This morning, about an hour ago, I sat in our “TV-office-all purpose” room, a bowl of freshly hulled, perfectly ripe Bell’s Farm strawberries, topped with a small dollop of Greek yogurt, in my lap, and listening to the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” on our nearby ancient phonograph. I had, then, one of those flashback moments, when I suddenly remembered doing exactly the same thing when husband John and I returned from a strawberry picking trip up the island to Bell’s to pick berries, only a few summers ago.
He put on his favorite old Beatles album while I got some of the berries ready to eat, right then. They smelled of earth and summertime, and we couldn’t wait to enjoy some immediately.
“I’d like to be under the sea in an octopus’s garden, in the shade,” with a side helping of freshly picked, ripe strawberries. Sweet. That’s the sort of thing strawberries can do to you; I’d be willing to bet most of you have a strawberry memory or two.
Yes, they have many other benefits, such as calcium, potassium, vitamins A and C, some phosphorus and iron and, best of all they’re low in calories and have virtually no fat, trans or otherwise. Their primary drawback, of course, is that they are too short-lived. Not only should they be eaten as soon after picking as possible, for maximum pleasure, but their presence at the various outdoor as well as indoor markets will be a matter of just a few short weeks. Fortunately, they’ll quickly be followed by raspberries and blackberries, but these first strawberries are the summum bonum.
Every summer, I capture as much of the strawberry essence I possibly can by making strawberry jam to tide us over the wintertime, jam that carries its own set of memories. Our granddaughters have been going home from summertime visits with jars of strawberry jam since they were very small, and still do. Peanut butter and “Grammyberry jam” sandwiches are as much a part of their lives as their dogs, cats and rabbits. So, I’ll be making jam again in the next week or so.
I finished off my bowl of strawberries this morning to the strains of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” along with a huge helping of both Beatles and berries memories.
After you’ve eaten as many as you can, fresh, a quick and easy way to capture that fresh strawberry flavor for continued enjoyment is with a sorbet, such as this one. You can make this in an ice cream maker or simply freeze it in a shallow 13×9 metal or glass baking pan.
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 quart fresh strawberries hulled
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (Meyer lemon, if you can get it)
Stir water and sugar in a heavy saucepan over high heat until sugar dissolves. Boil for 5 min., remove from heat.
Working in batches, puree strawberries in a food processor until smooth. Add the puree and both juices to the sugar syrup, stirring to blend. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hrs.
Process the strawberry mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, or spread mixture in a shallow container and freeze, stirring every hour, until set, about 6 hrs. Transfer to containers, cover and freeze until ready to serve. If the sorbet is frozen solid, put in refrigerator 15 min. to soften before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Another easy dessert that may just take you back to earlier days; remember rice pudding? Try this version with fresh strawberry sauce and chances are it’ll become a summertime favorite.
3 cups milk
1 2/3 cup water
¾ cup Arborio rice
½ cup sugar, divided (see instructions)
1 cinnamon stick
½ pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 T. butter
In a large skillet over high heat, combine milk with water and bring to a boil. When liquid boils, add the rice, ¼ cup of the sugar, a pinch of salt and the cinnamon stick. Reduce heat to med.-low and gently simmer, uncovered, until the pudding is thick and rice is tender, stirring frequently, about 45 min.
In another skillet, sauté the strawberries in the butter with remaining ¼ cup sugar over med. heat. Remove the cinnamon stick from the rice and spoon the pudding into individual serving bowls or plates. Garnish with strawberry sauce and let cool before serving, or refrigerate to serve when ready.
And, of course, as long as there are strawberries in June, there shall also be some form of strawberry rhubarb dessert, right?
STRAWBERRY RHUBARB CRUMBLE
4 cups sliced fresh rhubarb
3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
½ cup plus 1/3 cup sugar (see instructions)
1 ½ T. cornstarch
1 T. fresh lemon juice
6 T. unsalted butter, room temp.
1/3 cup packed almond paste
1 cup flour
In a large bowl, mix together rhubarb, strawberries, ½ cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice, tossing well to coat. Divide mixture evenly among six 1 ¼ cup custard cups.
Mix butter, almond paste and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in processor until well blended. Transfer to a med. bowl and add flour. Using fingertips, work the flour into the butter mixture until moist clumps form. Sprinkle over the rhubarb/strawberry mixture, dividing equally. Place custard cups on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until filling bubbles and topping is golden, about 30 min. Serve hot, with or without a small dollop of ice cream or whipped cream.