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Berry sweet: Low in calories, high in nutrients, strawberries rule

 

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Recipes featuring juicy strawberries are especially popular in late spring to early summer. Keep reading for tips from experts on how to select, store and use strawberries to reap the most flavor. The recipe for this strawberry pie is included today.

Recipes featuring juicy strawberries are especially popular in late spring to early summer. Keep reading for tips from experts on how to select, store and use strawberries to reap the most flavor. The recipe for this strawberry pie is included today.
Photo by: Courtesy

 

Strawberry mice are super simple to make and should entice any child to eat fruit.

 

This scrumptious homemade shortcake with whipped cream elevates the dessert to another level.

 

 

Jan Swoope

 

Few things taste better than a bowl filled with fresh-grown strawberries during a Southern spring and summer. Not only are they delicious and beautiful in all their red-ripened glory, but this fruit is naturally high in fiber, Vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants. But back to that taste ...  

 

Juicy and lusciously sweet, good strawberries can be enjoyed fresh, or frozen, in desserts, cereals, yogurt or salads. You can even drink them in shakes, juices and, yes, even cocktails. 

 

Selecting the best berries isn''t rocket science, but there are a few things to remember to get the most for your money. 

 

 

 

Berry tips 

 

Locally-grown berries are going to be sweeter and juicier than those bred for shipment. Farmers'' market shoppers in Columbus and Starkville might be lucky enough to get freshly-picked strawberries at their markets, but don''t put it off -- as temperatures rise, the strawberry season wanes. And unfortunately, even when they look good, strawberries out of season often lack that premium taste. 

 

Shop with your nose. Look for the most fragrant berry you can find. Plump, firm, uniformly-sized, bright-red strawberries, with no white of green "shoulders" at the stem end, are what you want, say experts. 

 

Remember that strawberries don''t ripen after harvesting (like tomatoes can), so choose fully-ripened ones and plan to eat them pretty soon. 

 

The green leaf-cap should still be attached and not brown or wilted. Of course, avoid berries with soft spots, bruising or mildew. (Mold spreads quickly, so never leave a moldy berry next to a good one.) 

 

Savvy shoppers will check the underside of the container before buying to make sure there are no squashed fruit or red juice, which is a sign of over-ripe berries. 

 

 

 

Size doesn''t matter 

 

Strawberries can be as small as a grape or as large as golf balls, but size does not determine taste. In fact, the smaller berries are often more flavorful than their big brother counterparts. 

 

Keep in mind this fruit is delicate and doesn''t store all that well. They can be kept in the refrigerator for two to three days, says whatscookingamerica.com, preferably in a single layer on a paper towel-lined tray. Don''t wash the berries or remove the caps until just before you use them. Removing the caps before storing allows strawberries to absorb moisture and lose taste. Another short-term storage suggestion online is to keep them uncovered in a colander in the fridge, allowing cold air to circulate around the berries. 

 

This pretty fruit tastes best at room temperature, so for maximum zing, remove them from the refrigerator about an hour before you plan to enjoy them.. 

 

Are your taste buds tingling yet? If so, make a point of heading to your farmers'' markets this Saturday on a berry quest (also on Thursdays from 6-10 a.m., and Mondays 5-7 p.m. in Columbus). Watch seasonal roadside produce stands, too. Even if you don''t come home with strawberries this time out, you''re sure to discover something remarkably fresh, locally-grown and bursting with flavor. 

 

 

 

STRAWBERRY PIE 

 

Serves eight  

 

 

 

For the crust: 

 

1 cup all purpose flour 

 

1/3 cup confectioners'' (powdered or icing) sugar 

 

1/8 teaspoon salt 

 

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

 

 

 

For the filling: 

 

12 ounce bag frozen unsweetened raspberries 

 

1/4 cup cold water 

 

1 package (1/4 ounce) unflavored gelatin 

 

3/4 cup granulated white sugar 

 

2 tablespoons seedless blackberry or raspberry jam 

 

4 cups (about 2 pounds) fresh strawberries 

 

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice 

 

Softly whipped cream 

 

 

 

For the crust:

     

     

  • Grease with butter or a non-stick cooking spray a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan with a removable bottom. 

     

  • In a food processor, place flour, sugar and salt and process to combine. Add butter and pulse until pastry starts to come together and form clumps. Place pastry in pan. 

     

  • Using fingertips, evenly press pastry onto the bottom and up sides of the pan. (You can use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface of the pastry.) Pierce the bottom of the crust with fork tines to prevent crust from puffing up while baking. 

     

  • Cover and place crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill (to prevent crust from shrinking while baking). 

     

  • On center rack, bake crust at 425 degrees until golden brown, about 13-15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
 

 

 

 

For the filling:

     

     

  • Defrost frozen unsweetened raspberries and process in a food processor or blender until pureed. Transfer to a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl and force juice from berries by gently pressing with back of a large spoon. 

     

  • With a small measuring cup sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup of cold water. Let this mixture sit for about five minutes, or until softened, and then microwave for a few seconds to dissolve gelatin. 

     

  • Meanwhile, place raspberry puree, along with sugar and jam, in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. Stir with wire whisk until jam dissolves and sauce comes to a boil. Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in dissolved gelatin. 

     

  • Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Transfer raspberry sauce to a bowl and refrigerate until mixture starts to gel (about 45-60 minutes). 

     

  • Meanwhile, cut strawberries into 1/4-inch slices and place in a large bowl and fold in thickened raspberry sauce, making sure all berries are coated. 

     

  • Pour strawberries into the baked and cooled pie shell and place in refrigerator until firm (about three hours).
 

 

(Source: "Great Pies & Tarts" by Carole Walter; joyofbaking.com) 

 

 

 

STRAWBERRY MICE 

 

 

 

Fresh strawberries 

 

Mini chocolate chips 

 

Black decorators'' icing 

 

Almond slivers 

 

Toothpick 

 

Red lace licorice 

 

Wedge of cheese (your choice) 

 

     

     

  • For each mouse, slice a small section from the side of a strawberry so it sits flat. 

     

  • Press a mini chocolate chip into the tip for a nose, using a small dab of icing to secure it in place, if needed. 

     

  • Add icing eyes and stick two almond slivers into the top of the berry for ears. 

     

  • For a tail, use a toothpick to carve a small hole in the back of the berry and push the end of a piece of licorice lace into the hole. Serve these berry cute treats with small triangles of cheese.
 

 

(Source: familyfun.go.com) 

 

 

 

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE 

 

Makes six 

 

 

 

1 1/2 pounds strawberries, stemmed and quartered 

 

5 tablespoons sugar 

 

2 cups all-purpose flour 

 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

 

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

 

2 tablespoons sugar 

 

3/4 teaspoon salt 

 

1 1/2 cups heavy cream 

 

 

 

For whipped cream: 

 

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled 

 

3 tablespoons sugar 

 

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

 

1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest 

 

     

     

  • Mix strawberries with 3 tablespoons sugar and refrigerate while juices develop, at least 30 minutes. 

     

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

     

  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Add heavy cream and mix until just combined. Place mixture in an ungreased 8-inch square pan and bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. 

     

  • Remove shortcake from pan and place on a rack to cool slightly. Cut into six pieces and split each piece in half horizontally. 

     

  • Spoon some of the strawberries with their juice onto each shortcake bottom. Top with a generous dollop of whipped cream and then the shortcake top. Spoon more strawberries over the top and serve. 

     

  • For the whipped cream, using a mixer, beat heavy cream, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until soft peaks forms, about one and one-half to two minutes.
 

 

(Source: Mary Nolan, foodnetwork.com)

 

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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