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Strawberries from the farmer's market (c)2012

I’ve got creative recipes for cooking with strawberries during spring:

1.  Strawberries and Cream

It was Jonathan Lovekin’s photograph in Ripe that caught my attention- smashed red berries stirred into a bowl of thick, devonshire cream. Juicy, luscious strawberries bled pink through the cream, staining the white tablecloth. I wanted to grab a spoonful and shove it into my mouth, not caring if I took too much and cream dribbled down my chin. This powerful photograph paired with Nigel Slater’s simple suggestion of a recipe was all I needed: “Pick the smallest, ripest berries you can lay your hands on, crimson through to their little hearts. Put them in a bowl and crush them with a fork. Mellow the flavor with a drip of balsamic vinegar. Stir in the merest dribble of golden cream. Fiddle no further.”

2.  Strawberry Tart

If a bowl of strawberries and cream is the purest, most perfect way to enjoy the first berry of the season, a strawberry tart is the most celebratory. A tender, crumbly crust filled with rich, vanilla-flecked pastry cream and studded with fresh, ruby-red strawberries commands the room’s attention when perched atop a cake stand at the table. Over at Food & Wine Elisabeth Pruett of Tartine Bakery shares a Strawberry Tart recipe made with a whipped cream as a filling or you can try Betsy Benardaud’s classic Strawberry Tart with pastry cream filling.

3.  Strawberries in Salad

I savor sweet strawberries in a salad of spring greens (spinach, arugula, or purple lettuce). The sweet and succulent berries are such a treat, it almost feels like I’m doing something bad- like eating birthday cake for breakfast. Tangy, creamy goat cheese is a must and toasted nuts provide a crunchy counterpoint (almonds are my fav but pecans, pine nuts, hazelnuts, or walnuts would be tasty). Balsamic vinaigrette adds depth to the bright flavors, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper gives the salad a kick.

4.  Himalayan Salt Bowl Chocolate Fondue

I came across the intriguing recipe for Himalayan Salt Bowl Chocolate Fondue in Mark Bitterman’s book, Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, and couldn’t resist sharing it with you here. Did you know you can use salt slabs and bowls to cook food? In the recipe, Mark Bitterman places a heavy bowl carved from Pink Himalayan salt on a stovetop burner over low heat until warm, about 30 minutes. Once the bowl is warm ingredients for a chocolate fondue are added: heavy cream, bitters, and dark chocolate chips. The salt bowl maintains its temperature, so the fondue can be transferred to the tabletop and enjoyed, remaining hot. Strawberries are the favorite accompaniment to this rich chocolate fondue with a hint of salt. Don’t fret about the $42 price tag for the salt bowl, it can be used over and over again.

5.  Strawberry Sandwich

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall likes to make strawberry sandwiches by spreading soft white bread with good butter and a layer of thick sliced strawberries. Top with a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of freshly ground black pepper, and another slice of buttered bread. Cut into quarters, the strawberry sandwiches make for a fun little snack with afternoon tea. For an extra-special treat, use clotted cream or crème fraîche. These strawberry sandwiches can be found in The River Cottage Cookbook.

6.  Strawberry Compote

A compote is made by slow-cooking fruit in sugar with a liquid, such as water, wine, or liquor, until the mixture is thick and syrupy and the fruit is tender while still retaining its shape. It can be served warm or cool and has a seemingly endless variety of uses. My favorite way to use strawberry compote is over Angel Food Cake, but it’s also a treat over pound cake. This recipe for Strawberry-and-Wild-Fennel Compote with Pound Cake makes a classic fresh by using a unique ingredient like fennel pollen. Use strawberry compote as a filling for crepes garnished with crème fraîche or spoon it over homemade vanilla ice cream. Enjoy Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote with Ginger and Lime for breakfast over yogurt and granola. A day where there is a jar of strawberry compote in the fridge is guaranteed to be a good one.

7.  Strawberry Pancakes

Sophie Dahl’s second cookbook, Very Fond of Food, is a seasonal, easygoing, personal collection of recipes and narratives paired with Jan Baldwin’s beautifully styled photos that make you wish you could walk right in and pull up a chair. Ever since discovering pillowy ricotta pancakes, I’ve been completely smitten, and cooking Sophie’s Strawberry Pancakes is a must for spring. Mrs. Dahl credits the recipe to the first cookbook she ever owned, The-Winnie-the-Pooh-Cookbook. For the batter, ricotta cheese, milk, eggs, baking powder, vegetable oil, and what I suspect is Sophie Dahl’s touch- spelt flour, is whisked together with chopped strawberries before being ladled by the spoonful onto a hot griddle. It’s best to share Sophie Dahl’s Strawberry Pancakes with a good friend on a sunny spring morning.

8.  Strawberry Ice Cream

Strawberry is my favorite flavor of ice cream, and making ice cream at home with freshly picked berries is the ultimate pleasure on a hot day. David Lebovitz’s recipe for Strawberry Sour Cream Ice Cream from his book, The Perfect Scoop, is balance of sweet fruit and tangy cream, without any eggs. The berries are macerated in sugar and kirsch for an hour until broken down and releasing their sweet juices, then pureed in a blender with sour cream, heavy cream, and a dash of lemon juice. After chilling in the fridge for an hour, the mixture is ready for your ice cream maker. For a more traditional, egg-based ice cream, try Nigella Lawson’s recipe for Strawberry Ice Cream.

9.  Strawberry Jam

Rachel Saunders of Blue Chair Fruit in California has a talent for selecting the very best fruits and making their flavor shine in jam. Her book, The Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, includes several recipes for strawberry jam, from the simplest Children’s Strawberry Jam which celebrates the pure, unadulterated flavor of perfectly ripe strawberries, to Grown-Up Strawberry Jam made with Drambuie liqueur. Other thoughtful flavor pairings include the Italy-inspired Strawberry Jam with Aged Balsamic & Black Pepper, as well as the Strawberry-Marsala Jam with Rosemary.

10.  Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea

I remember when I first saw the jug of Strawberry-Basil Iced Tea in the 2007 Issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine- it just looked so darned pretty. Hulled strawberries are tossed in basil simple syrup then steeped in a pitcher of tea. Once the mixture is chilled it’s ready to serve over ice with a basil garnish. Transport the tea in a large glass jar or jug, strawberries bobbing at the top, and enjoy on a picnic blanket while watching fireworks or attending a summer concert. Martha writes that, “small bags of pistachios are the perfect accompaniment.”

What is your favorite way to cook with strawberries? Share it in the comments section. Click Here.