Strawberries

Strawberries…. Depending on where you live they are in season in spring and early summer. They are not here forever. And if you never bought them directly from a farm, or picked your own, you don’t know what you are missing out on…. SoCal strawberries are famously good. And we have probably the best farm, Harry’s berries in Oxnard, CA that supplies amazing varieties, so different in taste and texture, to some of the best restaurants even to the East Coast. I am so lucky to have access to their strawberries at 3 different markets.

But wherever you are if you have local, organic! strawberries go get some and not only eat them as a simple fruit but try and cook/bake with them.

As a principle strawberries go well with any kinds of cream. Clotted cream, creme fraiche, cream cheese, mascarpone, sourcream, yogurt etc. As for alcohol best to be matched with champagne, cognac and the orange liqueurs. When you mix them with other fruits, try and add tart ones such as rhubarb, citrus, raspberries and peaches, nectarines which are not overly sweet and soft.

Let’s see some ideas!

Strawberry milkshake for breakfast? You only need the berries, good full fat milk, vanilla  and a little bit of maple syrup.

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Make a quick jam without any preservatives, using only the strawberries, lemon juice and white cane sugar and eat it in a couple of days. Have a toast with your homemade, natural jam, or serve it with churros, doughnuts if you don’t mind that white flour.

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quick strawberry jam
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buttermilk doughnut balls with strawberry jam

 

Make a sweet, intense sauce adding old aged, thick balsamic and serve it with a simple cake, rice pudding, ricotta dumpling, or whatever you feel like. Strawberries are great with almond so it is a really good fit to make an almond cake to serve it with.

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balsamic strawberry sauce
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almond flour ricotta cake with strawberries
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almond cake rhubarb and strawberry sauce, poached rhubarb and fresh strawberries

 

Chop them in fruit salad, they are perfect contrast with some slightly tart nectarine, raspberries, passion fruit, kiwi. Add mint, anise hyssop or basil and serve it with some yogurt or ice cream.

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strawberries and nectarine salad
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farmers cheese dumpling with fruit salad

 

Change that tiramisu into a fruity one with adding a thick layer of sliced strawberries in between those lady fingers.

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strawberry tiramisu

 

Do not stop at the sweet things!!!

Strawberries are great in salads with savory components. Feta cheese, cucumber, celery are match made in heaven with strawberries.

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savory strawberry salad
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brunch

 

Any kinds of goat cheese and balsamic goes very well with strawberries too, hence my favorite bite of some ripe goat brie, old aged, thick balsamic and basil on a toast.

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goat brie and strawberry bruschetta

 

Have a strawberrylicous early summer Everyone!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Vanilla rice pudding, balsamic strawberry sauce and strawberry nectarine salad

How to make this yummy balsamic strawberry sauce?

Chop 1 pound of strawberries and cook it on low heat with about 1/2 cup of white cane sugar, juice of 1/2 lemon,  1 T very good quality, thick balsamic vinegar and approx. 1/3 cup of water.  Feel free to adjust, you have to end up with a sweet, thick sauce. Cook it until you achieve a thick consistency, the strawberries are falling apart but you still have some big pieces.

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And the fruit salad that will be sweet and fragrant?

Chop strawberries and white nectarines into similar size. (I chopped them small, bigger one is good, but not too big) Mix it with chopped lemon verbena and anise hyssop. In case you don’t have access to these herbs you can use mint and lemon zest. Finish off with finger lime caviars, or if you don’t have this fun fruit just squeeze some lime juice on it.

Vanilla rice pudding

Cook 1C of risotto rice in an equal mixture of water and full fat milk, pinch of salt and the seeds of a vanilla pod. You need to cook it as with a risotto, continuously adding small amount and stirring. When you feel the rice is cooked add a good 1/3 cup of heavy whipping cream and keep stirring on low heat until all the cream soaked in. Add 1-2 T white cane sugar. Taste. It shouldn’t be very sweet because you will have a really sweet strawberry sauce to go with it!!!

 

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And what is that beautiful blue flower on top?

I decorated the pot with tiny anise hyssop and lemon verbena leaves, borage flower and bachelor button petals.

This is borage. Its flower is used for decoration, it has a sweet, fresh taste, really special. The leaves can be used in tea and cooked as stinging nettle!

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Lemon verbena simple syrup

When I smelled lemon verbena for the first time a few years ago, I knew I had a new best friend in the kitchen. It will probably be very clear for everyone soon, how much I love everything that has lemon to it. Taste or smell. One of my favorite finds at the Santa Monica farmers market was the so many varieties of lemon and lime. At some point I will have a post about them for sure.

But for now back to lemon verbena. It is a very special herb, with a powerful scent of lemon and an added intense flowery perfume of its own that I can not even describe. I always buy a bunch at the market, and last time I even got one in a pot, so  now I can have it every single day!

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lemon verbena

Its leaves are a little bit rough, especially the bigger ones. As a result you cannot add them in whole to a dish to eat them as they are. You can steep the leaves in any kinds of liquid and make lemon verbena infused tea, syrup, sorbet, ice cream, creme anglaise, just to name a few.

If you use them as a herb make sure you remove them from the dish after marinating or cooking with it. In case you use it in a salad or garnish I suggest chiffonade cuts. Chiffonade means rolling up the leaves and cutting very thin slices of it.

So next time when you are at the market why don’t you buy some? It will definitely be a frequent herb on my blog and will have an appearance in sorbet, dessert and savory dishes.

The easiest thing you can do with lemon verbena is to make a simple syrup. Then store it in a jar in your fridge and make cocktail, spritzers or alcohol free drinks with sparkling water.

For making a simple syrup you will only need cane sugar, filtered water, a little bit of lemon and a small bunch of lemon verbena. Cook it on low heat until it thickens a bit and then you can store it in a jar in the fridge. To make it into a spritzer mix syrup, very cold sparkling water and some crisp, cold Italian Pinot Grigio. NO ICE!!!!!!!   Enjoy!

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lemon verbena spritzer

 

Strawberry tiramisu

 

It is strawberry and rhubarb season so I am sure everybody is making a dessert at some point using these fruits. Before getting into the delicious part let me remind you of something.

Always buy organic strawberries! Strawberry is on top of the list of fruits with pesticide residue. Considering how small a strawberry and how many you can eat of them, it would mean way too much pesticide for your body… Just saying.

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My kind of dessert is layered, has cream and fruit or meringue and caramel or cream and fruit, oh wait, I already said that…

Strawberry is perfect with cream. I remember when we lived in England, for the first year I never stopped eating scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. That clotted cream is the best creamy thing ever. Unfortunately I had to realize that my body is not responding really well for all that cream, sugar and carbs so had to really seriously cut back on it.

Strawberry is a great choice with any creamy dessert. The rhubarb helps to bring some tartness to the sweet, brightening it up a little bit. If you don’t use rhubarb you will need to add more lemon juice to the syrup.

Strawberry tiramisu is your easy late spring-early summer foolproof fruity dessert. To end your barbecue on a sweet, high note, or have it with friends over a cup of capuccino or  with your family for a  Sunday lunch.

You can simply add a layer of chopped strawberries in the traditional tiramisu. It does work, I tried it. However in this case I changed it a little bit and made it into a more fruity dessert.

The components are :

  • ladyfingers soaked in
  • strawberry-rhubarb-Limoncello syrup
  • fresh strawberries
  • mascarpone cream

 

Start cooking chopped strawberries, rhubarb, sugar in lemon juice and water. I also added lemon verbena I got at the market over the weekend. It helps to accentuate lemon taste in a different way than lemon zest.

DSC_4470Make sure to cook it on low heat and have enough water in there. When the fruit reaches mushy texture, you are ready. Turn off the heat and let it soak for 10 minutes if you have time. Strain the liquid, press on the fruit to get the last drop of nectar. At this point you can add Limoncello as much as you want, if there will be no kids eating the dessert.

 

While the syrup was cooking you can make your mascarpone cream using egg  yolks, sugar, vanilla, mascarpone and whipped cream.

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Finally start layering the tiramisu. Soaked ladyfingers in the bottom, top with mascarpone cream, then 2 layers of chopped strawberries ( I put only one, and it is so not enough….), mascarpone cream again, soaked ladyfingers and finish off with the mascarpone cream.

 

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If you feel that you miss the bitterness and cocoa from the original tiramisu (just like me), grate some very good quality dark, bitter chocolate on top. If you are happy with the taste of summer, cream, fruit, sweet then you can finish with fresh strawberries and mint leaves on top. Either way, it will be delicious.

 

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Strawberry and goat brie bruschetta

Just like most bruschetta, this is an easy one and at the same time very beautiful, colorful and tasty.

Toast some bruschetta in the oven or on a grill. Add a slice of goat cheese brie on each slice of bread. Top with sliced strawberries, micro basil, or if you don’t have it, slice basil leaves thinly and finally drizzle with good quality balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper.

And please remember! Have the best quality ingredients! Especially in this case when you don’t modify any of the produce with cooking, it is imperative to use the best you can get.

Make this when strawberries are in season, buy at the market or order from a farm or if you buy it at the supermarket make sure it is organic, and from a local producer.

The basil should be fresh, the balsamic good quality, aged, thick. Your goat brie ripe and intense with flavor. ENJOY!

 

 

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strawberries