Strawberries, flavor of early summer, ready to pick

Strawberry days are here again, and many of us will enjoy the beautiful and delicious member of the rose family in its natural state. Others will use the fragrant berry to create traditional dishes such as strawberries and cream, strawberry shortcake, or strawberry flavored ice cream and sherbet. But the strawberry is versatile enough to be tossed in a salad, whipped into a delightful dessert, or transformed into elegant jams, conserves, and preserves to be enjoyed later.

The English crave strawberries and cream. The French dip their strawberries in sugar. But North Americans have not set aside one special way to enjoy the strawberry. We tend to view the versatile fruit as a luscious indicator of the arrival of the lazy, hazy days of spring and summer. Here are some recipes. Strawberries With Cream 2 cups fresh strawberries, washed, hulled, and dried 1/2 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 cup heavy cream, frozen until mushy 3 tablespoons sugar 6 scoops vanilla ice cream

Place strawberries in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar over berries. Set aside for 2 hours.

Just before serving, combine vanilla and cream in a chilled bowl. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and whip until stiff.

Place ice cream in a sherbet glass. Top with strawberries, then whipped cream. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. Strawberry Pineapple Pie 1/2 cup sugar 1/4 cup flour 1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, dried, sliced 2 cup fresh pineapple cubes 2 tablespoons butter Pastry for 2 9-inch pie crusts

Mix sugar and flour. Toss strawberries, pineapple cubes and flour mixture to blend.

Line pie pan with half of the pastry. Pile fruit mixture in pan. Do with butter. Top with remaining pastry. Cut vents in top crust to let steam escape. Bake in a preheated 425 degree F. oven for 35 minutes or until crust is browned. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings. Strawberry Squares 2/3 cup butter 2/3 cup sugar 1 1/2 cups flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, dried, sliced 1/2 cup sugar

Combine butter and 2/3 cups sugar in a bowl. Cream well; then add flour, baking powder and coconut. blend with a fork to make a crumbly mixture.

Press half of the mixture in a 13 by 9 by 12- inch cake pan. Mix cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar together. Combine with berries and spread over crust. Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture over berries and press down lightly. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven 35 minutes or until browned. Makes 8 servings. Strawberry-Yogurt Surprise 1 cup milk 1/2 cup sugar 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 3 egg whites 2 tablespoons sugar 1 cup plain yogurt 1 quart strawberries, washed, dried, hulled, sliced, reserving a few for garnish

Combine milk, 1/2 cup sugar and gelatin in a saucepan. Stir over low heat until gelatin and sugar are dissolved. Cool. Stir in vanilla. Chill until mixture mounds.

Beat egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Beat in 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until meringue holds stiff peaks. Fold meringue into milk mixture. Fold in yogurt and strawberries. Spoon into individual dessert dishes. Chill until set. Garnish with strawberries. Makes 6 individual servings.

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