A few weeks ago, I was invited to a “Blues Crawl, a blueberry-theme dinner. The evening started with a Blueberry-Jalapeño Margarita from The Arlington Club. Then we proceeded to tasting Blueberry Tamales from Fonda Chelsea Restaurant. The main course was Blueberry-Coffee Rubbed Skirt Steak served with Tomato Confit and Mascarpone Polenta from The Delicatessen. The evening ended with LAVO NYC’s Blueberry Semifreddo with Essential Blueberry Sauce. All the savory dishes brought out blueberries’ tart and juicy flavor without tasting similar to a dessert.
The evening inspired a few dishes in my own kitchen, including Blueberry-Coffee Rubbed Chicken Thighs (Get the recipe here) served over whole-wheat couscous. The other inspiration from the evening is a light and quick spin of the experience of tasting Fonda’s Blueberry Tamales. Pictured in the Blueberry-Coffee Rubbed Chicken Thighs served over whole-wheat couscous is a Blueberry Hominy Salad with Dandelion greens.
Hominy is the old can sitting in the back of someone’s pantry. For this recipe, continue leaving the canned hominy alone. Instead order online or visit a speciality health store for dried hominy. Soak the kernels overnight. Rinse and drain rehydrated kernels, and place them in a slow cooker. Cover them with water seasoned with salt and pepper at least one-inch deep (crushed red pepper was added to my pot). Cook the hominy at a high temperature for about four hours. Let cool and drain. They’re now ready to stir into scrambled eggs, soups and toss into salads, such as the salad in this story.
Along with earthy hominy, juicy blueberries are tossed with baby spinach and dandelion greens. Dandelion greens, known for their vibrant flowers airy seeds and being annoying weeds add a bitter contrast taste in salads. It’s a flavor needed if the ingredients are on the sweeter side. To continue balancing the flavors, creamy chunks of Mexican queso fresco cheese turn a simple salad into a robust side dish for the Blueberry-Coffee Rubbed Chicken Thighs served with couscous. Completing the inspiring “Blues Crawl” meal are two tablespoons of Blueberry-Thyme sauce from the Blueberry-Coffee Rubbed Chicken Thighs whisked into the vinaigrette for the salad.
The complete blueberry-themed meal thankfully didn’t taste like a table of desserts. Instead, the sweet blueberries enhanced the savory flavors of the salad (especially the Mexican queso fresco) and the coffee spice blend. The meal also had another ingredient discovery: Dried hominy. It’s a new pantry staple in my kitchen as the canned version remains deeply hidden in my cabinets.
- 1 cup of fresh* or canned hominy (if using canned, rinse and drained)
- 1 cup blueberries
- 1 small red onion; thinly sliced
- 8 oz. queso fresco cheese; cut into 1/2 in. cube
- 1 bunch of dandelion greens; roughly chopped
- 1 generous handful of baby spinach and/or arugula greens
- 2 tbsp. blueberry thyme Sauce; cooled (recipe here)
- 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar; more or less
- The juice of one lemon
- Sea salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
- 1 small garlic clove; minced
- 1/4 cup olive oil; more or less
- Lightly toss, hominy, blueberries, red onion, queso fresco cheese, dandelion and spinach/arugula greens with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.
- In a separate bowl, whisk cooled blueberry-thyme sauce, sherry vinegar, lemon juice, sea salt, black pepper and garlic. If necessary, adjust seasoning. Slowly whisk in olive oil.
*Note on cooking dried hominy: Soak about 12 oz. dried hominy in water overnight. Drain and place hominy in the bowl of a slower cooker. Season water with sea salt, fresh black pepper, bay leaf and the optional crushed red pepper. Cook on high heat for 4 to 6 hours or slow heat for 8 hours. Let cool. Rinse with cold water and drain. Use one cup of fresh hominy for this salad, use the rest for soups, scrambled with eggs or other recipes. Leftover hominy also freezes well.