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Posts Tagged ‘strawberries’

It’s about time I pop in and say hello!  I just had to share the salad I’ve been eating about every other day since strawberries have hit the farmer’s market in full force.  It’s really a combination of some of my favorite things in the world, all mixed together in one bowl.   There’s just such a melange of flavors and textures that it’s really satisfying–the leafy greens, the crunch from the pecans, the bite of red onion, the sweetness of the strawberries, and the acid from the balsamic vinaigrette just make this a delicious lunch.

Spring Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Grilled Chicken

Serves 2 as a small lunch dish

  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 6-8 ounces grilled or broiled chicken breast, shredded
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 8 large strawberries, sliced
  • 2 ounces broken pecan halves (about a large handful)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette (or you can use your favorite) to taste

Just add all of those ingredients into a mixing bowl and toss until the vinaigrette is evenly distributed.

Happy Spring, everybody!

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The strawberries are out in full force at the farmer’s markets right now; the bounty coming in from Ventura and Oxnard brings that heady, sweet perfume of fresh berries that wanders along the stalls, enticing you to stop and get a sample of one of those juicy little sugarbombs.  I picked up a 3-pack of some gorgeous, small, deep-red berries that packed a real punch of flavor for their size.

Now, when I have plans for a strawberry dessert, I usually either go with a pie or strawberry shortcake, but I was ready for something new.  I remembered a cake I had made years ago, with layers of meringue, strawberries and whipped cream, and I knew that’s what I wanted to make.

A dacquoise is a type of cake made with layers of nut meringue;  often, it is filled with ganache, mousse, and/or buttercream–Marjolaine is the perfect example of a dacquoise.  I decided to go with a deconstructed version, using freshly made lemon curd as a bright and tart replacement for ganache, sliced strawberries, lightly sweetened whipped cream, and crunchy-chewy almond meringues.

After baking, let the meringue layers cool completely.   This is a dessert, once assembled, that should be served within an hour or two, as the meringue softens after being in contact with the fillings.  However, the meringues can be made the night before, and left to cool in the oven overnight.  The lemon curd can also be made well in advance and stored in an airtight container.

Sure, it’s a little messy, but for this dessert, the point of it is being simple and casual–capturing the essence of early summer, like strawberries in season at the market, sitting outside drinking lemonade, and having a fun dinner with friends out on the patio.

Strawberry & Lemon Dacquoise

Meringue Layers

  • 1 1/4 cups whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 275°.  Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Trace one 8″ diameter circle on to each sheet and turn paper over.
  2. Pulse almonds in food processor with cornstarch and 2 tablespoons sugar until finely ground.
  3. Beat egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixer until foamy, and add cream of tartar and a pinch of salt, then gradually beat in remaining sugar and vanilla.  Increase speed to high and beat until the egg whites are glossy and hold stiff peaks.
  4. Fold ground almonds gently into meringue.  Pipe or spread meringue evenly into the traced circles on parchment.
  5. Bake for approximately 1 hour until firm and golden.   Slide meringues onto a cooling rack while still on parchment.  When ready to assemble meringues, gently peel parchment off.

Lemon Curd (from marthastewart.com)

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar, zest and egg yolks then whisk in lemon juice and salt.
  2. Add butter and place pan over medium-high heat.  Cook, whisking constantly until butter has melted, mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, and small bubble form around the edge of the pan, about 5 minutes (do not boil).
  3. Remove pan from heat while continuing to whisk.  Pour curd while still hot through a fine mesh sieve into a glass bowl.  Press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until cool.

Note:  this recipe makes approximately 2 cups; I found this to be pretty generous for the recipe, and had about 1/2 cup leftover.  Then again, I really don’t see a problem with having some extra lemon curd hanging around the house.

Filling and Assembly

  • 4 cups sliced fresh strawberries, plus 10-12 whole strawberries for decoration
  • 2 cups cold whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Whip cream with sugar and vanilla extract until it holds a soft peak.
  2. Place first meringue on a plate and spread about a 3/4 cup of lemon curd across the surface of meringue.
  3. Place half of the sliced strawberries on top of lemon curd.
  4. Spoon 1/3 of whipped cream on top of strawberries, and spread to cover.
  5. Place 2nd meringue layer atop whipped cream and repeat with lemon curd, berries, and 1/3 of the whipped cream.
  6. Top with final layer of meringue, spread remaining whipped cream on top, and decorate with whole berries.
  7. Best served within 2 hours of assembly.

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Why, helloooo ladies.

Where are you going on this fine day?

OH.  I see.

I’ll be seeing you tomorrow with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. 

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Crust

  • 1 box Nilla Wafers
  • 1 stick melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. In a food processor, pulse Nilla Wafers to a coarse crumb texture.
  3. Mix wafer crumbs with melted butter in a medium-sized bowl. 
  4. Press crumbs into a deep-dish 9″ pie dish.
  5. Bake for 8-10 minutes until set and toasty.  Cool completely before filling.

Glaze

  • 3 cups of fresh strawberry puree
  • 6 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  1. In a blender or food processor, blend pureed strawberries, cornstarch, lemon juice and sugar until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour puree into saucepan, and simmer on medium heat, stirring constantly.  Bring to a full simmer (it will bubble like lava), remembering to continue to stir.
  3. Once thickened, pour into a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Filling and Assembly

  • 1 Nilla Wafer Crust
  • 1 batch Strawberry Glaze
  • 8 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  1. Add fresh strawberries to the cooked glaze and gently toss to coat completely.
  2. Fill pie crust with glazed strawberries.
  3. Refrigerate for a minimum of 6 hours.

(Yeah, this one was a quickie.  It’s a busy evening, but I just had to share!)

Edited to add:  after leaving it to set overnight, it didn’t set as well as I’d like.  I need to work on the glaze–I think reducing the puree by a 1/2 cup will do it.  I’ll be making it again for Easter, so I’ll report on my findings.

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strawberryjam1

Strawberry season is wrapping up here; our close proximity to Oxnard, The Land of Strawberries brings us wonderful, luscious berries months after the peak season is over.  After seeing those, how can I refuse to take some home?  I brought home a half a flat (6 pints) with the mind to make a batch of jam.

See, a few weeks ago, my mom bought a few boxes of mason jars and handed them to me with the instructions of, “Fill these for Christmas.”  Okie dokie.

Now, earlier this year I made just plain old Strawberry Jam, and I have all of those tucked away in the cupboard, waiting for the holidays.  This time, I wanted to branch out and try something new.  I had heard of this recipe, which piqued my interest–I love strawberries with black pepper and balsamic vinegar (maybe one day I’ll tell you the story of a dessert special I made during my cheffing days of homemade strawberry ice cream, black pepper shortbread cookies, and a balsamic reduction drizzle), and I have some very happy little mint plants hanging around that could use some trimming.  But, did you see that recipe?  It’s a three day process. I’m sure it’s amazing, and I might try it another day, but not this time.  It’s Labor Day weekend–the last thing I should be doing is, you know, laboring.

It was certainly enough that I’d be making jam; to turn it into a production that would take up my kitchen for three days is… well, I’m just not that kind of girl.  I decided to go my own way with the idea, and report back to all of you how it went.

Let me tell you another thing about me and jam:  I’m not a fan of pectin.  Pectin forces you to use insane amounts of sugar to make your jams set;  granted, I understand the need for it in jellies and preserves where you need something to help gel your product, but in things like jams and fruit butters, a long, slow simmer is totally where it’s at.  It takes some time and love, but what you get is pure fruity deliciousness.

Strawberry, Black Pepper, and Mint Jam

10 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut in half (or quarters if large).  Squish the fruits a little to ensure you’re getting a full 10 cups of fruit.

6 cups sugar

Juice of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

3 tablespoons fresh mint, sliced thinly

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, add strawberries and sugar, and toss to coat.  Turn the heat on to medium-high, and bring to a full, rolling boil, then turn down to a low simmer.  Stir in the lemon juice.

This will simmer for quite some time–expect around 2 hours, depending on how juicy your berries were to begin with.

strawberryjam2

Make sure you skim off that foam, too.  You don’t have to toss it–put it in a bowl and mop it up with a piece of bread.  Seriously. You gotta have something to do while you’re hanging out waiting for your jam.

While that’s simmering away, make sure you’re giving it a good stir about every 10 minutes.  You’ll be adding the pepper and mint for the last 5 minutes of cooking, when the jam is just about ready.  The way to test when your jam is ready is to put a small plate in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Pour a little syrup on the cold plate and run your finger through it.  If the syrup gels and keeps a clear path of where you ran your finger, it’s ready.  This would be a good time to throw in that pepper and mint, and let simmer for 5 more minutes.

I’m not going to go through the whole process of canning as I’ve yammered on enough for tonight;  the fine folks at The University of Georgia have an excellent, thorough guide on how to prepare your jars, can, and process your jam.  In fact, the whole National Center for Home Food Preservation site is worth bookmarking if you have any intentions of canning anything ever in your life.

Just as a note, this produced 3 1/2 pints.

strawberryjam3

I know you’re waiting to hear how it turned out.  The mint, for some reason didn’t stand out that much at all.  I got a hint of it, but that’s it.  I definitely caught the pepper, and it leaves just a faint, pleasant heat that helps cut the sweetness of the jam.  I would happily make this again, but possibly try more mint next time.  Or, skip the mint, and add a good dose of balsamic vinegar.  Wouldn’t that be interesting?  Anyway, we’re not telling Mom about the experiment just yet, as she gets kind of weird about it when I do something new (and I get to prove her wrong 98% of the time).  No matter, if no one likes it, it just means more for me.

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