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Posts tagged ‘strawberries’

Strawberries, Roasted, Baked, . . .

Strawberries: ready to be transformed into popsicles, ice cream, jam and a roasted compote.

It’s been a tough season for strawberries here in the Northwest. The cold and rainy spring has delayed the season and the berries tend to be smaller and less sweet than usual. However, they still are a treat, a long-awaited treat. They are my husband’s favorite berry and they’re really quite versatile. Once you’ve had your fill of them plain, right out of the green cardboard pint basket there are so many options. And if you’re like me and u-pick them or buy them by the flat you’ll quickly realize there really are only so many berries one can eat in the moment before they spoil.

So, this is what my kitchen counter looked like last week after my first real haul of the season. And I’m going back for more later this week since I don’t yet have my quota for plain, frozen berries, jam, etc.

Sliced strawberries waiting to be turned into jam, strawberry yogurt popsicles, roasted strawberries and strawberry ice cream.

I make popsicles all summer and usually add a bit of yogurt and honey to any fruit that’s suitable for popsicles (berries, peaches, etc.). The strawberries I picked last week were not very sweet or particularly flavorful so I decided to roast a bunch of them which is what is in the container on the far right of the photo above. Roasting brings out the sweetness in most any fruit or vegetable and strawberries are well-suited to this technique. I spread about 2-3 pints worth out on a sheet pan (cut in half), drizzle them with about one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and about 1/2 cup of sugar (more if you like them sweeter or the berries are particularly tart), toss well and roast at 375 until they are greatly reduced and the juice becomes syrupy. This can take anywhere from 40 – 70 minutes. They are wonderful over ice cream, stirred into yogurt, mixed with other, fresh fruit in a crisp or cobbler, etc. . . .they are quite intense in this preparation so can go along way.

Baking with strawberries is a bit trickier than other berries. They don’t hold up so well and tend to lose their punch. As you might recall from my wedding cake adventures last summer, creating a concentrated, stable strawberry filling was quite the task. So I was delighted to find this simple strawberry cake recipe on smittenkitchen this spring and have been enjoying it immensely. It’s quick, beautiful and delicious. I have adapted it only in two small ways. I reduce the amount of sugar in the batter to 3/4 cup  and I add 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom and 1/8 teaspoon finely ground black pepper to the batter–Makes for a slightly more mysterious cake. And if you’re feeling really adventurous add a little Kirsch to your whipped cream.

Strawberry Summer Cake

And if you really find yourself in a time crunch and need to process berries just freeze them whole in containers or bags. In mid-winter those berries are perfect in a bowl of steaming steel cut oats.

Happy Summer!

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Garden vs. Computer

I’ve been trying my best to write a blog post this morning. It is Tuesday which means blog post day. But then I remembered that I needed to check the planting calendar in my go-to gardening book Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades by Steve Solomon and then I thought I’d better see if the spot I had in mind for summer squash was actually big enough. . . I get carried away in my little garden and tend to plant things too close together, forgetting year after year how gigantic squash plants get.  And then I saw some weeds that needed pulling, flowers that needed dead-heading, flowers that would make a lovely bouquet, arugula that needed thinning. . . . An hour later I’m back.

Typing away I notice that my hands are starting to look like my mothers’–a little cracked, with dirt embedded in them that no amount of washing will quite remove.  As I child I was often given the choice between “indoor chores” and “outdoor chores”. For  years I chose indoor, exclusively! I hated the feeling of dirt on my hands, especially as it dried and cracked. I hated pulling weeds. My mother lived in her garden and I just didn’t get it. Now I get it! I just want to be out there, pulling those weeds, sowing beans, digging in the compost, watching the volunteer sunflowers pop up everywhere. I love it!

Arugula and Mache Thinnings

Reflecting on this progression in my life is liberating as a parent when my son shows no interest in things I love or excessive interest in things I don’t. When I asked him  yesterday what I should write my blog post about today ( he’s 3), he said: “Chainsaw movies!”. He likes to watch logging videos on youtube (his uncle owns a sawmill, hence the obsession), which is what he means by chainsaw videos. Not that I don’t like chainsaws but they don’t inspire me.

Anyway, I’m going to wrap this up so I can get back outside. However, I’ll share a recipe for a crisp that I cobbled together (inspired by Heidi Swanson of 101cookbooks yet again) on the fly a few nights ago.

Strawberries for a future crisp!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Note: If you don’t have any port don’t worry, but it does add a lovely dimension.

Preheat oven to 375.

2-3 cups rhubarb, sliced in 1/2 inch chunks

1 1/2 – 2 cups whole strawberries, cut in half

1/2 cup sugar

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons Port (or 2 teaspoons good balsamic vinegar if you don’t have port)

For Topping:

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

2/3 cup ground almonds (I use my little Zyliss cheese grater for this or you can pulse them in the food processor)

2/3 cup of rolled oats

scant 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp kosher salt

6 Tbs butter, melted

Mix sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl, sprinkle over fruit and mix well. Add port, mix again and place in 9 x 12 baking dish.

Mix dry ingredients well in medium bowl. Stir melted butter into the dry ingredients and combine well with a spoon or with your fingers. Some dry spots will remain which is fine. Cover fruit with topping and bake until the fruit is bubbling and topping starting to brown, about 45 minutes.

Serve warm with whipped cream.

Weekday Breakfast and Memories of Summer

We u-picked a lot of berries last summer–strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries. For the first time, my son was old enough to toddle among the rows, eat berries and amuse himself (for the most part – I did have to cut one trip short because he was “harassing” another little boy). And I took full advantage! We picked 25 lbs of gorgeous and perfectly ripe strawberries one day. I hadn’t really thought through how I was going to process them all and didn’t have time for much. I rinsed them, hulled them and packed them in 1 quart yogurt containers and tossed them in the freezer. I thought I’d make jam or ice cream or sauce when I had more time. Well I did the same with the blueberries and the raspberries. I never made any of those other things except for a few batches of jam. So my generous stash of frozen berries has lasted me this long. I opened my last quart of blueberries and strawberries this morning for one of our favorite breakfasts.

Throughout the late fall and winter I’ve cooked a pot of steel-cut oats (I soak the oats over night which makes cooking them in the morning a quick affair) and topped them with frozen berries and maple syrup. It is perfect in so many ways. The berries thaw and soften in the steaming cereal and cool the oats down to a perfect temperature. The berries literally taste like they were just picked. As corny as it sounds, every bite is a vivid flashback to summer–the smells, the warmth, the dirt and berry juice under your fingernails.. .. it is lovely, warm, and nourishing. And a wonderful way to start the day.

This is also an incredibly inexpensive breakfast. You can’t beat the price and quality of fresh (frozen) u-picked fruit and steel-cut oats in bulk cost next to nothing. And then you can splurge on good maple syrup. All of this to say, if you have the chance to u-pick berries this summer and have a freezer, pick lots and lots and don’t feel badly about not processing them. You will enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun intended!) all winter long. I will remind you of this come June and we’re in the swing of berry season.

Steel Cut Oats with Berries

2 cups steel-cut oats

1/2 tsp of salt

water

Fresh or frozen berries

maple syrup (or brown sugar or honey)

The night before you’re planning on making this, put the oats in a bowl and cover with a couple inches of water. By morning the oats will have absorbed most if not all of it. Transfer the oats to medium-sized saucepan, add the salt and another 2 cups of water, cover, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. If you forget to soak them you’ll just have to cook them for about 30 -40 minutes with much more water in the morning.

Top with the fruit and maple syrup, stir well and eat!