Strawberry-Rhubard Buckle

Happy 4th of July! Always a fun weekend of friends, family, festivities and of course, fabulous food. The past few years I’ve celebrated by making a cherry-themed dessert; usually this is when I first see sour cherries at the farmers’ market and can’t wait to play with them. This year, the growing season is a bit behind schedule so while there weren’t any sour cherries to be found, the rhubarb was still going strong.

I’ve actually baked with rhubarb more this year than I ever have before. It’s been a recurring item in my CSA (community supported agriculture from Harvest Moon Farms) for three weeks running, not to mention the two weeks prior that I bought rhubarb at the market.

With all that rhubarb, I’ve almost run out of things to do with it. I made a rhubarb cake-pie, rhubarb tart and roasted rhubarb, and then finally this week a strawberry rhubarb buckle.

I used my favorite white peach and blueberry buckle recipe as a base but used strawberries, rhubarb and ginger as the main ingredients. Strawberries and rhubarb are classic combination, and the two types of ginger (ground and crystallized) add a bit of a kick to the buckle and help soften both the tartness of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the batter. If you’re not a ginger fan, go ahead and cut back the amounts a bit, but I’d still recommend leaving some in for a fun contrast in flavors.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Strawberries: Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries & Balsamic

Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries & Balsamic Drizzle

Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries & Balsamic Drizzle

I sort of lost my cooking mojo this week. Similar to writer’s block it wasn’t that I couldn’t cook, just that I was having a difficult time finding inspiration and the dishes I did prepare were just okay, certainly not worth blogging about. And I’d hate to waste your time on just a so-so recipe.

So I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was when the idea for meringue hit me out-of-the-blue last night. I hadn’t made meringue in a long time but I’ve always loved the simplicity of whipping some egg whites with sugar and getting a dessert. I also decided to make a strawberry topping to celebrate the end of strawberry season in my area, and also because I had a lot of them sitting around.

Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: whipping egg whites to soft peaks Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: soft peaks Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: slowly add sugar

Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: stiff peaks Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: fold in flavorings Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: baking Pavlovas

(Short story: I was very late arriving at the market last week, in fact I didn’t get there until a half hour before closing. I usually try to go early because the produce can get picked over, but that just wasn’t going to happen. Anyways, as I was leaving I passed a farmer trying to unload the last of his strawberries. Being the sucker that I am (for strawberries and in general), I agreed to buy three quarts for the price of two. I valiantly made it through two of the quarts all by myself, but I still had one left and the berries were beginning to go bad. Needless to say, I was desperate to find a proper use for them.)

Pavlova is essentially meringue (egg whites and sugar) with a small amount of corn starch and vinegar baked at a low temperature. The result is a crispy shell surrounding a marshmallow-like center. The Pavlova originated in Australia or New Zealand (apparently both countries take credit for it) and is traditionally made in one large circle and is topped with whipped cream and fruit.

Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: whole strawberries Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: sliced strawberries & sugar Pavlova Clouds with Strawberries: strawberry juice

Today I made it a bit differently, first by making 10 small abstract “clouds” instead of one large round disk. And second by topping the clouds with macerated strawberries and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar, which allowed me to omit the whipped cream making the dessert a bit lighter and healthier.

The Pavlova clouds are a lot of fun to make and very simple. The batter comes together in less than 10 minutes and bakes without a lot of fuss. All-in-all, a fun and whimsical summer treat.

Here’s the recipe:

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones Just in Time for Memorial Day

Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones

Strawberry-Rhubarb Scones

Sometimes I feel the need to bake, but the thought of walking across the street to the grocery store is just too much to handle. Yup, I can be very lazy, but that laziness can sometimes lead to something great.

Take these strawberry-rhubarb scones. They were born out of sheer laziness but quickly became a springy delight, perfect for Memorial day. I picked up a bunch of rhubarb at the farmer’s market on Wednesday without knowing what to do with it. By Thursday night I was in the mood for some baked goods, namely muffins. So I thought “how about using the rhubarb to make muffins?”

Scones: ingredients for strawberry-rhubarb compote Scones: add strawberries to compote Scones: chilled strawberry-rhubarb compote

Good thought, right? Well it would have been if I’d had eggs, an essential ingredient in muffins. That dilemma got me thinking about what else I could make with rhubarb using only ingredients I had on hand.

A search of Epicurious.com lead me to a recipe for rhubarb and raspberry jam roly-poly. I had no idea what a roly-poly was but quickly learned it’s similar to a scone. Hmmm… scones… interesting…

Scones: chilled diced butter Scones: dry ingredients with butter Scones: butter mixed into dry ingredients

The recipe you see here is based on the roly-poly recipe but tweaked quite a bit. For instance, I used half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose to make the scones a bit more nutritious (I cut the amount of butter a little for the same reason). I also added 1/2 cup of diced strawberries instead of raspberry jam to the compote, part of which is mixed in with the dry ingredients; the rest is saved for topping the cooked scones.

Scones: dough Scones: cut shapes Scones: just baked

There are quite a few more tweaks, but by this point I think you get the picture. Here’s the recipe:

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Strawberry Celebration, Part 2

Long Grove Sign Strawberry Product Signage

Friday my mom and I had our annual visit to Long Grove’s Strawberry Festival, my favorite of all the suburban fests due to the simple fact that it’s a celebration of my favorite fruit. It’s our tradition to go every year and we figure we’re two of just a few locals to battle the crowds, but it’s worth it for the chocolate covered strawberries from Long Grove Confectionary (which, to be honest, are available year-round) and fresh-roasted corn-on-the-cob dipped in butter. We even added an extra treat to our usual repertoire after seeing a happy, chocolate-covered family – they had just finished eating a strawberry-rice krispie treat-donut hole-marshmallow kabob dipped in chocolate. We purchased two, one of each dipped in dark and milk chocolate. A totally messy delight!

Mom & Jackie

This year we were lucky to be able to go on a beautiful Friday afternoon when the crowds were moderate and very friendly. Also worth noting: even the port-a-potties were better than expected - they were clean and came with a hand-washing station complete with soap, water and paper towels.

Hand washing station

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Stawberry Celebration, Part 1

Strawberries

Strawberries abound this week in Chicago! With their short two month growing season of June and July, strawberries are at their peak right now, which has led to celebrations throughout the area of my favorite fruit.

Today the Green City Market’s Savor the Seasons Series focused on local strawberries, which included a horizontal tasting of six varieties from local farmers. And this weekend Long Grove will host its annual Strawberry Fest, my favorite suburban fest.

My adventure into the world of strawberries began early this morning at the Ellis Farm (based in Benton Harbor, Michigan) stand where they were offering three types of strawberries: Early Glo, Jewel and Honey-Eye. The friendly and well-informed producer described the taste profiles of each type of strawberry to me and also highlighted their differences. I was amazed that so many different varieties existed – I always knew the farmer’s market strawberries were a different variety than the often-bland but beautiful types found in the grocery stores, I just didn’t realize that there were so many varieties available locally.

I then moved on to the market’s strawberry tastings where I tried three more varieties grown by other farmers: Darselect, Wendy, and Allstar, all delicious in their own way.

In the end, I bought one pint each of the Early Glo and Honey-Eye from Ellis Farm but think next week I’ll try the Darselect, which I really enjoyed. While I could cook with these berries and make all sorts of delicious concoctions, I’d rather enjoy them raw just as they are.

Strawberry Flavor Profiles

Early-Glo – This was the last picking of these small, somewhat tart berries known for their overwhelming strawberry flavor and scent. They are good for eating fresh.

Honey-Eye - Large, deep red berries with a good strawberry flavor that is moderate in both sweet and tart tastes. Good for pies.

Jewel - The sweetest of the three berries with a shiny skin but lacks a pronounced strawberry flavor.

Darselect - Mild and sweet with an aromatic fragrance; one of my favorites.

Wendy - A new variety with a very fresh flavor, although I thought they tasted and looked like the generic berries found in grocery stores.

Tips & Techniques from a Green City Market Handout

- Strawberries vary in size, shape and color, with smaller berries typically having the better flavor than the larger varieties, since the latter can become wattery.

- Choose brightly-colored, plump, solid berries that still have their bright green caps attached.

- Do not wash strawberries until ready to use.

- To refrigerate, lay strawberries in a single layer on a paper towel-lined baking sheet uncovered for no longer than two to three days.

- To freeze, arrange as above but in the freezer. Once frozen solid, place in an airtight plastic bag inside another bag to prevent freezer burn and off-odors.

- Strawberries are an excellent source of Vitamin C, Potassium and Iron.

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