Enjoying spring's abundance of strawberries
A Tarte of Strawberries: Seson your Strawberries with Sugar, a very little Sinamon, a little ginger and so cover them…then lay upon a morsel of sweet Butter, Rosewater, and Sugar….” A Boke of Cookrye, 1591
Strawberries have been a favorite American treat from the time of our earliest settlements. Berry picking was a happy occasion in the spring with the rewards of ripe strawberries found under leaves nestled low to the ground. It’s convenient to find them so easily in our local grocery store today, but we miss the gathering and the walk. Look for local pick-your-own farms online. The price is right and the kids will love it.
All the Google listings for “strawberry celebrations” around the country attest to the continued popularity of this sweet-and-sour fruit. Locally, the Smith’s Castle Strawberry Festival would be a great day trip from Block Island. Held this year on June 16 (noon to 4 p.m.), the festival features games, tours of the 17th century home and servings of their celebrated Strawberry Shortcake. (Smith’s Castle is at 55 Richard Smith Drive, North Kingstown, 401-294-3521.)
Our favorite strawberry dessert is, of course, Strawberry Shortcake in all of its variations. Some of us prefer true shortcakes — more like a scone or a biscuit — while others like the little rounded sponge cakes. The two choices featured here are easy and play up the great berry flavor. Both the chocolate layer and the pound cake are the best of the recipes we’ve tried, and can be made ahead, frozen and thawed when needed. Be sure to use plenty of strawberries, ice cream and whipped cream!
The pound cake recipe is from the “Block Island Cookbook,” which was first compiled by the ladies of the First Baptist Church for a fundraiser in 1962. It’s still available at either the Harbor Church or Island Bound Bookstore.
Pam Gelsomini’s salad with strawberries is great with any kind of meal... or as your contribution to a potluck supper? The caramelized pecans add crunch and sweetness, or, according to your taste, can be left out altogether.
Now that we’re getting into the barbecue season, try this Strawberry Rhubarb Chutney alongside a grilled chicken breast for your next dinner party. Make it ahead and chill it. The combination of the warm chicken with the cold, savory chutney will be a hit.
Block Island Pound Cake with Strawberries and Ice Cream
From “Block Island Cookbook”
2 cups flour
¾ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2⁄3 cup whole milk
2⁄3 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1⁄3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
Vanilla ice cream
Strawberries, hulled, sliced and sweetened to taste
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Add the vanilla to the milk and set aside. In a larger bowl, blend together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time; beating well after each. Slowly stir dry ingredients into the butter mixture alternating with the milk. Do not overmix. Spoon mixture into the loaf pan and bake for approximately 1 ½ hours or until browned on top.Place slices of pound cake on individual dessert plates. Top with scoops of ice cream and strawberries.
Note: Pound cake can be baked and frozen until ready to serve.
Serves 8 to 10.
Chocolate Cake Layered with Whipped Cream and Strawberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Ghirardelli)
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole milk
1⁄3 cup cooking oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) whipping cream
1 pound strawberries, hulled and sliced
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and lightly flour a 9-inch round cake pan.
In the mixing bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine on very low speed. Add milk, oil and vanilla and beat on low speed until just combined. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add egg and beat two minutes more. Pour into prepared pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick stuck into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and let cool thoroughly. Beat cream until soft peaks form, adding a little sugar, if desired. To assemble, slice horizontally across center of the cake to form two layers. Set top layer aside. Spread half of whipped cream over bottom cake layer. Scatter half of strawberries over whipped cream. Place second layer on top and repeat remaining cream and berries.
Note: Cake layer can be baked and frozen until ready to serve.
Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar just before serving.
Strawberry and Blueberry Salad
From Pam Anderson Gelsomini
½ cup milk
1 cup mayonnaise
2⁄3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)
4 teaspoons cider vinegar
Mix together all ingredients. Chill until ready to serve.
5 to 7 ounces of mixed greens (arugula, mesclun, baby spinach, red leaf, etc.)
1 small cucumber, cut in half-moon slices
¾ cup grape tomatoes, halved
¾ cup blueberries
¾ cup sliced strawberries
1 mango diced
¾ cup goat cheese, crumbled
¾ cup pecan halves, caramelized with ½ cup brown sugar ** (optional)
In a large salad bowl, layer all salad ingredients. Drizzle dressing over the top and toss lightly.
** To caramelize the pecans, combine pecan halves with brown sugar in a small skillet. Stir over medium heat. When sugar begins to melt, continue to stir until sugar coats all of pecans. Spoon onto a cookie sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
Strawberry and Rhubarb Chutney
4 cups sliced strawberries
2 cups 1-inch pieces of rhubarb stems
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
½ teaspoon dry mustard
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Stew over medium to low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour until fruits soften and juices become syrupy. Let cool to room temperature. Spoon into a refrigerator container, cover and chill.
Serve with grilled or broiled chicken or lamb.
Makes about 7 cups.