Monday, July 21, 2014

California Strawberries ... mouthful of summer sunshine!

                                                                                                                                                                         Strawberries and childhood memories go hand in hand for me. And my first memory of wild strawberries growing was moving into our new home and walking the garden with my Dad. There are many scents in this world that are beautiful, but the intoxicating floral scent of ripe strawberries basking in the summer sun is one I'll never forget.

"... Go ahead, taste it..". My Daddy would say with a inviting grin on his face. Trust him I did. After all he was a Doctor. If I fell out with a sickness he was always there to cure it.  
One bite of a ripe juicy strawberry makes you forget about your juice stained hands and focus solely on the sweet and mildly tart flavor.

Fast forward several years, My Father has moved on to his next journey and yet... the memory of us walking side by side and the juicy taste of strawberries lives on. Long gone are the rows of berries in our yard. However, my Niece discovered rows and rows of varietals a the Farmers Market this weekend.
Albion, Rosas and Sweet Anne's oh-my! One taste after another of each varietal just to make sure I was going to buy just the right selection of all organic ripe plump berries to take home. First taste, the Albion. This variety is the most common you'll find in the stores. Firm outer skin, with pits and a red jeweled inside or white/orange inner core. Size ranges from small to extra large which are used mostly chocolate dipped strawberries. Meaty berry inside and very chewable. Hands down my favorite.
Second, the Rosas. Smaller in size, very juicy and skin is less firm. Tender and moist to the touch and burst in your mouth once bitten. However, in the case of this taste test they aren't as flavorful as the Albion or Sweet Anne. But, really juicy.
Lastly, the Sweet Anne. In one word, the Sweet Anne is fruity. Its as if a strawberry was crossed with an orange and lemon and created a berry that is juicy, sweet and tart ... and would be great for canning, whip cream with nuts, on top of a white cake, muffins...I could go on and on.
Strawberries are a great add to a shake/smoothie. I freeze mine and toss in one or two for color and flavor.
Today I decided to experiment with berries and an apricot bar. I sliced two berries and placed them at the bottom of a ramekin. Then placed the apricot oatmeal bar in the middle of the berries. Topped the bar with vanilla ice cream and a large strawberry on top.

Now, the downside... I placed the ramekin in the freezer to chill. Unfortunately I left them in too long.  Nothing happened with the precious strawberry or the ice cream, but it made the apricot bar too hard to spoon out.

Second, if you attempt this, keep the ramekin in the freezer until ready to use. Then place the berries and bar in ramekin. Let stand at room temperature until ready to spoon on ice cream and serve.

Eat immediately.... Like I really needed to tell you that. A spoon full of berries, chewy bar and ice cream. Yep.... nailed it!
Oh, last tip for berries. When the core of the berry is ripe red instead of a bitter white pit it means two things.

One, they grew in the sun. Two, that particular strawberries is ripe, juicy and tastes like candy.

Enjoy them while the 90 days of summer beam on them.
Remember cooking with love makes any recipe taste better ... even if its simply placing a ripe strawberry in a chilled glass of champagne. Cheers!