Multi-Faceted Strawberries Are The Perfect Summer Treat



Summer and strawberries were meant for one another. The best treat of the many my grandmother prepared when we visited, was her version of strawberry short cake. There was no cake. Instead, there were light, flaky strips of pie crust soaking in the juice and berries, topped with whipped cream.

Most often the strawberries were from frozen packages, either bought at the store or put up after a visit to a roadside fruit and vegetable stand.

She used the frozen strawberries because as they thawed, covered with sugar, more juice was created.

I have tried my hand at the dish, using prepared pie crusts since what I make would pass for shoe leather, but it's just not the same. Still it's pretty good and very simple.

Empty a carton or bag of frozen strawberries into a bowl, cover with at least a cup of sugar and then allow to thaw, covering the bowl with plastic wrap or something similar. You get more juice if the fruit thaws slowly, overnight, in the refrigerator.

Lay out the prepared pie crust, cut into strips about 1-1/2-inches wide and 3-to-4-inches, bake on cookie sheet as you would a regular baked crust per package directions, but watch carefully so the strips don't brown too much.

Let pie crust strips cool then serve with generous amount of thawed strawberries and juice, topped with whipped cream, if desired.

That was pretty much the extent of my experience with strawberries growing up. But there are all kinds of ways to use the berries. Checking the Internet, two excellent sources for recipes using strawberries are the University of Illinois Extension Service and the Oregon Strawberry Commission.

Strawberry Sauce

This sauce can be used to spoon over yogurt with fresh strawberries, ice cream, pound cake or your favorite dessert. Great as topping for pancakes and waffles too.

2/3 cup sugar

1 pint strawberries, washed and hulled

1/3 cup water

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan, stir and bring to a boil. Simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Allow the syrup to cool completely. Hasten cooling by setting pan in a shallow bowl of ice water.

Place half the berries in the jar of a blender; add lemon juice and all the cooled syrup. Puree until smooth.

Press through fine sieve to remove some of the strawberry seeds, if desired.

Coarsely chop remaining strawberries and add to strawberry puree. Serve.

Can be stored refrigerated, in tightly covered containers for up to four days.

Fabulous Strawberry Muffins

Firm fresh strawberries work best in this recipe, but when the season is over substitute blueberries, cherries or chopped peaches.

2-1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup melted butter

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped

Additional sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray or line muffin cups with paper cupcake liners.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt, stir well until all ingredient are well blended.

In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour liquid mixture in and the strawberries.

Using a large spoon, gently fold ingredients just until moist do not overmix.

Spoon the batter evenly into 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle each muffin with about 1/2 teaspoon sugar, if desired.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

Strawberry and Spinach Salad

This spring salad is teaming with Vitamin A and Vitamin C. The bright green of the spinach and contrasting red of the strawberries is beautiful and the flavors are excellent together.

1 pint fresh strawberries

2 bunches fresh spinach

1/2 cup sugar

1-1/2 tablespoons minced green onion

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup balsamic or cider vinegar

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Wash strawberries under cool running water. Remove caps and set aside to drain.

Wash spinach and remove large tough stems. Tear large leaves into small pieces. Drain.

In a medium bowl combine remaining ingredients and whisk together.

Slice strawberries into halves or quarters and place in a large bowl. Add dry spinach.

Pour dressing over all and toss.

Makes 8 servings.

Previous recipes from the Illinois Extension Service

Strawberry Pudding Cake

2-1/2 cups Angel Food Cake

1 large box vanilla instant pudding

Milk for pudding

3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1, 8-ounce container whipped topping

Tear cake into little pieces and cover bottom of 5 dessert dishes. Mix pudding according to directions on box; pour over cake. Spread fresh strawberries over pudding mixture. Garnish with whipped topping. Refrigerate if not served immediately. A 7-by-9-inch dish may be used instead of the dessert dishes.

Strawberry Cream Pie

1 package (4-serving size) vanilla instant pudding and pie filling

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons grated orange rind

2 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed (plus extra for garnish, if desired) (1, 8-ounce container equals 3 1/2 cups)

1 prepared 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled, rinsed and patted dry

In a large bowl, combine the vanilla pudding mix, sour cream, milk, and orange rind. Add the whipped topping and beat with a wire whisk for 1 minute or until well blended. Spoon half the mixture into the pie crust. Press the strawberries, stem-side down, into the mixture, then top with the remaining mixture. Freeze the pie for about 1 hour or refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. Garnish with additional whipped topping and/or strawberries. Yield: 6 to 8.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Delight

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened

1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar - depending on sweetness of berries

3 cups sliced strawberries

1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Beat cream cheese and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Fold in strawberries and whipped cream. Turn into 5-6 cup mold. Freeze at least 8 hours. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes; unmold. Garnish with mint or strawberries.

Yield: 10 (1/2-cup) servings.

Previous recipes from the Oregon Strawberry Commission

I recall a wonderful strawberry dish that may have been a variation on this one which neighbors passed around like a bad cold one summer when my family was living on the public school campus in Ganado on the Navajo Reservation.

The dish I am remembering also included a graham cracker base, made like a graham cracker crust, pressed into the "mold" and the strawberry mix poured on top of it, with a garnish of the crumbled graham cracker crust.

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