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With our warmer-than-normal temperatures in recent weeks, it’s no surprise that strawberry season has arrived just a wee bit earlier this year. Strawberries typically peak during May in the South and in June in the North.
Choose firm, bright berries with their greens attached, but don’t wash them until you are ready to eat them. They are highly susceptible to mold. I find it’s best to store them in the refrigerator in a container, in a single layer, on dry paper towels. This will help prevent soft spots that occur when they are stored in containers and packed down on top of each other.
Did you know?
Did you know one whole cup of strawberries has only 55 calories?
Did you know that, on average, there are about 200 tiny seeds on every strawberry?
Did you know pregnant women used to avoid strawberries so their children wouldn’t be born with a strawberry birthmark?
Did you know botanists do not classify the strawberry as a true berry? True berries, such as blueberries and cranberries, have seeds inside. Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside.
A classic strawberry presentation is in a salad with balsamic vinegar. Mix one quart of sliced strawberries with 1-2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and sugar to taste and then add chopped mint leaves. This is a simple, elegant and tasty dessert. It is low in calories and perfect for summer.
This dessert is delicious with some cream drizzled on top.
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, chopped coarsely
1/2 cup strawberry ice cream
1/4 cup whipping cream, divided
1 tsp. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
2 mint sprigs
Place the strawberries, ice cream, one tablespoon whipping cream and lemon juice in a blender or food processor; blend until smooth and then pour into a pitcher with a spout to make it easy for pouring into a glass. This can be done ahead of time, covered and refrigerated.
Whip the remaining whipping cream with the powdered sugar. Carefully pour the soup into small soup bowls or ramekins. Add a dollop of whipped cream and a mint sprig. Makes 2 servings.
1 cup uncooked oatmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups sliced fresh strawberries
Mix together oatmeal, flour and brown sugar; add nuts. Cut in butter until crumbly. In another bowl, mix strawberries and white sugar together. In a greased 8-inch-square pan, spread half the crumb mixture on the bottom; cover with strawberries. Spread remaining crumb mixture over top. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm or cold with whipped cream or topping.
Salad with Mandarin Oranges and Pecans
2 bags spinach leaves
1 can Mandarin oranges, drained
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup raisins
1 small red onion, sliced
1 cup pecans (optional)
For the dressing:
1/2 cup dark currant jelly
3 Tbsps. balsamic vinegar
Melt jelly in small saucepan on low heat or in microwave. When cool, stir in vinegar. Clean spinach leaves, dry and remove stems. Mix all salad ingredients together except for the pecans. About 1-2 hours before serving, add the dressing to the salad ingredients to desired consistency. Keep chilled until served. Add one cup of pecans just before serving. Makes 4-6 servings.
Bacon Pasta Toss
8 oz. wide egg noodles, uncooked
1/2 cup zesty Italian dressing
8 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 pt. cherry tomatoes, halved
4-6 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
4 slices bacon, crisply cooked, crumbled
Cook noodles as directed on package; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Meanwhile, on medium heat, heat dressing in large skillet. Add chicken; cook and stir 5 minutes or until cooked through. Add tomatoes; cook another minute, stirring occasionally. Stir in noodles and reserved 1/2 cup cooking water. Remove from heat.
Add spinach, 1/2 cup of the cheese and the bacon; toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Makes 4 servings.
and Smoked Mozzarella
This is a perfect appetizer for those warm evenings when eating outside on the porch or the deck.
8 oz. medium to large button mushrooms
4 oz. ground Italian sausage, browned and cooked.
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Fresh thyme leaves, about 4-5 sprigs
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sliced smoked mozzarella
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh parsley for garnish
Place the mushrooms gill sides up, stems removed, on a cookie sheet. Chop up the stems and put in a small bowl. Add browned sausage, garlic and thyme leaves and mix well. Place equal portions on each mushroom cap. Brush each cap with olive oil and top it with thin slices of smoked mozzarella cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Place cookie sheet under a broiler for 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the mushrooms are fragrant. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with parsley. Makes 3-4 healthy appetizer servings.
To extend the storage life of lemons and limes, just place them in a half-filled bowl of water and place in the refrigerator. They will last for almost a month. I still have a couple limes that are going on their fifth week.
Norm Harding is a cooking columnist for the Beacon. To send him recipes, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.