Newsletters: 16 June, 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 16 June, 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
Who can think of anything but strawberry shortcakes when strawberry season opens? And why make do with those stale spongecake cup things when you can make real shortcakes?

Here’s the recipe my mom always used.

Strawberry shortcakes
1 quart strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
Mix strawberries and sugar; let stand 1 hour. (If you need to save time, stop here and just spoon the strawberries generously over good vanilla ice cream. Everyone will say “oooh” and you won’t even have to turn on the oven.)

1/3 cup shortening
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450. Use a pastry blender or two table knives to cut shortening into flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in milk until just blended. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently smooth into a ball and knead 20-25 times. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness and cut with a floured 3-inch round cutter (or other shapes as desired, adjusting baking times). Place about 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown, abotu 10-12 minutes. Split crosswise while hot. Butter them if desired; fill and top with strawberries and top with sweetened whipped cream: For 1 cup of whipped cream, beat 1/2 cup whipping (heavy) cream with 1 Tbsp. granulated or powdered sugar in a chilled bowl until stiff.
From: Betty Crockers’ cookbook (40th anniversary edition). Prentice Hall, c1991.

A slightly different way to do the berries:
10 cups sliced strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Crush 3 cups strawberries with a potato masher. Add remaining berries. Sprinkle with sugars and add vinegar. Stir until all berries are coated. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hr.
From: Cooking pleasures, June-July, 2000.

Index to all blog posts.

Medieval strawberry dessert

1 pint strawberries, hulled
1/4-1/2 cup red wine
2 Tbsp. rice flour
1/3 cup sugar
pinch each black pepper, ground ginger, cinnamon, salt
1 1/4 cups almond milk (unflavored)
1 Tbsp. butter or lard
2 tsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. dried currants

Pour wine over strawberries and mix gently, then pour off and discard the wine. Blend or process strawberries, rice flour, sugar, spices, and almond milk. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, and boil about 2 minutes to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in butter, then vinegar and currants. Pour into serving dish(es) and chill.

From: Hieatt, Hosington, and Butler, Pleyn Delit : medieval cookery for modern cooks. University of Toronto Press, 1996. ISBN: 0802076327

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.


native to: Europe and South America
in season here: June-early July
Strawberries are a huge source of antioxidants, but when they’re stored for more than a couple of days they lose a significant amount of their polyphenols and vitamin C. Therefore, strawberries sold at a farmers’ market or farm stand are actually better for you than the ones at the grocery store (as well as being the small, flavorful kind instead of those huge hollow things). Strawberries also provide lots of B vitamins, which help metabolize carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, and various minerals.

Researchers have also been looking at strawberries’ impact on blood sugar. The latest news from that direction is that strawberries can actually reduce blood sugar spikes from other foods eaten with them (so if you want whipped cream on your berries, go ahead, you’re covered). Strawberries have anti-inflammatory properties from their wonderful combination of phytonutrients, if you eat them often enough. They’ve also been linked to cardiovascular health, anti-aging benefits, and the prevention of cancer and neurological disease.

Strawberries have been cultivated for 300 years, but we were already eating tiny wild strawberries a couple of millennia ago. Today it’s the most popular berry in the world, unless you want to get technical and call bananas berries and strawberries “accessory fruits.”

If you need to store strawberries, they’ll do best in a cold, humid place such as a sealed container in the fridge, but make sure they’re not actually wet. The best thing to do is wait until you’re ready to use them to wash them, but if you like having a bowl of washed and hulled berries ready for snacking, try leaving them cut-side down on a towel to dry before boxing up the remaining few for the fridge or freeze them on a cookie sheet (bag them up once they’re frozen, of course).

The best way to serve strawberries? Once you’re through snacking on them plain, I recommend making a sauce by coarsely squishing about half of them and slicing any of the remaining berries that seem too big, adding a little sugar or honey if it seems to need it, and serving it over vanilla ice cream (but not too much, or you might run out of berries and be left with boring old ice cream).

Read more:
label-style nutrition data
lots of details, including a caution about oxalates for certain health conditions

Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.