Although strawberries are available all year, the best-tasting strawberries flood farmers markets and gourmet food stores from May until early July. They are often smaller and sweeter than the supermarket variety in plastic containers.
Because I adore strawberries in season, I buy as many boxes of them as possible while they’re at their peak.
But there are a few things to know about strawberries before buying them by the bushel. They should be bright red and sweet smelling. Avoid specimens that are white around their green leaves. That means they were harvested too early. Strawberries don’t ripen after picking. Conversely, strawberries that are moist and mushy are past their prime.
Strawberry longevity is limited. They last better when refrigerated. Because they break down easily, don’t wash or hull these delicate berries before you’re ready to prepare or eat them. To keep them firm and fresh, I line a large, flat-bottomed bowl with paper towels and gently place them on top. If I’ve got a bumper crop, I cover the first layer with more paper towels and place additional strawberries over that.
They are sweet treats when eaten raw. Low in calories, they’re a healthy snack. There are only 46 calories in a cup of whole strawberries. They are high in Vitamin C, fiber, potassium and several antioxidants.
Strawberries are versatile, delicious in both savories and desserts. I mix them into salads and shakes. They’re amazing dipped in melted chocolate or dotted over vanilla ice cream. They jazz up plain yogurt and granola. But best of all, I love baking with strawberries. Each pastry exudes the scent of summer.
Strawberry and Walnut Muffins | Pareve
Yield: 12 servings
Not requiring eggs, these berry good muffins are vegan baking at its best.
Equipment: a muffin tin, preferably with a nonstick surface
Nonstick vegetable spray
1⅓ cups strawberries, approximately 8 ounces (½ pound)
1 cup applesauce
⅔ cup sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
2 cups flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray, including a little beyond the edge of each indentation. Reserve.
Rinse the strawberries under cold water. Drain them on paper towels and pat them dry. Hull the strawberries. Cut them in half lengthwise and dice them into small pieces about the size of chocolate chips. Reserve.
Place the applesauce, sugar and oil into a large mixing bowl. With a wooden or plastic spoon utensil, stir the ingredients together. Fold in the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, stirring until well combined. Gently stir in the strawberries and walnuts.
With a soup spoon, transfer the batter to the muffin tin, distributing it equally. The indentations will be nearly full.
Bake for 26-28 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The muffins will be puffed out beyond the edges of the indentations. Cool to warm before eating.
When the muffins are completely cooled, they freeze well. Wrap each muffin in aluminum foil, and place in an airtight container for storing or freezing. Once defrosted, they reheat well at 350 degrees F for about 2 minutes.
Petit Strawberry Tart | Dairy
Yield: 6-8 slices
This thin-crusted tart is as light as the season.
Equipment: food processor, parchment paper and rolling pin
1 pound strawberries
1¼ cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
Pinch of salt
8 tablespoons sweet butter
(1 stick), cold
1 egg yolk
⅛ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cold water
Optional accompaniment: vanilla ice cream
Rinse the strawberries under cold water. Drain them on paper towels and pat them dry. Hull the strawberries. Cut them in half vertically and slice them thin. Reserve.
Set up a food processor, using the metal blade. Place 1¼ cups flour, 3 tablespoons of sugar and the salt into the bowl. Cover and pulse once.
Cut the butter into about 20 slices. Arrange the slices evenly over the flour mixture. Add the egg yolk and vanilla. Cover and pulse several times until the butter is broken into bits and the dough looks crumbly.
With the top on and the food processor running, add water through the feed tube. Pulse on and off until the dough sticks together in clumps. Turn off the food processor. The dough should stick together when pinched.
Remove the dough and shape it into a disk approximately 4 inches in diameter. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Place the dough disk in the center. Using your palms, press the disk into a circle 10 inches in diameter. With your fingers, form a lip around the edges. Arrange the strawberry slices in concentric circles, starting at the center of the dough and working out to the edges.
Sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar evenly over the strawberries.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until the edges brown and the berries are soft but ruby red. Strawberry juice may ooze over the edges in places. Cool to warm before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
Frisée Salad with Strawberries | Pareve or dairy
This stunning salad is refreshing on a warm day.
⅓ cup sliced almonds
1 large head of frisée, rinsed in cold water, drained and chopped
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
½ small bunch of chives, chopped
⅓ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and cut in half
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled (optional)
Preheat an oven or toaster oven to 350 degrees F. Place the almonds on aluminum foil and bake until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Cool to room temperature.
Place the above ingredients in a large salad bowl. Include the feta cheese if you want a dairy salad or leave it out. Toss it with the lemon vinaigrette below.
Lemon Vinaigrette | Pareve
¼ cup lemon juice
(about 1 to 2 lemons)
¼ cup olive oil
⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
Kosher salt to taste
Strain the lemon juice through a fine sieve. Pour it into a clean jar and add the remaining vinaigrette ingredients. Cover and shake well. Drizzle it over the salad and toss it.