Friday, June 7, 2013

Whole Foods Feasting: Strawberries!

After long winters that seem to be filled with potatoes and squash, I get a little overexcited when the spring and summer produce shows up, looking all sunny and bright.

Strawberries are one of the things I look forward to, and for a while it seems like I can't get enough of them - buying them almost every time I go shopping.

At first, it's good enough to eat them plain, or perhaps with a little bit of whipped cream, or on top of ice cream.

When I've eaten my fill of plain berries, I start thinking about what else I can do with them. And that's when I start getting just a little more creative.

I love strawberry ice cream when it's made from fresh berries, and I've made several different versions over the years.

I've never made one with creme fraiche, though, and I have to wonder why. It's the perfect pairing, and the results were outstanding.

When I make strawberry ice cream, I always strain out the seeds. I don't mind seeds in jam or in strawberry pie or when I'm eating fresh strawberries. But I don't like seeds in ice cream, so I strain them out. If you don't mind the seeds, you can leave them in.

Put I suggest you try straining them out once, and see what you think.

Strawberry Creme Fraiche Ice Cream

1 pound strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups creme fraiche
1 tablespoon cake-flavored vodka

Wash, core, and quarter the berries and combine them with the sugar and salt in a small bowl. Let this sit at least a few hours, or refrigerate overnight. The berries will soften and release a lot of juice.

Blend the berries in your food processor or blender. Pass the puree through a fine strainer to remove the seeds. It takes a bit or work to get the majority of the pulp through the strainer, but I think it's worth it. I ended up with slightly less than 2 cups of puree once the seeds were removed.

Add the creme fraiche and vodka and stir (or whisk) until it's completely combined.

Refrigerate until well-chilled (check your manufacturer's instructions for how cold the mixture needs to be before churning). Once the mixture is chilled, churn in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

Transfer to a storage container and freeze until firm.

Strawberries and Vinegar

I'm sure you've seen all sorts of flavored balsamic vinegars - there are all sorts of flavors -with figs or vanilla or citrus. I don't know if I've ever seen a strawberry balsamic vinegar, but why not? Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a classic combination. Usually the vinegar - and usually a good balsamic vinegar - is drizzled over the berries.

But why not combine the berries and the vinegar?

This vinegar is fruity and thick and a little sweet. It would be perfect drizzled over fruit, or for a salad. Or over vanilla ice cream.

This isn't the time to break out the expensive balsamic vinegar. An inexpensive one is just fine. By the time you're done, it will taste more expensive.

Depending on how much you reduce this, you should end up with about a cup of the finished balsamic vinegar.

Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

1/2 pound strawberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
Pinch of salt

Clean, core, and quarter the strawberries, and add them to a heavy-bottomed pan (if you have a low-sided pan like a saucier, that's ideal.) Add the sugar, vinegar, and salt.

Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook, stirring and mashing the berries until the mixture is has thickened and has reduced by about half. Keep in mind that it will be even thicker after it has cooled.

Let the vinegar cool slightly, then strain through a fine mesh strainer, mashing and pressing to get as much of the berry pulp through while leaving the seeds behind.

Transfer to a bottle or jar for storage.
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