Sweetest signs of spring are in these berries

Published 12:09 pm Saturday, May 14, 2016


Strawberries are the sweetest sign of spring!

The key to their deliciousness is time in the warm fields to ripen from cap to tip and develop its unmistakable scent. Aroma, not color, is a sure sign of good flavor, so follow your nose to tasty berries.

Strawberries are easy pickings for most Southerners at a local pick-your-own berry patch. They are also easy to grow at home in the South, from an entire garden to a little patio pot. When planted in a sunny, fertile spot, these perennials produce more plants and berries each year without your having to do a thing besides wait and watch.

We call strawberries “berries,” of course, but actually they aren’t berries, because they wear their seeds on the outside. Strawberries are the only fruit to do so, and each one sports around 200 tiny golden seeds. To put an even finer point on this curious characteristic, each strawberry seed is technically a separate fruit, botanically speaking.

Peak season for strawberries is fleeting, only three or four weeks in most cases, so feast while you can. Eat the delectable berries. Preserve any overripe berries. Pickle any under ripe berries. Then eat more delicious ones, as many as you can hold. It will be another year before this chance comes around again.

Some tips for strawberries:

Storage: Ripe berries taste best when stored at room temperature up to two days; they keep five to seven days when placed in the fridge crisper drawer. Remove berries from their original containers, and arrange in a single layer on a tray or plate lined with paper towels. Discard bad berries daily because mold spreads like wildfire.

Washing: Strawberries soak up water like small sponges, and wet berries will quickly turn mushy; wash them right before using under cool running water, and then pat dry. Remove the caps after they are washed.

Freezing: To keep whole frozen strawberries separated instead of fusing together into one large lump, spread washed, capped, and dried berries in a single layer on a baking sheet or other shallow container that will fit on your freezer shelf. Once they are frozen, transfer them into freezer bags or other airtight containers, and keep stored in the freezer. This allows you to pull out as many berries as needed rather than having to thaw the entire bag.


Taken from ‘Southern Living’ May 2016.


Strawberry Salad with Goat Cheese Croutons

Serves 6

2 (4-oz.) goat cheese logs

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 large egg

2 Tbsp. whole milk

½ cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

¼ cup vegetable oil

5 oz. mixed baby greens

1 ½ cups sliced fresh strawberries

1 cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices

¼ red onion sliced

Strawberry-Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Cut each goat cheese log into 4 rounds. Gently press each round to ½–inch thickness on a baking sheet, and freeze 20 minutes.

Place the flour in a small bowl. Whisk together the egg and milk in a second small bowl.

Combine the panko salt, and pepper in a third small bowl. Dredge the goat cheese rounds in flour, dip in egg mixture, and dredge in panko mixture until coated. Place on a plate, and chill until all goat cheese rounds are breaded.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium until hot. Add goat cheese rounds to skillet, and cook until golden brown on each side, 3-4 minutes total. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

To serve, arrange salad greens on a serving platter, top with strawberries, cucumber, onion, and goat cheese croutons. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Makes 1 ½ cups

Toss together 1 cup quartered strawberries, 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar, 5 Tbsp. white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and ¼ tsp. black pepper in a bowl, let stand 15 minutes. Transfer the strawberry mixture to a blender and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Turn blender on low and gradually add ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Return mixture to bowl, and whisk in 1 Tbsp. poppy seeds. Whisk vinaigrette just before serving.