You can find local strawberries now at our farmers markets; pick up enough to eat as you stroll the aisles while shopping. This sassy, red, delicate fruit is a delicious reward for surviving the long winter. Though late this season, this year’s crop of berries is bountiful.
While strawberry shortcake and freshly churned strawberry ice cream have their place, local strawberries defy dessert’s boundaries. They brighten savory dishes, too.
The other day, as we were prepping for a photo shoot, Mette Nielsen, who photographs this column, offered to shake up her family’s favorite dressing. Into a jar went the juice of a lemon and several teaspoons of honey. That was it: no herbs, salt or oil.
Having just returned from a visit to her hometown of Copenhagen, she explained that this is the Danish way to dress fresh vegetables, fruit and salad greens.
“Oil clouds the flavors and tends to tamp the crisp textures down,” she said.
We tossed together the strawberries, spinach and chile pepper, and then drizzled in the dressing. The lively essence of each simple component began to sing. This no-oil, but lemon and honey concoction is a total revelation to me. Nielsen recommends varying this combination with any citrus juice — grapefruit, tangerine, orange, lime — and trying it on a variety of fresh vegetable and fruit combinations as they come into season. Think arugula and raspberries, watercress and diced apples or pears, endive and blood oranges, radicchio and sliced grapefruit.
When shopping for strawberries, seek the tiny, plump, brilliant gems with vibrant green caps. Avoid boxes with too many juice stains. At home, do not rinse the berries until ready to enjoy as they will quickly become waterlogged. Store them in the refrigerator in a bowl or basket lined with a clean dish towel or paper towel. Allow them to come to room temperature before serving so that all of their flavors open up. They don’t keep more than a couple of days, so enjoy them right away.
Now that they’re abundant, we eat them through the day — on cereal and in yogurt for breakfast, tossed into salad for lunch with toasted baguette, drizzled with balsamic vinegar on a cheese plate with drinks; sliced and scattered with basil over toasted flatbread with dinner; diced and tossed with mint on lemon sorbet for a cool finish to a hot summer day.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.