Today marks the start of the 64th Annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival. So, when you are not having strawberry adventures on “Strawberry Lane” you can have them in your very own kitchen. After all, the festival only lasts for five sweet days, but the berries can be enjoyed for much longer.
Conor (my fiancé) and I grow strawberries in our garden, which makes us choosy about how we use our berries. Provided, we grow two different kinds so some are small and others are like those in the grocery market. The smaller ones don’t lend as much visual punch to recipes, but work well if you use enough of them. The three recipes for this week have larger berries in mind.
Each of these recipes is a good addition to any dinner, but they also transport well so spoil yourself and include them in your brown bag lunch next time you need something fun in the middle of the work day. Maureen’s Strawberry Green Salad has the unique distinction of being as quick to prepare as it is to devour. It brings new simplicity to making your own fresh salad dressing. You can almost picture high tea when you taste the Creamy Strawberry Pecan Spread on a warm biscuit. This recipe also works with frozen strawberries in a pinch. I couldn’t be happier with the Mascarpone & Strawberry Tart. This recipe is the result of my desire to combine the delicate texture of a tart with the comforting nature of pie. The result is perfection – or so Conor exclaimed after tasting a bite. I hope that you agree when you try these recipes when you have your own strawberry adventure.
Maureen’s Strawberry Green Salad
9 ounces baby spinach or romaine lettuce, clean and dry
1 pint strawberries, washed and sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (optional)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)
1. In a small mixing bowl, beat the mayonnaise, honey, and vinegar together. While continuing to whisk, gradually add the milk to the mixture. Make sure the ingredients are completely blended then mix in the poppy seeds. Do this as close to serving the salad as possible or refrigerate until used.
2. Place the fresh spinach or romaine greens in a salad bowl. Be sure to break the romaine lettuce slightly so you are not offering guests oversized salad ingredients. Toss the sliced onion in with the lettuce.
3. Spread the strawberry slices in the salad bowl and mix them into the greens.
4. Just prior to serving, whisk the dressing once more then pour over the salad. Toss the salad to make sure the onions, strawberries, and greens are lightly coated with the dressing.
5. Serve chilled. Feel free to offer plain goat cheese and melba toasts to accompany the salad.
Creamy Strawberry Pecan Spread
7 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and chopped
3 tablespoons chopped pecans
1 apples, cored and sliced
1 pears, cored and sliced
12 to 18 fresh biscuits
1. In a small mixing bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the cream cheese until it is fluffy.
2. Continue to beat the cream cheese and add the honey and ground ginger. Then mix in the chopped strawberries. Once the ingredients are blended completely, set aside the hand-held mixer and stir all but 1 1/2 teaspoons of the pecans in with the mixture.
3. Spoon the cheese mixture into a chilled serving dish or ramekin. Sprinkle the remaining chopped pecans over the top. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the cheese to set slightly. The spread can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
4. Garnish with the apple and pear slices plus any spare strawberries. Serve with the fresh biscuits (don’t forget spreading knives).
Mascarpone & Strawberry Tart
1 cup crushed digestive biscuits or shortbread cookies
1/2 cup quick cooking plain oatmeal
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon salted butter, softened
1/4 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup seedless strawberry or raspberry jam
4 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
9 ounces fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. Blend the unsalted butter and the cookie crumbs together. Press the mixture into a 9-inch round tart or quiche dish. Refrigerate the dish to let the crumb crust set.
3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and sugar together with a hand-held mixer. While continuing to blend with the mixer, add the salted butter, flour, baking powder, and jam. Do this until the mixture takes on a smooth texture.
4. Gently spoon the jam batter into the crust. Spread it evenly and all the way to the sides of the dish.
5. Bake in the oven for 18 to 23 minutes. Place the dish on a cooling rack or rest it on a larger dish that holds crushed ice. Once it has cooled to room temperature it is ready for its next layer.
6. Spread the mascarpone over the cake layer. Arrange the strawberry slices in a decorative circular pattern. Feel free to be creative with this and layer them to add dimension to the tart topping.
7. Cover the tart with plastic wrap to protect it from sediment. Refrigerate it for at least 20 minutes (no more than 24 hours). Serve with whipped cream.