When blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are competing for attention at the market, I favor blueberries. They may be less glamorous than the competition, but they're also cheaper, less fragile and keep longer.
And it takes at least a quart to fill a pie shell, bake a cobbler or make enough blueberries in basil syrup to moisten 10 slices of pound cake.
When shopping, look for plump, unwrinkled berries with a deep blue color and a silvery "bloom." Unlike tomatoes or peaches, blueberries won't continue to ripen after picking, so it's important to choose berries that have been picked when ripe. Gently shake the container to make sure all the blueberries are loose. Immobile berries are probably crushed together, overripe and possibly moldy.
Once you get your blueberries home, refrigerate them immediately. They should keep for about a week. Rinse blueberries in a colander under cold running water and pick through them to remove errant stems and leaves before using.
LEMON POUND CAKE WITH BASIL BLUEBERRIES
Infusing the syrup with a little basil before pouring it over the berries gives the mixture a wonderful fragrance and complex flavor. Cake flour makes an exceptionally tender pound cake. If you don't have any on hand, substitute 1 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour sifted together with 3 tablespoons of cornstarch.
For the cake:
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
For the blueberries:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
10 basil leaves
2 pints blueberries, rinsed and picked over
1. Make cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray inside of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then dust with flour.
2. Combine eggs and vanilla in a large glass measuring cup and beat lightly. Whisk together cake flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest in a medium bowl.
3. Combine butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
4. With mixer on low, pour egg mixture into bowl in a slow stream, stopping once or twice to scrape down sides of bowl. Add flour mixture, ½ cup at a time, scraping down sides of bowl after each addition. After last addition, mix on medium for 30 seconds.
5. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until cake is golden and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cake cool in pan for 10 minutes, invert onto wire rack, then turn right side up and cool completely.
6. Make the basil blueberries: Combine water, sugar and basil leaves in a small, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and let stand 15 minutes. Strain and pour over blueberries. Let cool to room temperature and serve over slices of pound cake, or refrigerate for up to 3 days before serving.
Makes 10 servings.