From shortcake and pie to fruit salads and parfaits, this ruby-red berry is the star of some classic desserts. While no one can deny the appeal of traditional combinations — like strawberries and rhubarb, or strawberries and whipped cream — this versatile fruit pairs well with infinite other ingredients. Here are a few unexpected flavor combos to help you experience strawberries in a whole new light.
I can still taste the tang of fresh rhubarb as my mom picked long stalks of the stuff from our garden as a kid. (I also remember yelling to my friends who always seemed to be grabbing it for a snack, “No! That’s not celery!”) But what a transformation: How soft rhubarb became in the oven, set in a custard pie filling along with sweet strawberries. Strawberry-rhubarb is the killer combination of spring. So as those first stalks are spotted in markets everywhere, these recipes are on our radar:
The Classic Approach:
1. Rhubarb Custard Pie: This is it! This is exactly the sweet and creamy pie I remember, the one I’ll make for our kids this spring.
We’re finally in the early days of strawberry season, which means it’s time to ditch those firm, dry, white-centered berries we know from winter and welcome in their place spring’s juicy, ruby-red beauties. While desserts like shortcakes, cheesecake and cupcakes are tried-and-true ways to put these sweet bites to work, savory favorites, too, are ideal for letting strawberries shine. If you’ve never before worked with strawberries in a non-dessert, try starting with a salad; you’ll be able to balance the fruit’s natural sugars with tangy, acidic flavors in the dressing and peppery greens, which means you won’t end up eating a too-sweet dish. Check out Food Network’s best-five strawberry salads below, each an easy-to-make pick that’s ready to eat in 25 minutes or fewer.
5. Strawberry and Mozzarella Salad — Think of this healthy 15-minute dish as a berry-focused take on a caprese. In place of traditional tomatoes there are bright strawberries instead, which pair well with the fragrant basil.
4. Green Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette — It takes just a few everyday ingredients and only five quick minutes to make Rachael Ray’s simple salad. The secret to guaranteeing bold strawberry flavor in her recipe is the strawberry jam featured in her dressing, plus a whole pint of the fresh fruit.
Here in New York City, strawberries arriving at the farmers market signal the arrival of summer and all the glorious fresh fruit waiting just around the corner. The simplest and often tastiest way to enjoy them is to pluck the stems from the top, and pop them in your mouth. Every now and then, I get fooled by a batch of berries that smell intoxicatingly sweet, only to bite into them and find my taste buds crestfallen. When that happens, there are a few things you can do to coax some flavor from your berries — jam and pie are usually at the top of my list. A more hands-off approach is roasting them. The oven does most of the work. The sauce can then be used as syrup for pancakes or a topping for sundaes, stirred into some plain yogurt for an inexpensive and healthier fruit-flavored version, or my other favorite — stirred into some sparkling water or seltzer for a summer spritzer.
I went to the farmers’ market to get strawberries. I thought I might have missed their short season, but they were in fact there. And then, as if I were somewhere I might never visit again, I suddenly needed everything else there, too.
I hadn’t thought of tea radishes or pink or icicle radishes either — or purple, yellow or white spring onions, carrots, herbs, peonies, tiny, odd lettuces — or shell peas. I didn’t need snap peas, but there they were, tight in their skins, like a bin full of miniature blimps. I wanted to see them again, so I took a picture. The farmer said I could even taste one. Almost involuntarily, I found myself unfurling a bag from the roll and stuffing some in.
The less common the vegetables were, the more I suddenly needed them. And now that I already had to carry a bag, there wasn’t much reason not to quench my drought of fresh chamomile flowers, or to fill the now obvious garlic-scape chasm in my life. I pressured a nearby stranger who claimed not to know what to do with radishes to drag them through butter and dab them in salt, and later saw her headed to the register with three bunches.