Adventurous recipes using an old-time favorite
AT one time, the strawberry went steady with shortcake, but today that popular summer berry has new companions. It pairs up beautifully with chicken, pasta, shrimp -- even vinegar. In a recent survey, the former favorite, shortcake, had slipped to third place. Most people, it seems, now prefer their strawberries sliced with a touch of sweetening.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The second most popular way is whole or sliced and eaten as a snack, according to the findings of the California Strawberry Advisory Board.
If you're wondering about the combination that's famous in England, strawberries and cream -- it came in fourth, a reflection, perhaps, of the current trend of ``eating light.''
In the United States, there are some interesting differences in how strawberries are used in various regions. The West uses more berries on pancakes than any other area. Southerners are not enthusiastic about strawberries in salads and pies, while people in the Northeast don't use their strawberries much in puddings and gelatins.
The Midwest is heavy on making strawberry preserves and jam, but so are people all over when they can go to a local farmer's field and pick their own. Strawberries freeze well, too, and this is another answer when there are too many berries at once.
When choosing strawberries at the market, buy the reddest, brightest ones you can find, since they do not ripen after picking. Check the whole box when possible. Remember, packers tend to put the largest, best-looking berries on top.
If you buy some that are only partially red, cut off the greenish-white areas. Gently rinse berries in a colander, taking care not to remove caps until after washing.
With strawberries available most of the year, people are more adventurous in using them.
For example, they're being used in fruit vinegar for salad dressings. Although commercial fruit vinegars are expensive, you can make your own delicious batch at home with fresh fruit and ordinary vinegar.
Simply marinate the strawberries in vinegar overnight, then crush and strain to extract the essence of strawberry flavor.
Mix the fruit vinegar with oil and seasonings and you've created a refreshing, flavorful vinaigrette perfect for cold pasta, rice, chicken, or fruit salads. Any leftover vinegar can be stored up to a month in the refrigerator.
For a refreshing cooler, try blending crushed fresh berries with lemonade. Or serve plump, juicy strawberries dipped in brown sugar, sour cream, yogurt, or chocolate.
Sara Pitzer, author of several cookbooks, has discovered that strawberries go beautifully with seafood -- especially shrimp and salmon.
Another of her rather unusual combinations has strawberries, cabbage, and chicken salad with a chiffon dressing.
``My Grandmother Pennington used to make a special slaw at holiday time that was so delicate and good my father called it Ice Cream Cabbage,'' she says.
``And at a restaurant where I once worked, they made a special chicken salad with shredded cabbage that was so popular it was sold out before lunch was over.''
Sara combined the two recipes and added strawberries for color and texture contrast. The following recipes come from her book ``Simply Strawberries'' (Garden Way Publishers, $6.95): Strawberry-Chicken Salad 1/2 medium head of cabbage, finely shredded 1/2 teaspoon salt 2 cups cooked, diced chicken, preferably white meat 1/2 pint whipping cream 3 tablespoons sugar, according to taste 2 tablespoons vinegar, according to taste 2 cups fresh sliced strawberries Romaine lettuce
In a large mixing bowl sprinkle cabbage with salt and mix thoroughly. Mix in chicken.
Make dressing by whipping the cream until it holds soft round peaks, then beat in the sugar and vinegar to taste.
With a fork stir, dressing into cabbage-chicken mixture a little at a time. Quickly stir in sliced strawberries. Serve at once on lettuce leaves.
Sara Pitzer suggests serving strawberry-nut bread plain in thin slices to accompany a salad, or spread with strawberry cream cheese for sandwiches. To make spread, combine 8-ounce package of cream cheese with a cup of sliced strawberries or 2/3 cup strawberry pur'ee. Strawberry-Nut Bread 3 cups all-purpose, unbleached white flour 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 teaspoons cinnamon 2 cups sugar 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries 4 eggs 1 1/4 cups oil 1 cup chopped nuts