Serve a special strawberry dessert or salad at spring occasions

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By Ann Cipperly

With many occasions coming up this spring, plan on including a special strawberry pie, cake or salad on the menu. Strawberries are a versatile fruit and many people’s favorite berry.

While looking over strawberry recipes in my files, I found several from restaurants that have been favorites over the years. Chef David Bancroft’s Strawberry and Walnut Salad has been a signature at his popular restaurant Acre. The chef combines the strawberries with bleu cheese, bacon and candied walnuts with his Sherry-Honey Vinaigrette for creating a special salad.

Janice Ryan serves a similar strawberry salad with feta cheese, sugared walnuts and balsamic vinegar dressing. You can make your own dressing or use a purchased dressing.

One of the best Strawberry Cakes I have tried was served at The Farmhouse restaurant at Serenbe, an agri-community in the Chattahoochee Hill Country near Palmetto, Ga.  The 1905 farmhouse was restored by Marie and Steve Nygren, who founded the community with a 25 acre organic farm.  Marie grew up in the restaurant business with her mother owning Mary Mac’s Tearoom in Atlanta.

The Nygrens had also been in the restaurant business in Atlanta, owning the Peasant Restaurant Group.

When we visited The Farmhouse years ago for an article, Chef Wendy Parker graciously served refreshments in the afternoon, including lemonade and tea favored with fresh mint with marinated cheddar cheese slices. We sampled those on the porch overlooking the garden.

During the afternoon, Chef Parker was baking strawberry cakes in the open kitchen.  The aroma had drifted through the farmhouse to the porch. We knew we would be ordering a slice of the three layered fresh strawberry cake filled with cream cheese enriched frosting.

It was so delicious that I asked Chef Parker for the recipe. Later that night I found the hand written recipe pushed under our door at the inn. I was so glad I asked her for the recipe, especially since she is no longer the chef there.

Since the cake recipe calls for fresh strawberries, be careful not to get too much juice in the batter or frosting.

When purchasing strawberries, select ones with a natural shine and fresh looking with a green cap. Check the bottom of the container for red stains, indicating deteriorating berries.

Rinse strawberries quickly in a colander under cold water. Never soak them. They are a good source of vitamin C and low in calories.

Although no one knows where strawberries received their name, one version tells of Anglo-Saxon children stringing berries on straws and selling them.

Roman writers mention the consumption of wild strawberries. In the late 16th century, strawberries were noted as a dessert to be eaten with cream or wine.

In America, Indians were fans of the Virginia strawberry. The Natchez Indians designated “strawberry moon” as one of the 13 months in their calendar year.

Widespread cultivation of strawberries in America did not occur until the mid-18th century when the Erie Railroad began operating. It was reported that 80,000 baskets of strawberries were delivered to New York City in 1847.

Fortunately, strawberries are readily available in local markets. This coming week, treat your family to a scrumptious strawberry dessert or enliven a salad with strawberries that everyone will relish.

Ann Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

RECIPES:

Strawberry-Walnut Salad
Chef David Bancroft of Acre
Salad:
6 oz. bag baby spinach
1 1/2 cups candied walnuts
6 strips crispy cooked bacon
1 cup bleu cheese crumbles
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
8 oz. Sherry-Honey Vinaigrette
Sherry-HoneyVinaigrette:
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. white truffle oil
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
Add all ingredients for vinaigrette to mixing bowl and whisk together well before serving (or blend in food processor).
Arrange plates according to desired serving size and portion spinach equally. Portion each salad topping evenly among plates in layers. Last, make sure vinaigrette is emulsified, and drizzle evenly over salad. Serve immediately and offer fresh cracked pepper! Serves 4 to 6.

Strawberry and Orange Salad
Mary Counts of Pennie and George’s Kitchen
Dressing:
1/3 cup raspberry vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 small red onion, finely minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. paprika
Salad:
1 1/2 lb. spinach and 1 1/2 lb. arugula, washed and torn into pieces (may substitute mesclum mix or add watercress)
1 can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
2 cups strawberries, stemmed and sliced
2 cups orange segments
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts
For the dressing, combine vinegar, sugar, lemon juice and salt in a saucepan. Heat until sugar dissolves, stirring frequently. Cool to room temperature. Whisk in oil, onion, poppy seeds, dry mustard and paprika: set aside.
For the salad, combine greens, water chestnuts, strawberries, oranges, and nuts in a salad bowl. Add a little of the dressing at serving time; toss gently. Serve remaining dressing on the side. Dressing can be prepared ahead and refrigerated. Be sure to whisk well before using.

Fresh Strawberry Cake
The Farmhouse at Serenbe
3 1/3 cups plain flour
1/3 tsp. salt
3 3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup soft butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
9 oz. (a heaping cup) fresh crushed strawberries
Sift first 3 ingredients together; set aside. Cream sugar and butter. Add eggs one at a time. Fold in vanilla. Add sour cream and buttermilk. Add sifted ingredients alternately with crushed strawberries. Cream about 3 minutes.
Pour into three lined and greased floured cake pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until tests done.
Frosting
2 lb. confectioners’ sugar
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup crushed strawberries
1 stick softened butter
Beat all ingredients with mixer. Spread on cooled layers, top and sides of cake.

Fresh Strawberry Pies
Carol Dillard
Crust:
2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
Combine ingredients and pat into 2 deep-dish pie plates or tart pans.  Cover with foil; fill with beans or rice. Bake at 250 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove foil the last few minutes of baking. Cool.
1st layer:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip or whipped cream
Spread onto crust.
2nd layer:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
3 Tbsp. strawberry gelatin
2 pints fresh strawberries
Combine sugar, water and cornstarch; bring to a boil; cook until clear.
Add gelatin while hot. Stir to dissolve; cool.
Slice strawberries and add to mixture or place whole strawberries on pie and pour gelatin mixture over top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Pies should be completely cooled before slicing.

Strawberry, Sugared Walnut and Feta Salad
Janice Ryan
12 cups romaine lettuce
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 cups strawberries, sliced
Balsamic vinegar dressing
1½ cups sugared walnuts (recipe follows)
In large bowl, combine romaine lettuce with strawberries, feta cheese and sugared walnuts. Add balsamic vinegar dressing and toss.
Sugared Walnuts:
1 1/2 cups walnuts
1 stick butter
2 cups brown sugar
Melt butter in saucepan or sauté pan over low heat. As butter begins to soften, add brown sugar, stirring constantly. When brown sugar begins to bubble on medium heat, continue stirring for two more minutes. Add walnuts and stir until coated with sugar. Pour sugared walnuts onto waxed paper. Allow to cool completely. Break walnuts apart before adding to salad.

Strawberry Bread
Lindsey Beno
2 cups chopped strawberries
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
4  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs
2/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
In one bowl add flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Mix together.  In another bowl whisk together eggs, canola oil, vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Gently add strawberries.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Place batter in two greased 4 x 8-inch baking pans in 350-degree oven for one hour or until done.

Strawberry Trifle
1 qt. strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound cake, sliced
1 large box vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped with 1 Tbsp. sugar
Save 8 strawberries to garnish. Add sugar to strawberries; refrigerate 30 minutes. Make pudding as directed on box.
Line bottom of 1 qt. glass bowl with cake slices. Pour half the berries over cake and then pour half of custard over all.
Top with second layer of cake and repeat with berries and custard. Cover; refrigerate overnight. Before serving spread whipped cream over top; garnish with the 8 strawberries.

Strawberries Filled with Cream
Peg Weiss
16-18 large strawberries
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese or cream cheese
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Cut green stems off strawberries, so they will stand upright when placed on serving tray. With a small sharp knife, cut an “X” in each strawberry, cutting almost to the bottom. The cut should be such that the strawberry will open up but not fall apart.
Make filling by whipping mascarpone cheese and whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.
Pipe or spoon the filling in the strawberries. If not serving immediately, cover and place in refrigerator until serving time.

Strawberry Bruschetta
This is great served at breakfast or a snack anytime.
4 thick slices whole-wheat or white bread
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 cups sliced or diced hulled strawberries
4  Tbsp. mascarpone or cream cheese
Toast bread in a toaster.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over high heat. Add sugar and lemon juice and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts and mixture begins to bubble, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add strawberries and stir until berries are heated through, 30 seconds to 1 minute more.
Spread 1 Tbsp. mascarpone on each piece of toast. Top with the warm berries.

Cheesecake Strawberries
These are so easy but taste delicious.  A restaurant served these at the Taste of the Town one year, and they were a hit.
1 lb large strawberries
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 to 4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Graham cracker crumbs
Rinse strawberries and cut around top of strawberry. Remove the top and clean out with a paring knife, if necessary (some may already be hollow inside). Prep all strawberries and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until creamy. Add cream cheese mix to a piping bag or Ziploc with the corner snipped off. Fill strawberries with cheesecake mixture. Once strawberries are filled, dip the top in graham cracker crumbs or sprinkle crumbs on top. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until serving.

Strawberry Pudding
Anita Thompson
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. flour
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
Combine above ingredients and cook in top of double boiler until thick.
Vanilla wafers
Strawberries
Layer vanilla wafers and strawberries in casserole dish, ending with strawberries. Pour pudding mixture over each layer. Line edge with wafers.
Meringue
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
Beat egg whites and gradually add sugar; beat until stiff peaks are formed. Spread on top of pudding and brown in oven.

Strawberry Cheesecake
20 graham crackers, crushed
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
Filling
Three 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
Strawberries
Combine cracker crumbs, sugar and butter; press into bottom of spring form pan. Chill.
Beat cream cheese; add sugar and beat in eggs one at a time. Fold in vanilla. Pour into crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes or until center is set. Cool 15 minutes. Prepare topping.
Combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla; spread over cheesecake. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes until set. Chill. Cover top with strawberries.

Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake
2 cups flour
5 Tbsp. sugar, divided
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup milk
2 pints strawberries
1 cup whipping cream
Combine flour, 2 Tbsp. sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in milk. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough 10 times. Pat into a greased and floured 8 inch cake pan. Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool five minutes; remove from pan. Slice strawberries reserving several for garnish. Toss with 2 tablespoons sugar.
Slice shortcake. Beat cream with 1 Tbsp. sugar. Drizzle juice from strawberries on bottom half of shortcake.  Spread with half of whipped cream. Arrange berries over cream. Place remaining layer on top. Cover with whipped cream and reserved whole berries.

Strawberry Pie with Meringue Crust
Crust:
3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
23 Ritz crackers, crushed
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
Filling:
1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup sugar
1 qt. strawberries, sliced
To make crust, beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar; mix. Fold in vanilla, crushed crackers and pecans. Bake in a greased pie pan in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool.
Beat cream until stiff; add sugar. Sweeten strawberries if desired. Fold into cream. Pour into cooled crust. Chill two hours or a day ahead.

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