When strawberries and rhubarb come into season, I tend to go a little overboard at the farmer's market in celebration of spring. Regardless of my schedule, I buy as much as I please, figuring I will find a use for it. When 3 pints of ripe strawberries are on sale the last hour of the market, perfumed from sitting out on the farmer's table all morning, and you know one basket will evaporate on the (short) walk home, 3 pints seems like nothing.
Well, sometimes reality interferes with my culinary fantasyland and stuff starts going bad.
When strawberries or other berries are longer firm or fresh enough to eat out of hand, rinse and hull them, taking care to trim away brownish bruises or discard any that smell vinegary (or use them to flavor vinegar, but that's another story). Depending on how much needs cutting off, you will be left with over a cup of pieces.
Now you have options.
If they are only slightly past their prime, they are perfect candidates for macerating.
Stick the berries in a bowl and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over them. Add a tablespoon (or less to taste) of sugar or honey and a couple drops of vanilla (~1/8 tsp.) Let sit for 5 minutes. These are great on their own, topped with whipped cream or Greek yogurt.
For a quick (yet impressive to company) dessert, top pound cake or angel food (depending on how heavy you want the dessert to be) with the berries and a generous portion of their juices, which soaks into the cake like a fresher, brighter version of simple syrup.
If they are too far gone for this (such as when the skins have started to wrinkle or shrink a bit), spread the hulled and trimmed berries out on a baking sheet in a single layer and use in the morning for a smoothie. Smoothies are the perfect home for overripe fruit, especially bananas. When frozen, the fruit sweetens, thickens and chills the drink so that you don't need to use as much ice. Relying on ice alone to chill and thicken a smoothie waters everything down and creates a void of flavor which is most often filled with sorbet, sherbet, ice cream or juice. You don't need all that sugar. The fruit should be the star. You can use any frozen berries for this recipe, but tomorrow I will be using my leftover strawberries, and feeling virtuous. :)
Simple Berry Smoothie
- 1~1.5 cups frozen berries
- Half a Banana (preferably frozen) Be sure to peel bananas before freezing.
- 6 ounces vanilla yogurt
- 2 tablespoons wheat germ
- 1 tablespoon honey, warmed (I just heat the jar a bit to loosen the honey)
- 3~4 cubes ice
- milk or juice
Place yogurt then fruit in a blender and blend until the mixture comes together in one mass. Then add wheat germ and honey in a thin stream while blending on the lowest setting. Drop ice cubes in one by one and add milk or juice (I like a splash of OJ) to your desired thickness. Because the water content of fruit can vary quite a bit, you may need as little as a couple tablespoons or as much as a half cup of liquid. Serves one thirsty person.