ELLSWORTH — The sweetest things grow naturally from the earth. Case in point: Maine’s wild blueberries.
“For me, blueberries just scream summer,” said author, photographer and Boston Globe columnist Sally Pasley Vargas.
Down East Books recently released Vargas’s latest book, “The Blueberry Cookbook,” which is packed with over 50 recipes, baking tips and lush photos of blueberry-centric desserts, breakfasts and cocktails that Vargas shot herself.
The publishing house had approached the New Jersey native about writing “Blueberry” after the success of her “The Cranberry Cookbook,” which Vargas wrote for a sister press.
“They came to me with the idea but I was thrilled to do it,” Vargas said.
“It’s just a lot of fun to use blueberries in cooking and baking,” Vargas said. “Even if you only made two recipes from the book, it’s a nice book to have.”
Down East Books says the recipes are traditional but also reflect today’s vibrant and imaginative cooking style.
With the holidays coming up, the book would make a good gift for Maine enthusiasts or cooks.
And if you buy the book for yourself, there are simple recipes for food gifts inside, such as using frozen wild blueberries to make microwave jam.
Of course, blueberries aren’t just for dessert; they’re great for breakfast too.
Vargas keeps a bag of frozen wild blueberries in her freezer year-round to add to yogurt for breakfast.
Vargas also wrote “Food for Friends: Homemade Gifts for Every Season” and “The Tao of Cooking,” which features 300 international meatless recipes.
She also is a contributor to the Simply Recipes website.
Vargas launched her culinary career as a line cook at Rudi’s Big Indian Restaurant in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
Her neighbor at the time, Chef Eugene Bernard, was teaching at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He encouraged Vargas to intern with the late pastry chef Albert Kumin at the institute.
Vargas includes a tip she learned from Kumin about folding meringues and cake batters in an early chapter titled The Blueberry Pantry.
“The best tool for folding light batters is your hand, if you don’t mind the mess,” Vargas wrote. “I marveled when I saw my baking mentor, Albert Kumin at the Culinary Institute of America, mix big bowls of sponge cake batter with his giant hand. It really goes much faster and you can get right down to the bottom of the bowl.”