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January 14, 2015
Get Ready for Summer with Cool Strawberry Treats
By Janet Tharpe
A few days ago I received a frantic call from a good friend. "Guess what just happened," she exclaimed! My mind began racing through the possibilities - car accident, broken bones, a lost job. All of the worst-case scenarios flashed to mind. (What can I say, I'm a mom!) I told her that I was sure I couldn't possibly guess. Breathless, she replied, "I just picked my own strawberries!!!" Now, THAT was a new one.
But her strawberry "emergency" got me thinking about the first time I, myself, ventured into a sunny field and came back with a pail full of berries. It was satisfaction beyond words. If there had been cell phones back then I do believe I'd have been making a few calls myself!
Harvesting those juicy red berries is a surprisingly invigorating experience. I think it's probably even more exhilarating now a days when so many of us are disconnected from the sources of our everyday food. Whether store-bought, frozen or fresh-picked, I wanted to dedicate this week's column to all you enthusiasts out there and to that delightfully sweet, sentimental harbinger of summer: the strawberry.
Kicking off our strawberry homage is a wonderful recipe from Donna Will, her addictive Delightfully Cool Summer Strawberry Torte. It's never too early to get a jump on summer eats, and Donna's recipe has to be one of the easiest, most time-effective ways to capture the essence of great berry flavor.
"This dish is a wonderful dessert for any occasion," says the Nanjemoy, MD native. "It's great for parties or for a picnic. I love this one - I make it a lot for family."
In fact, this recipe would be perfect for any warm-weather celebration. It's easy to double, and you won't have to break the bank (or rob one!) in order to satisfy your crowd. Simply alternate layers of cake with vanilla pudding, whipped cream and fresh berries! Use a large clear bowl if you have one - The layers make this dessert pretty enough to double as your centerpiece!
Another berry pretty dessert comes to us from Jo Anne Sugimoto of Kaneohe, HI. She keeps it simple as well by using quality ingredients to bring out their truest flavor.
"For some reason or other I really like balsamic vinegar, especially with fruits and vegetables," says Jo Anne of her Ricotta Mascarpone Mousse with Balsamic Strawberries. "And of course, who doesn't like ricotta and mascarpone cheeses?!"
I couldn't have said it better myself! Jo Anne is on to something wonderful here. Her combination of creamy cheeses and juicy berries with the earthy tang of balsamic vinegar will have your guests asking for your "secret". I love how beautifully refined this dish is without being at all fussy. Quite a treat, indeed.
Don't let my sweet-tooth fool you; strawberries aren't just for dessert anymore. They're stunning when added to salads and savory dishes as well. Jillena Smith's adorable Strawberry Ham Bites are the perfect meal starter. The sweetness of real strawberry jam plays perfectly against salty ham and cheese. Pair a few with Marie Guaragna's prize-winning Mandarin Orange/Strawberry Spinach Salad and you have a killer warm-weather combo that will leave everyone - from picky grandkids to your luncheon ladies - asking for more. (Believe me, I speak from experience... Make plenty!)
However you choose to revel in the sweetness of the season, be sure to make room and enjoy the bounty of your table. It's so easy to get swept up in the rush of every day, but there truly is nothing more rejuvenating than pausing, taking a deep breath and stopping to smell the strawberries.