Make the Most of Nature’s Candy.
This years strawberry crop is fantastic, and like you, I have loads of them in my kitchen. Curiously, an unusual feature of the strawberry is the structure. Technically it is a ‘false’ fruit. The seeds, unlike those of any other fruit, are on the outside. These are the true fruits of the plant. The fleshy berry to which they are attached is an enlarged receptacle corresponding to the white cone left behind on the plant when picking a raspberry. Both fruits belong to the same branch of the rose family and have the same fundamental form. The berry we eat is simply a water and nutrition source for the seeds. Here are some good things to remember about the berries and some great recipes.
Use & Storage:
Pick firm, plump, red berries, with full green leaves and caps intact with no browning of the stem area. Remember that cold deadens the flavors and texture of most soft fruits.
Leave the berries at room temperature for as long as is feasible without courting spoilage. Wash only right before using.
IF you must refrigerate, store for 2-3 days on a paper towel in a moisture proof container.
Don’t freeze whole berries, they disintegrate when thawed.
Like vegetables, fruits get softer and juicier when cooked, but there are problems with that as well. To hold color in cooked berries, be sure to add foods rich in acid like rhubarb to hold the pigments of the berries.
Only sprinkle sugar on your fruit right before eating or cooking. Sugar is an acid that draws water out of fruits. Exceptions are jam or ice cream making. There, you rely on this physical law to either make a syrup when putting up preserves, or preventing little ice cubes from forming in your ice cream by wicking away moisture well before hand.
Butter and sugar fresh breadcrumbs and liberally sprinkle over berries laid into a gratin dish, bake for 12-14 minutes at 450 degrees.
Toss with a sweet vinegar, cucumbers, red onion, feta, extra virgin olive oil and lots of basil for a marvelous salad.
Combine ½ cup balsamic vinegar and 6 ounces white chocolate in a double boiler over super slow heat. Melt and combine with a whisk. Pour fondue into warmed ramekins and dip strawberries. You will freak when you get to taste this. It’s awesome.
Brush with canola oil, tray up, and roast in a 250 degree for 4-5 hours in an oven until shrunken, caramelized, but still soft and use in your recipes.
Toss berries in some lemon curd and mix with ½ inch squares of pound cake for a wonderful Berry-Lemon Fool.
Poach berries in a Muscat or Sauternes with star anise and ginger. Chill and serve. Toss 1 quart cleaned berries in ½ cup brown sugar, 1 tablespoon ground pepper and ¼ cup balsamic vinegar. Marinate for 1 hour refrigerated, tossing every 15 minutes. Drain and serve.