When we think of summer’s pantry of ingredients, the dependable strawberry comes to the top of our list. With its vibrant red color, juicy texture and signature sweetness dotted with mild tartness, strawberries add dimension, flavor and color to a dish. They are also packed with the good-for-you stuff like vitamin c, potassium, fiber, folate and antioxidants making them both delicious and healthy; a culinary win-win. They are available year-round but summer is when they should truly be enjoyed, and using strawberries in your menu can be as easy as presenting them in a fruit tray to infusing them in your drinks. Read our chef tips from Chef de Cuisine Melissa Chickerneo on how to use one of our favorite summer ingredients.
Picking and Storing Strawberries
When it comes to strawberries as with most produce, locally is best. The farther berries have to travel, the sooner they have to be picked to distribute. This means they are picked before fully ripe and therefore, have less flavor. For maximum flavor, Chickerneo recommends buying strawberries in-season for your area and looking for berries that are bright red on the surface as well as under the leafy stem.
Once you are home with your lovely berries in hand, you might be tempted to rinse them off; however, hold the spray, says Chickerneo who cautions that washing strawberries can accelerate spoiling. Until you’re ready to use them, keep the strawberries dry and cool; the crisper drawer in your refrigerator is ideal.
Fresh off the vine, dipped in chocolate or a little sugar, whipped into a shortcake, baked into a macaron or blended into a morning smoothie are some of the many ways you can use strawberries. If you have ripe, local strawberries, Chickerneo says it’s best to keep preparation simple to maximize the flavor. For a different approach, try dipping them in mascarpone sweetened with a touch of vanilla or drizzling them with aged balsamic. If your strawberries need a boost of flavor, use them in a quick jam (recipe below) and add interesting herbs like rosemary. Use as a topping or filling for a dessert like our PB&J Cups with Strawberry Jam.
On the savory side, Chickerneo loves adding strawberries to salads like our strawberry and arugula salad pictured above, saying they pair particularly well with the spiciness from arugula, the creaminess from goat cheese and the sweetness from a balsamic reduction. Strawberries in cocktails? You bet, but forget the old Strawberry Daiquiri. Boil up a strawberry simple syrup for use in cocktails or mocktails. Simply replace the regular simple syrup in the recipe or get creative by adding it to sparkling wine or Champagne or try it in a light, neutral spirit such as vodka or gin along with fresh herbs as garnish.
Hungry yet? Try Chef Chickerneo’s #fromourkitchen recipe for Tuscan Strawberry Jam. Tag us on Instagram using @blueplatechicago.
- 2 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled
- 4 cups white sugar
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
In a heavy saucepan, mix together the strawberries, sugar, and balsamic vinegar. Stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high, and bring the mixture to a full rolling boil. Boil, stirring often, until the mixture reaches 220 degrees F (105 degrees C). Remove from heat and add rosemary. Transfer to a jelly jar. Refrigerate until cool. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks. Serve with grilled meat, soft cheese or on rustic bread.