What do you do when a neighbor kindly gifts you a 3 pound zucchini? You make zucchini bread. Lots of zucchini bread. And if you’re me, where is the first place you look for a zucchini bread recipe? Smitten Kitchen, of course. Continue reading
Buying items just because they are on sale is only a bargain if you use them. Otherwise they’re a huge waste of money. Impulse grocery shopping usually comes back and bites me in the butt. My most recent example? Those cherries on sale at The Fresh Market were a great price. I was expecting cherries as delicious as the ones I got direct from the farm at Baugher’s. What I got instead was a heaping serving of disappointment. Continue reading
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Not only is that some commercial tag line, it’s also the God’s honest truth. Sometimes, bad first impressions can’t be overcome. Other times, if you look past them, you find that you were totally wrong. Like that time in middle school when both Kristen Heher and I thought each other was trouble, with a capital T. Maybe we were, but after we got to know each other, we were best friends for two years. As hard as it is for me to admit when I am wrong, it’s even harder not to share with you something so ugly it’s good. Continue reading
The moment I picked those berries, the clock started ticking. One reason the strawberries you buy at the grocery store taste so blah is because they’ve been in suspended animation. They get cold stored which prolongs their shelf life. Fresh picked berries, however, have essentially been removed from their life support system. The morning after harvest, the berries I had set aside from the mega batch of jam were already starting to dry out and wither. Their once shiny exteriors were flat and dull. I needed to get these berries into the kitchen stat. Luckily, the recipe on call that day was Strawberry Frozen Yogurt. I was asked to assist.
We scrubbed up and got operating. Berries were rinsed, hulled, and sugared. A splash of vodka (optional) was applied. After sitting for two hours, yogurt and lemon juice was added and mixed with a stick blender until smooth. The mix needed additional time in the refrigerator to chill. Then it was off to the ice cream machine. Thirty minutes later, the operation was a complete success and the yogurt was ready to go into the freezer.
This is one time suspended animation is your friend, not your foe.
Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
The recipe I worked from called for french yogurt. I used Fage Greek Yogurt which the folks at Trader Joe’s usually have on hand. If you can’t get Fage or another greek yogurt, strain regular plain yogurt through a paper towel lined sieve in the refrigerator to remove the liquid. You will be left with a thick, creamy yogurt similar to Fage.
I’ve had this recipe for so long that I forgot where it originally came from. It was definitely something I got online. If it’s yours, thanks for sharing.
1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vodka (optional – this helps the frozen yogurt keep a soft consistency)
1 cup plain, whole milk yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Transfer the strawberries and their juices to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve to remove any seeds, if you like.
Chill until cold, at least 1 hour. Then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
The notion of eating fresh relies heavily on eating what’s in season. Those strawberries you see at the market in the dead of winter…not so much in season. But the ones I just picked at Baugher’s Farm? Most definitely so.
What do you think a strawberry is supposed to taste like? After eating so many of the mass produced, genetically enhanced, grocery store giants, I had forgotten the beauty of a fresh strawberry. Right from the plant, it is warm from the morning sun. The skin is vibrant; bright, and shining red and the flesh is firm but gently yielding. Bite into a mega farm berry and you get a little sweet, a lot of bland with the texture of cardboard. Bite into a just picked berry and it’s an explosion of freshness. Sweet and bright all at the same time and then the flesh just sort of melts away in your mouth.
And don’t let size fool you. Store berries tend to be big. But bigger is not always better. I picked a peck of berries and the little guys were just as flavorful as the big ones. Some, even more so. And unless you’re using them in a way that you’re going to see the berry whole, does it matter if that strawberry goodness came from David or Goliath?
Now is the time to embrace the berry goodness of eating fresh. It doesn’t matter whether you pick your own or get some fresh picked, local berries at a farm stand or market near you. But be warned, after eating a handful of these you may not be able to go back to the wannabes waiting for you at the grocery store.
One great way to use fresh strawberries is to make jam. Make this recipe and your peanut butter, yogurt, oatmeal, and toast will thank you. Want more jamtastic ideas? Check out Food in Jars.
Fresh Strawberry Jam
I got a little carried away picking and ended up with an entire peck of berries. This jam recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled. A triple batch will yield a nearly full one quart mason jar. The cooking time will be longer for a bigger batch but be patient…and at least let the jam cool before you go digging in with a spoon to enjoy the berry goodness. The original recipe says this will keep for up to a month in the refrigerator.
4 cups fresh strawberries, halved
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Combine strawberries and sugar in a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 1 hour or until thick, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Cool to room temperature and store in a plastic or glass container.
What’s that? You say that you want more chocolate?
Molten Chocolate Magic
Adapted from “Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef” by Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more to butter the molds
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons flour, plus more for dusting
In the top of a double boiler set over simmering water, heat the butter and chocolate together until the chocolate is almost completely melted. While that’s heating, beat together the eggs, yolks, and sugar with a whisk or electric beater until light and thick.
Beat together the melted chocolate and butter; it should be quite warm. Pour in the egg mixture, then quickly beat in the flour, just until combined.
Butter and lightly flour four 4-ounce molds, custard cups, or ramekins. Tap out the excess flour, then butter and flour them again. Divide the batter among the molds. (At this point you can refrigerate the desserts until you are ready to eat, for up to several hours; bring them back to room temperature before baking.)
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Bake the molds on a tray for 6 to 7 minutes; the center will still be quite soft, but the sides will be set.
Invert each mold onto a plate and let sit for about 10 seconds. Unmold by lifting up one corner of the mold; the cake will fall out onto the plate. Serve immediately.