Summer is officially here and so are the strawberries in all their luscious glory. I can’t help myself from looking for some unusual ways to enjoy this old favorite. Don’t worry, I’m eating plenty of strawberries just the way they are, straight off the plant, nothing else required except maybe a bowl of homemade granola. But that hasn’t stopped me from searching around some of my favorite blogs where I’ve found a couple of great new ideas and had some revelations along the way that I want to share with you.
First blog stop was My New Roots where Sarah Britton had made a Maple-Tossed Beluga Lentil Salad from her friend’s new cookbook called The Green Kitchen. It’s everything — beautiful, seasonal and excellent picnic fare but my big revelation from this salad was the thinly sliced raw rhubarb. If you pucker up just thinking about it, think again. Once it’s coated with the maple-lemon dressing, it adds a sweet crunch instead. Brilliant.
As usual I messed with their recipe just a little bit – left out edamame, added more asparagus, topped it off with feta cheese and sliced spring onions. Here’s my version.
Strawberry Lentil Salad
Ingredients: 1/2 cup black lentils/ 1 thinly sliced small stalk rhubarb/ 10 – 15 sliced strawberries/ 10 asparagus spears, lightly steamed/ 2 or 3 spring onions, thinly sliced/ 10 or so basil leaves, sliced/ Feta cheese, crumbled.
Dressing Ingredients: 2T maple syrup/ 2T olive oil/ Juice of one lemon/ Salt & pepper.
Directions: Rinse lentils under running water/ Bring to a boil with 2 cups water. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 15-20 minutes. When almost done (tender but not mushy), drain, add salt and set aside to cool/ Place in large bowl with the rest of the salad ingredients/ Whisk together the dressing ingredients, add to the salad/ Toss everything together.
Last week I went to Staple and Fancy, one of Ethan Stowell’s many new restaurants. I was tempted to order the burrata appetizer but didn’t and somehow I’ve had burrata on my brain since. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, burrata is mozzarella filled with cream. I know. It sounds amazing and it is, but I started dreaming about adding some fresh strawberries and balsamic vinegar syrup. This wavers somewhere between an appetizer and dessert. Which brings me to my next revelation, balsamic syrup. I could almost trade in chocolate syrup after tasting this. Seriously.
Balsamic syrup is just 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar simmered down until it’s thick and syrupy. It takes about 5 to 10 minutes. Toward the end, stir it until it looks like chocolate syrup. If you cook it too long, it becomes balsamic candy.
The rest of the dish is just a matter of slicing some strawberries on top of a ball of burrata, add some sliced basil and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic syrup. You could easily do the same thing using a scoop of vanilla ice cream instead, basil and all.
My third revelation came after visiting Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks. She has such a great knack for combining ingredients in unusual ways. This may seem like a no-brainer but I’ve never even thought about using cherries and strawberries together. It makes total sense if you shop at the farmers market this time of year. Yesterday in Wallingford, the booths were loaded with both of these irresistible red fruits, thus her Red Fruit Salad Recipe.
Heidi makes her salad with brown sugar and coriander seeds. I went for my no-frills version, just red fruit.