Seasonal Eats: Strawberries
Summer may have officially begun, but that doesn’t mean it’s peach and tomato season just yet. In fact, after a bit of a weather-induced delay, strawberries — the first fruit after rhubarb to appear in the spring — have finally hit farmstands in full force, meaning now’s the time to take advantage of the juicy, diamond-shaped treat.
A member of the rose family, strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside. Varying in size, shape and color, from deepest red to off-white, most commercial American strawberries are grown in California; a hearty crossbreed between Virginian and Chilean varietals. Much more delicate are tiny, wild fraises de boise from France, which can occasionally be found in high-end, gourmet stores. But your best bet is to seek out locally grown strawberries at area greenmarkets while you still can, which are infinitely sweeter than their lifeless, plastic-wrapped, Key Food-sourced counterparts.
Needless to say, Strawberries are a perfect addition to delicious, seasonal desserts. Which is why you’ll find them front and center at restaurants like Untitled, currently serving a seriously moist Strawberry Ricotta Poundcake, as well as Rebelle on the Bowery, which layers its St. Honore — a classic French puff pastry — with fresh strawberries and mascarpone. They’re a brunchtime favorite, too; you can order either French Toast or Waffles drizzled with scarlet strawberry sauce at Mathieu Palombino’s La Gamelle. And Strawberries even have a savory side as well; check out The NoMad’s Strawberry Salad, tossed with toasted hazelnuts, cucumbers and aromatic basil, and the dreamy Foie Gras Torchon at Faro in Brooklyn, paired with ember-roasted beets, tarragon, and tangy green strawberries. And of course, they’re a perfect addition to cocktails — like the “Strawberry Fields” at The Stanton Social — made with Grey Goose Citron, Riesling, lemon syrup, and muddled strawberries.
When it comes to selecting strawberries for your own use, choose dry, firm, brightly colored, plump, and fragrant berries that still have their green leaves attached and are uniform in size (keep in mind that the smaller the berry, the sweeter the juice!). Definitely avoid soft, shriveled or moldy berries, and since strawberries do not ripen after being picked, also sidestep fruits that are partly
white, hard or otherwise unripe.
Don’t wash your strawberries until ready to use. Instead, store in the refrigerator in single layers in moisture-proof containers, for up to three days. Once ready to eat, place berries in a large colander and rinse gently with cool water. Lay strawberries in a single layer on a clean kitchen towel or layer of paper towels and pat dry. Unless you’re eating strawberries out of hand, you need to hull them (i.e., remove their green caps). To do this, place the tip of your knife at the base of the cap, insert gently to remove only the soft white part at the base of the stem and slowly turn the strawberry. Once you come full circle the top will pop right off without sacrificing too much flesh.
Strawberries are compatible with a seemingly endless number of ingredients — from balsamic vinegar and basil to Champagne, Sherry, Sambuca and Cointreau, as well as crème fraiche and yogurt, rhubarb and raspberries, and vanilla and violets. (And we could go on!) You can also use strawberries to make syrups, salsas or smoothies. Fold into pies, stack into shortcakes, or slice on top of savory goat cheese pizzas. For an embarrassingly easy dessert, dollop hunks of fruit with whipped cream, for a no-fuss strawberry fool. Or instead of stocking up on Smuckers, simmer your strawberries down into jams and jellies with just a touch of sugar and pectin — for a vibrant taste of summer that’ll last the whole year through!
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