COOKING WITH CHRISTIE: It's Strawberry Season!

By Christie Popp

Late spring in Southern Indiana is a giddy time for me. Each week, the leaves on the trees grow fuller; the warm, heady smells of summer grow stronger. And every week, the farmer’s market stands are filled with more and varied fruits and vegetables. In the winter, I may take my time getting up and getting out to the market, because I know I will be greeted with little more than overwintered squash, sweet potatoes, and greenhouse grown kale. By contrast, in the spring and summer, I wake early, eager to get to the market before all of the strawberries or asparagus are gone.

I love strawberries. I will not even bother with those fist-sized, white in the middle strawberries one buys at the supermarket. Strawberries in December? Forget about it. I will gladly wait until May each year to get my fix. Perhaps I just love them for their ephemerality. Strawberries show up in early May and they are gone by mid-June, and its sweltering summer days

For most of my adult life, I ate my berries very simply—whole or sliced up in yogurt or a smoothie. If I was feeling particularly crafty, I might bake them into a pie or add to shortcake. But I rarely did anything more exciting. Over the last few years, however, I have become more daring, and I have sought out new ways to prepare and eat (or drink!) them.

Below I share three easy recipes that celebrate this delicious spring fruit (and which are also adaptable to other fruits as they come into season).


Roasted Strawberries:

Until about three years ago, I had never considered cooking strawberries into anything but a pie. But I came across a recipe on the internet that involved roasting berries, and I was sold. Roasting accentuates the sweetness of the berry, but also provides a new flavor and texture that is good with both sweet and savory recipes. I have put the roasted strawberries over yogurt or ice cream; I have also added them to salads. I think they would be delicious paired with a creamy goat cheese.

 

The Process:

The process to roast strawberries couldn’t be simpler, and recipes abound on the internet. Some recipes have you add sugar or another sweetener. One I’ve tried mixed in balsamic vinegar and port wine. The truth is, I don’t think it matters. If you want these strawberries for a savory treat, toss them with a tablespoon or two of olive oil, and let their natural sweetness shine through. If you want them for dessert, toss with a little sugar or maple syrup, perhaps adding a small amount of vanilla for flavor. If you are using the ripest, juiciest strawberries available to you, then you will not need to add much of anything.

Preheat oven to 350. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Take 1 pounds of strawberries. Hull and slice berries in half. In a bowl, very gently toss strawberries with whatever mix-ins you choose. I suggest up to a 1⁄4 cup of sugar or 1-3 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey; a small amount of oil and/or vinegar (balsamic or champagne would be great). Add a couple of pinches of salt. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the level of doneness you want.


Strawberry Ice Cream (Without an Ice Cream Maker!):

For more than a decade, I have reached every summer with the promise that this year would be the year I buy an ice cream maker. Yet, year after year, I never get around to it. Last year, however, I saw a recipe on one of my favorite food sites, Manger, that changed my life: A delicious, creamy strawberry ice cream recipe that did not require an ice cream maker. Here is the recipe, and I have made no adaptations because it was so perfect. The ice cream is soft, almost like a soft serve. It is lush and fruity and absolutely dreamy. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients:

  • 11/2 cups of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups strawberries, hulled
  • 1⁄2 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted.

 

Instructions:

Place the strawberries in the food processor (or blender) and blend until smooth.

Whisk the cream until light and fluffy. Add the condensed milk, strawberries, and sugar and mix well.

Pour the mixture into a glass container, cover with a lid and freeze for at least 6-8 hours.


Fruit Shrub:

Though I am throwing this recipe in with ‘ode to strawberries’ column, fruit shrubs should not be limited to this spring-time fruit. Shrubs are an amazing fruity-vinegary syrup to which you can add hard alcohol, wine, or beer for a cocktail, or seltzer water for something a bit more tame. You can make them with any kind of fruit (my favorite last summer involved white peaches and bourbon!), any kind of spices, and any kind of vinegar.

While strawberries are in season now, keep the recipe to adapt throughout the summer!

 

Ingredients

  • 1 lb of fruit, (hulled, peeled, cored or whatever is necessary-- chopping larger fruits like peaches or apples into chunks)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup of vinegar

 

Instructions:

Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Cook until the sugar is dissolved (this is known as a simple syrup). Add in the fruit and let simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain the fruit (you can save this for eating, but you don’t need it for the drink). Add the vinegar and bring to a simmer. Then cool and pour into a container. Keep in the refrigerator.

You can serve the shrub alcoholic or not. If you want to make it a boozy cocktail, add an ounce or two of shrub, an ounce or two of liquor, and a bit of lemon juice to a cocktail shaker. Shake well to mix. Pour over ice. Otherwise, add about 2 oz of the shrub into a glass and top off with champagne or seltzer water (or even a light beer!). Add ice if you like. Top your drinks off with some fresh fruit, and enjoy!