in a piping bag or frosting bottle with easy flowing tip, and pipe into crust, distributing the mixture evenly on the pie crust
3) Berry sauce
Take 1 cup berries, add 1/3 cup water, and simmer together for three minutes.
Blend 1/2 cup sugar and 2 Tbsps cornstarch and add 3 Tbsps water. Add to cooked berries and thicken to a good sauce-like consistency (not too thin and watery, but not too thick or jelly-like).
Put 3 cups fresh blueberries on whipped cream cheese layer. Cover with an even layer of cooked berry sauce - spread to distribute.
Chill pie for two to three hours or overnight. The sauce will gel around the fresh berries and make it easy to slice. Slice and serve with a dollop of whipped cream.
Enjoy! (We do.)
Blueberry cleaning tip: before making the pie, measure four cups of berries. Place them in a sink filled with a few inches of cold water. Pick up handfuls of berries and discard any rotten ones, pick off the stems and place berries in a colander to drain.
Writing by Rebecca, Photography by Emma