Harvest Kitchen Summer 05

Summer 2005
Botanically Confusing, Culinarily Perfect

By Roberta Bailey

© 2005. For information about reproducing this article, please contact the author.

Did you know that the seed-like structures on a strawberry are really a type of fruit called achenes (a small, dry, hard, one-seeded, indehiscent fruit), and that what most of us think of as the fruit or berry is really just the fleshy host, or receptacle, for the seed-like fruit? Since I learned this, I have looked at strawberries a little differently. Sometimes I find myself examining them closely. I tend to pay more attention to the crunch of the seed that isn’t just a seed but the fruit, as I chew the perfectly ripe berry that isn’t a true berry. Whenever I see a strawberry, this surprising information passes through my mind. It’s like a crack in my lip; I keep running my tongue over it. I can’t leave it alone. A strawberry is not a strawberry anymore.

Actually, when I am out in the row of berry plants, picking the day’s fleshy hosts, and I move up the row and come upon a deep red berry, so perfectly ripe that the sun glints off its flesh, and I pick it and put the whole berry in my mouth: At that moment, when the juice bursts in my mouth with the perfect blend of sweetness and acidity, a strawberry is a strawberry. All is right with the world.

Here are some recipes to help make things right in your world.

Berries and Greens

(Other greens can be substituted)
1 1/2 c. watercress leaves
1 1/2 c. arugula
2 c. strawberries, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. fiddlehead ferns, lightly steamed
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp. grated orange rind

In a saucepan with a steaming rack, steam the fiddleheads until soft. Rinse and cool immediately. In a large bowl, combine the greens, strawberry slices, onion and fiddleheads. Sprinkle with the vinegar, oil, salt and orange rind. Toss to combine. Serves four.

Sautéed Turkey or Chicken with Strawberry Puree

1 lb. turkey or chicken breast
1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 c. sliced strawberries
1 tsp. honey

Slice breast meat into 1/3- to ½-inch-thick pieces. Dredge (coat) in flour, shaking off the excess. In a large, non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat, sauté the poultry in hot oil for three minutes per side. Remove to a platter and keep warm.

In a blender or food processor, puree half the berries. Add them to the frying pan with the honey and stir until heated. Add the remaining strawberries and fold in gently. Spoon the sauce over the meat. Serves 4.

Strawberries and Rhubarb
– An old New England favorite that can be made in large batches and canned or frozen

2 c. rhubarb, sliced into 1-inch pieces (about 3 or 4 stalks)
2 Tbsp. water
1/3 to 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. quartered strawberries

Combine rhubarb, water and sugar in a stainless, enamel or glass saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about five minutes. Add the strawberries and simmer for another five minutes or to desired consistency. Yields about 1 2/3 cups. To substitute honey for sugar in this recipe, stew the rhubarb, then the berries, and add 1/3 c. honey at the end of the cooking process.

Two Low-Fat, Creamy Toppings
(for a healthier short cake, etc.)

Cottage Cheese Topping

1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
2 Tbsp. maple syrup, honey or sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Puree in blender or food processor until smooth. Yield 1 cup.

Ricotta Topping

1 c. low-fat ricotta cheese
1/2 c. plain low- or nonfat yogurt
2 to 3 Tbsp. maple syrup, honey or sugar

Puree in blender/food processor until smooth.

Creamy Grapes and Berries

1 c. sliced seedless grapes
1 c. sliced strawberries
1 1/2 c. creamy topping (above)

Combine ingredients and chill for at least 30 minutes. Can be molded into dessert cups. Serves 4.

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