Strawberry salad? Oh yes, I do think so

Published 12:01 am Saturday, June 8, 2013

Strawberries are at their peak, and they taste wonderful. I bought my first ones this week, waiting for the season to peak, and I was not disappointed. They were sweet and succulent.

Explorers and colonists found huge fields carpeted in wild strawberries growing in the South and much of eastern North America. There were stories of riders and horses emerging from those fields so covered in red strawberry juice that they looked wounded. The profusion and variety of native berries astounded the colonists, who shipped specimens back to Europe to bolster the viability and flavor of Old World varieties.

Strawberries are not actual berries because they carry their seeds on the outside. The plants spread through self-propagation. They send out runners and take hold and send out more runners, spreading by leaps and bounds. Perhaps this ability to strew themselves about led to the name “strawberry,” as a derivation of “strewberry.” Another common notion is that the name came from the common practice of mulching the plants with straw.

Most strawberries are scarlet red, but there are also white and yellow varieties. They can range from tiny to large and from lumpy to smooth, but all good specimens are unmistakably redolent. Their botanical name, Fragaria, means fragrance, which suggests the sweet perfume that wafts from perfectly ripe strawberries. People accustomed to only long-hauled fruit are often awestruck by the intense flavor of strawberries left to fully ripen on the plants, where the warm sun can coax every bit of natural sweetness from the berries.

I decided to use my strawberries in a salad. My husband does not like fruit in his salads but I told him to give this a try. This was a good salad and I got to use some of those peas that my husband keeps producing. With the strawberries, almonds, and peas in this salad it is worth doing and a pretty one also.

Strawberries in a salad? Oh, yes. It’s delicious.

Strawberries in a salad? Oh, yes. It’s delicious.

From ‘bon appétit’ June 2013.

Strawberry, Almond and Pea Salad

Serves 4

½ cup Marcona almonds (can be found at Whole Foods)

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar

2 tsp. whole grain mustard

1 tsp. poppy seeds

1 tsp. sugar

¼ cup vegetable oil

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 cup fresh English peas (from about 1 lb. pods) or frozen peas, thawed

3 cups baby arugula or watercress, thick stems trimmed (Fortunately we have both arugula and fresh peas in the garden right now.)

8 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled, halved or quartered if large (about 2 cups)

1 cup pea tendrils (also known as pea shouts) can be found at farmers’ markets or natural food stores or better yet from your own vines.

1 oz. Parmesan, shaved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out almonds on a small rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, eight to 10 minutes. Let cool.

Whisk vinegar, mustard, poppy seeds and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk in oil, season with salt and pepper.

Cook peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until bright green and tender, about five minutes for fresh peas, or two minutes for frozen. Drain; transfer to a colander set in a bowl of ice water. Drain.

Add arugula, strawberries, pea tendrils, peas and almonds to vinaigrette; toss to coat. Top with Parmesan.

We all know we can use strawberries in many good desserts. Strawberries are lovely in blender drinks.

But perhaps the best way to enjoy fresh strawberries is just sliced with whipped cream. So go out and pick some of those berries!