Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Natives are Restless for Strawberries

ripe strawberries in a glass dish

There is a sense of urgency in the air.  No, not because we are heading into the last week of school and the kids are running here and there, needing extra cash for the multitude of activities their teachers have planned to keep them entertained and all the bag lunches that are waiting to be packed, not to mention the last minute morning scramble:
"I need a beach towel!"
"Where's my bathing suit?"
"Mom, did you sign my permission slip??!!"
"Don't forget to pick me up after school today!"
  All that madness is enough to send me right over the edge but that is not why I am feeling antsy.  To be honest, although I try to be as organized as possible and get upset with myself if I forget something for the kids, there is actually something far more important occupying my thoughts at the moment: it's native strawberry season on Cape Cod.  The fleeting moment of the year, the few weeks at the end of June when I need to eat until I am stuffed and jam my freezer full of the the delectable, tiny red berries to get myself through the winter. 
  I am not alone in my strawberry madness.  It's a mad dash to Tony Andrews Farm in East Falmouth to get the berries before they sell out every day.  I've written about this before.  My insanity is over obtaining the most delicious, sweet strawberries on the planet.  Pretty much everyone I know who grew up here longs for the native strawberries sliced and macerated in a bit of sugar, spooned over biscuit shortcake and smothered in whipped cream.  My aunt Janet arrived on Friday from New Hampshire where she has resided for most of my life and has gorged herself on the sweet treat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Although she will make a few more trips back to Cape Cod this summer to enjoy the beach and visit with family and friends, she knows those strawberries will be gone by the beginning of July.  We will all gather for Fathers' Day celebrations and again on my dad, Dick's birthday this week.  The dessert featured on the menu?  Strawberry Shortcake, of course!  There is no need to bake them in a cake, puree them into a cold soup or mask them between flaky pie crust.  We can save those techniques for frozen berries that have been hoarded away when we need our fix in the middle of January.  Now is the time to barely mess with the goodness Mother Nature has bestowed upon us.
  This June, I have been the lucky recipient of a multitude of strawberries from Val's garden.  Tiny, oh so sweet and just begging to be popped into my mouth as they sit on the kitchen counter ready to be devoured.  Sometimes we just slice them into a small dish and pour a little heavy cream over them.  The simplest of pleasures.  Then there is my Strawberry Shortcakes recipe however, Val makes hers with Bisquick from the recipe on the back of the box but if you don't have any on hand, this recipe uses pantry staples.  I usually forget to buy Bisquick so I had to make due somehow. Don't forget the whipped cream that Val heaps on top stating, "It's mostly air!"  Really, in fact, this makes a pretty healthy meal when you think about it.  Fresh, native fruit, dairy and a little carbs.  If that's not enough to justify eating as much as you can, remember strawberry season only comes once a year.

  The biscuits often outlast the strawberries until we can pick up more at the farm down the street. In the humid, Cape Cod weather, biscuits tend to go stale overnight.  Instead of throwing the stale ones into the compost and going through the effort of making more short cakes, I created this recipe.

strawberries, whipped cream and biscuit crumbles in a tall glass

Strawberry Shortcake Parfait
(serves 4)
Leftover biscuits
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 pinch of salt
2 pinches granulated sugar

Berry Mixture:
1 quart fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar

Whipped Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

  Crumble biscuits into a food processor or blender.  Pulse a few times to make large crumbs. Melt butter in a medium sized frying pan over medium low heat.  Add two cups of crumbs, a pinch of salt and two pinches of sugar.  Cook for fifteen minutes, stirring frequently until the crumbs dry out and become crisp.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Meanwhile, macerate the berries.  Slice the strawberries into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add 1/2 cup sugar.  Let rest until ready to serve.

Mix the whipped cream.  Add heavy cream, 1/4 cup sugar and vanilla to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Cover the whole operation with a dish towel to prevent cream from splattering all over your kitchen.  Whip cream on high for 1-2 minutes until thickened.

To serve: create layers in tall glasses by spooning a few tablespoons of crumbs on the bottom, a couple of tablespoons of berries and juice over the crumbs and topping the berries with 2-3 tablespoons of whipped cream.  Repeat the layers until the glass is filled.  Eat immediately and enjoy!

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