Fresh Strawberry Roundup

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DSC 9733 Fresh Strawberry Roundup

Nothing says summer more convincingly in the Northwest than the first baskets of local, incredibly sweet strawberries. The temperature may still be in the 60’s most days, but when the strawberries hit, IT’S SUMMER BABY.

The Northwest produces world-class strawberries, unrivalled in sweetness. Two distinct categories of strawberries keep the berries coming from mid-June to fall.

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The June-bearing crop usually begins in mid-June and can extend a full month if the weather cooperates and there are sufficient pickers. June-bearing strawberries are simply AMAZING: so fragrant, juicy, sweet, and flavor-packed. After one bite, you will swear off California and Mexico strawberries forever. However, these berries bear fruit once only, and the season ends as abruptly as it begins. June-bearing strawberries include Benton, Hood, Northwest, Puget Reliance, Puget Summer, Shuksan, Tillamook, and Totem varieties.

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Ever-bearing strawberries extend the season almost to fall, although these berries are typically available only at local farmers markets. They are nearly as delicious as June-bearing berries. Ever-bearing strawberries include Albion, Quinault, Seascape, Tristar, and Tribute.

To kick off the season, here are some tried-and-true recipes from past seasons. Check out the Strawberry Primer first for a wide range of other flavors that partner beautifully with the inestimable Northwest strawberry.

Local grown strawberries Fresh Strawberry Roundup

Fresh Strawberry Primer

Everything you need to know, including season, selection, storage, preparation, cooking, and great flavor pairings.

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Fresh Strawberry-Tomato Dessert Sauce

The idea of pairing strawberries with tomatoes originally came to me while perusing one of my favorite culinary sites, FoodPairing, which features dozens of potentially harmonious and sometimes very odd sounding ingredient pairings. Remarkably, strawberries and tomatoes are very much alike molecularly and can be used almost interchangeably.  You won’t believe it until you try it. I certainly didn’t. This refreshing and delicious dessert sauce will surprise you. The tomatoes add a subtle, savory (umami) element that is intriguing. See if your guests can detect the mystery ingredient.

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Fried Banana Split with Mexican Chocolate Sauce & Strawberry Lime Salsa

You have never had a banana split like this one. It will knock your socks off. If I open a restaurant in this lifetime, this dessert will be on the menu–permanently. It features Carmelized Banana, Mexican Bittersweet Chocolate Chile Sauce, Caramelized Ancho Chile Cinnamon Almonds, Strawberry Margarita Sauce, and Strawberry Lime Salsa. And premium vanilla (or sweet corn) ice cream, of course.

Strawberry Tomato Gazpacho Fresh Strawberry Roundup

Kicky Tomato Strawberry Gazpacho

A sweet, tangy, spicy variation on the more traditional tomato gazpacho, this cold soup makes an excellent first course for hot summer evenings. Although not mandatory, the poached prawns and Frizzled Pancetta garnishes give the soup a little more substance and added visual appeal. Or glam it up and garnish with Prawn, Avocado & Lime Escabeche.

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Lemon & Thyme Marinated Artichoke, Tiger Prawn & Strawberry Salad

Strawberries with artichokes? No need to worry. The combination is divine, with the strawberries adding just the right measure of bright pop to every other bite of the salad. It’s like having the palate cleanser in the same dish with the richer ingredients.

Even though the artichokes take a bit of time to prepare, the result here is well worth it. Large globe artichokes are specified, but baby artichokes will work beautifully as well. You will notice that the prawns are sauteed in the shell. This method intensifies the flavor of the prawns, and thus I heartily recommend it. If you have guests to impress, this salad should do it.

Mayan Chocolate Shortcake with White Chocolate Crema Strawberry Lime Sauce Fresh Strawberry Roundup

Mayan Chocolate Shortcake with White Chocolate Crema, Strawberry Lime Sauce & Strawberry Lime Salsa

Who doesn’t love classic shortcake smothered with fresh berries and whipped cream? We even make an occasional dinner of ONLY shortcake and berries at the height of strawberry and raspberry season each summer.

If strawberries could talk, they would say only three words over and over: I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU. Thus, they are required for this over the top, spicy chocolate shortcake with its luxurious accompaniment of whipped cream, cream cheese and white chocolate.

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Prawn & Strawberry Salad with Fresh Herb Panna Cotta

Get ready for the ohhs and ahhs when you bring this salad to the table. It’s visually stunning and delectable down to the last bite. There is a world of intriguing tastes and textures here, each one complementing the others.

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Strawberry Basil Sour Cream Gelato

Gelato and ice cream are made by combining a basic custard sauce, optional extra cream, and flavorings, and then churning the mixture in an ice cream maker. There is really nothing more to it than that.

For this gelato, I used fresh, raw strawberries for the first test. The result was good, but for test two, I cooked the strawberries briefly and the flavor and color intensity were both enhanced. And if you haven’t tried the strawberry and basil flavor pairing, you are in for a real treat.

Additional Strawberry Inspiration

Resources

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About Susan S. Bradley

Intrepid cook, food writer, culinary instructor, author of Pacific Northwest Palate: Four Seasons of Great Cooking, and founder of the Northwest Culinary Academy.

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