This spring, berries take the cake

 

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Strawberry-picking time, that delicious ritual of springtime, is almost here. If you’re picking berries yourself, you know just how fresh your fruit is but if instead you buy your berries at a store, be sure to choose brightly colored, dry, firm, shiny, plump berries that have fresh-looking green caps attached. Avoid soft, dull looking or shriveled berries.

It may seem obvious to say, but strawberries should smell like strawberries. Take a whiff before you buy. Once you’ve gotten your supply, there’s no wrong way to eat a strawberry. They’re good to snack on out of hand, sliced to top your favorite morning cereal or in salads and other main-dish meals.

Here are some recipes ideas that are favorites of mine:

Strawberry Shortcake may be made so many ways, ncluding with purchased individual sponge cakes, pound cake, biscuits, white cake. To prepare your strawberries, take off the stem, cut into small pieces in a bowl and cover with sugar and or other sweetener. Let stand overnight to form more syrup. Layer desired amount on the cake of your choice and then top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Or think big and make a Strawberry Tallcake with a white two-layer cake. Make and cool your cake, then in a large bowl, combine 4 cups quartered strawberries, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 1 Tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Let sit 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk 2 cups heavy cream with 4 Tablespoons sugar until it holds a stiff peak. Use a serrated knife to slice both cake layers in half horizontally. Set rounded tops aside to use as your middle layers.

Place a tablespoon of whipped cream onto the center of a cake stand to hold your cake in place, then alternate layers of strawberries, whipped cream and strawberry jam. You can garnish the finished cake with a few whole strawberries.

Another sure-fire sweet-tooth pleaser is a No-Bake Fresh Strawberry Pie. To make your crust, put 25 chocolate wafers in a food processor and process until finely ground. Place 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 45 seconds or until chocolate melts, stirring every 15 seconds. Add melted chocolate and 2 teaspoons canola oil to processor; process until well combined. Gently press the mixture into bottom and up sides of a 9-inch pie plate or removable bottom tart pan that you’ve coated with cooking spray. Place in freeze 15 minutes or until set.

For the filling, place 6 ounces cream cheese (softened), 1/3 cup powdered sugar, and ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Fold in 2 cups Cool-Whip whipped topping, thawed, and then carefully spread the mixture over the bottom of crust.0508STRAWdrink

Now place 2 Tablespoons of seedless strawberry fruit spread in a large microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for 10 seconds or until softened. To this, add 1 tablespoon Chambord (raspberry -lavored liqueur) and ½ teaspoon lemon juice and stir with a whisk until smooth.

Add a half-pound of strawberry halves; toss to combine and arrange on crust. Chill for 30 minutes before serving.

A sure way to chill out on a hot day is with a Strawberry Smoothie, a simple and quick recipe that you can prepare in just five minutes.

In an electric blender, combine 10 ounces strawberries, 4 cups milk, 2 cups strawberry ice cream and 1 teaspoon lemon zest. Blend at high speed. Repeat for a second batch to make around 8 cups.

- – Feedback is a food columnist’s best friend. Send your thoughts on this column or ideas for future columns to Patt Welsh at pwelsh@shepherd.edu.

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