Local strawberries made their first appearance of the year at the University Farmers Market last weekend. It wasn’t a hesitant debut but an unabashed statement of presence that couldn’t be ignored. Not that I’d want to. In terms of sheer amount, I probably consume more strawberries per season than any other berry. Part of that may be accessibility but mostly I just love the taste in all its incarnations. I hope you won’t get tired of hearing about berries this summer because I plan to eat them as often as I can.
Basil & strawberries — a match made in heaven. Try a couple sliced berries on a bed of fresh greens of your choice — arugula, spinach and lettuce, to name a few. Add some crumbled goat cheese and chiffonade several leaves of basil (just a fancy way of saying roll them up and then cut into thin strips) Dress with a vinaigrette of balsamic vinegar (white balsamic is a nice change) and olive oil. Salt & pepper. This salad is appropriate for any time of day. The combination of basil & strawberries is a “must try” for some lovely summer cocktail. I plan to bring that to the table at the next meeting of The Cocktail Study Club and I’ll keep you posted.
It doesn’t take much imagination to think of desserts using berries. Today I’m a little too impatient for ice cream or shortcake but want something more than whipped cream. I settled on Creme Anglaise which is basically a pourable custard. I have to admit that I was nervous about making this incredibly easy dessert. I had visions of curdled eggs or some such silliness. Even Alice Waters in The Art of Simple Food goes to great lengths to explain each step in such detail — I was sure I’d mess it up. You can call it beginner’s luck but it turned out velvety, smooth and definitely the kind of thing I can whip up in no time and impress family & dinner guests all summer long. I flavored mine with vanilla but now that I have more confidence, I want to try herbs — maybe even basil.
Berries with Vanilla Creme Anglaise
4 eggs yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 T sugar
2″ piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/2 cup toasted almonds (optional)
Fresh berries or other fresh fruit, sliced
Scrape the seeds from inside of the vanilla bean into the milk or cream.
Place milk, cream, sugar and the remaining vanilla bean in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously while it heats up slowly. Once it is quite warm remove a large spoonful of the hot liquid and stir gently into the egg yolks.
Stir the egg yolks into the hot milk mixture.
Do not let the liquid boil.
Continue to stir over medium heat until it thickens. Once it coats the back of a spoon, it’s done. For me, this took less than 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and with a sieve, strain into a bowl. Let it cool or serve warm over sliced fruit. Top with toasted almonds.
Now that berry season has begun, all I can say is — just keep ’em coming.