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Food

The Virtual Panier - Strawberries!

Posted by Cat / June 20, 2007

20070618_strawberry-boxes.jpgProbably one of the most anticipated moments of the local growing season here in Montreal (and likely anywhere across the country, really) strawberry season is finally here! I say finally, but it's actually a little early this year, helped along by the mid-spring rains followed by this hot spell we've been having. Be sure to check out the strawberry celebrations happening at the city's markets on June 30th and July 1st!

Sweet, sun-warmed, and ruby-red, these little gems are pure joy - a true reward after a long winter and the slushly slog that passes for spring around here. When the first berries of the season show up in their wee pint boxes, proudly waving the "fraises de Qubec" sign, I can think of no better way to do them justice than immediatley heading for the nearest park or comfy outdoor perch, and devouring them straight up! (If you made the mistake of giving in to temptation and buying imported berries back in January, here's where you are reminded of your foolhardiness.) But apart from enjoying your first batch au natural, we've got a few more simple suggestions for tarting up those strawberries.

The intervening step from hand to mouth would be to put some strawberries (whole or sliced) in a bowl, and either pour a little heavy cream over the berries, or sprinkle on some sugar. You could go even further and whip that cream, or sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar, or even maple sugar.

20070618_strawberries&cream.jpgStrawberries lend themselves well to pies and if you've got some rhubarb left from last week's Virtual Panier, toss chopped rhubarb and sliced strawberries - about three to four cups total fruit - with some sugar, a little flour (to soak up some of the juices) and some lemon zest. I like to make a free-form tart by piling the fruit in the middle of rolled-out pastry dough, then folding the edges up over the filling and baking the pie at a high temp for about 20-30 minutes. But you could just as easily use a pre-made pie-shell. If the pastry is thawed, simply curl the edges up around the filling. or use a second, thawed shell to cover the top. Or heck, get fancy and pull out some puff pastry dough - there's bound to be some instructions for turnovers on the box.

But even more than pie, I swoon for a good strawberry shortcake. Whether you are from the cake or biscuit camp (I fall into the later, preferring a buttery, sweet biscuit with a hint of nutmeg for my shortcake), this dessert represents everything good about summer eating. Effortless, tasty, and relatively light, shortcake can be whipped up at the last minute for a sumptuous treat. I suggest starting with some good biscuits, split them, fill them with whipped cream and sliced, sweetened strawberries, then slather more cream and berries on top.

20070620_strawberry-soup.jpgAnd for a really special ode to strawberry season, try serving forth a chilled strawberry soup. Puree 4 cups sliced strawberries, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/8 sugar (or to taste), 1/4 tsp ground ginger and 1/8 tsp cinnamon in a blender until smooth. Chill for at least two hours. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche and a sprig of fresh mint. Sip into summer!

Discussion

12 Comments

OJ / June 20, 2007 at 08:56 pm
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mmmmmm....picked up a batch of local stawberries from a farmer's market this weekend. Ate them au natural and they didn't disappoint.
Sara / June 21, 2007 at 10:23 am
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you can use biscuits in strawberry shortcake?! cat, you just blew my mind. totally an interrobang-worthy revelation.
kim / June 21, 2007 at 11:43 am
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one of my favourite things to do with these strawberries - strawberry sandwiches!
butter some nice bread (challah is usually my choice), place sliced strawberries all over it, and sprinkle with brown sugar.
cat / June 21, 2007 at 03:26 pm
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Mmmmm, strawberry sandwiches. ounds like the perfect vehicle for strawberry butter - a delicious spread of strawberries, butter, orange zest, and powdered sugar, all whirred together in the blender. Challah would be perfect! Can anyone recommend a good challah around here? (and don't tell me Cheske's!)
Sami / June 26, 2007 at 09:34 pm
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"strawberries inchallah", sounds good! I'm not good with challah tips, but brioche works well with berries too.

I had some great berries at the Marieville Slow Food festival last weekend (in Monteregie, a half hour drive from MTL, www.salondugout.qc.ca), most of the berry growers at the show open their fields to consumers if you'd like to make it an outing and pick the fruits straight from the source. Here is a list of the producers who do "autocueuilletes":

http://www.fraisesetframboisesduquebec.com/php/cueillette/cueillette.php?sec=4
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