May is arguably the best month in Memphis. It’s not too hot, there’s a lot going on, and the strawberries are coming to market. In the past, I’ve made plenty of crisps and pies, but this year I find myself wanting something that takes less time and trouble in the kitchen. So I've made a greatest-hits list of strawberry “recipes.” (They’re so easy they hardly even qualify as recipes.) A few of these ideas lend themselves to picnicking and parties; all can be assembled by a confident child. And only one of them, the roasted strawberries, asks for any willingness to sample new flavors.
Strawberry Herb Water
I saw this in the lobby of a hotel. It was so pretty, but it was even more refreshing.
1 pint strawberries
A bunch of fresh mint or basil
Optional: sliced lemons, oranges, or cucumbers
Wash, trim, and slice the strawberries. Wash the herbs and remove stems. Take a pretty glass pitcher or an urn with a spout and place the berries and herbs inside. Fill with ice and water. Serve with ice in glasses.
Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar
One of my favorite desserts at my grandmother’s house was berries from her garden, served with nothing but sour cream and brown sugar. I’ve remixed this so my kids can indulge their desire to dip.
1 cup sour cream
Brown sugar to taste (start with about a tablespoon)
A pint or more of strawberries, washed and halved or quartered
Whisk together cream and sugar in a small bowl. Set out cut-up fruit and watch what happens.
Strawberry and Nutella Sandwich
This is the naughtiest of naughty treats. That’s all there is to say.
A pint of strawberries, washed, trimmed, sliced pretty thin
Good-quality soft white bread, like Arnold or Pepperidge Farm
Spread a thin layer of Nutella on each slice of bread. Arrange strawberry slices on half of them, and put the sandwiches together. Cut in halves so your kids and friends don’t just thrust entire sandwiches down their throats all at once, because they’ll want to.
Roasted Balsamic Strawberries
I used this technique most recently with grapes. The kids I was cooking with were extremely skeptical, but they adored the results.
A quart of strawberries, washed and quartered (other fruits you can do this with include grapes, quartered figs, and sliced plums)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
OR substitute vinegar and honey for balsamic glaze (made by Roland and available at Kroger)
Optional: twigs of rosemary or thyme; or ½ teaspoon vanilla and a few grindings of black pepper
In a sturdy baking dish, toss the strawberries, balsamic vinegar and honey (or sub ¼ cup balsamic glaze), and whichever combination of flavors you choose. Roast at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes, leaving in longer if you want the juices thicker. These are great on a salad or served over Greek yogurt with chopped, toasted hazelnuts.
True trifle involves pudding, usually flecked with chunks of pound cake (in a sense, the South’s banana pudding is in essence a trifle). This version is lighter, quicker, and I’d argue, better. It’s great for a party.
Enough for 16
1 quart heavy cream, chilled
2 quarts strawberries
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla, if desired
About 30-40 lemon cooler-type cookies, the slightly cakey kind coated in powdered sugar
Place a large metal bowl and a whisk or beaters in the freezer. Wash, trim, and slice the strawberries, then toss them with ¼ cup of sugar. Break the cookies into small pieces and reserve in a bowl. Whip the cream with the other ¼ cup sugar and optional vanilla until thickened and fluffy but not stiff.
Assemble the trifle either in one glass bowl or in individual glasses for single servings. Put a layer of whipped cream in the bottom, followed by a layer of berries, then crumbled cookies. Repeat, topping with a final sprinkling of berries and cookie crumbs. If you’re doing individual servings, proceed one layer at a time to ensure an even distribution.
Berry Picking Season is Here!
Strawberries are perfect in May, and June brings blueberries. Don’t miss out!
May through August. Strawberries, blackberries, plums, peaches, nectarines, and apples.
Nesbit Blueberry Plantation
June 15-July 10. Organic blueberries. Nesbitblueberry.com
The month of May.
Click on picktnproducts.org for info on local farm buys.