Star Ingredient

Star Ingredient: Strawberries

Some people have compared biting into this week’s Star Ingredient, the Strawberry, as a taste of sunshine and I totally agree!  And while it’s the first fruit to ripen in the Spring, it always reminds me of Summer!  But didjaknow that the strawberry we enjoy today was first bred in France in the 1750s?  Before that there were smaller, less sweeter strawberries that grew wild in the woods in North and South America.  Another fun fact…the strawberry is not really a berry.  It’s a member of the Rose family.  Technically it’s an aggregate accessory fruit which is the reason the seeds are on the outside of the fruit rather than inside.  And while the seeds have an annoying habit of getting stuck between ones teeth…strawberries are so delicious that it’s worth the aggravation! 

We Should Call It The Mighty Strawberry!

Strawberries are believed to help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.  They are low in calories and high in Vitamins C, B6 & K, fiber, folic acid, potassium and amino acids.  They’re also high in nitrate which increases blood and oxygen flow to the muscles.  Research suggests that people who load up on strawberries before exercising have greater endurance and burn more calories.  Furthermore, they can help prevent big spikes in both blood sugar and insulin levels.  So not only is the strawberry sweet…it’s very healthy! 

Taking Care Of This Week’s Star!

Storing and prepping are rather easy!  If you are planning to keep your strawberries in the fridge for a few days, wait until before you eat them to clean them.  Rinsing them speeds up spoiling.  Then wash them and cut the stem away and you’re ready to go.

So Many Ways To Prepare This Week’s Star!

There are soooo many ways to eat strawberries, I don’t know even where to begin and doubt we could list all the ways in just one blog post but let’s try, shall we? Let’s start with eating them raw…I could eat a whole pint fresh from the field or market just as is.  But you can cut them into halves or quarters and mix with other berries to make an incredible fruit salad or slice them down and turn them into a topping for green salads with nuts and other goodies.  And chocolate covered strawberries are perfect to eat or to give as gifts.

Then you have your strawberry drinks like shakes and smoothies.  Mix strawberries in with lemonade for the perfect refreshing Summertime beverage.  Or just put strawberry slices in your water bottle for instant flavoring without added calories.  You can also add them to vodka or liquors to make all sorts of cocktails.  Strawberries are even used in making beers and wines!!

Next up you can bake them in muffin and brunch breads.  Use them in tarts and cakes (and even decorate the cakes with sliced strawberries, too).   And pies…who can resist a Strawberry Pie?  Strawberries can also be easily turned into jams, jellies, spreads and fillings. Try them in Chef Diana’s Strawberry & Yogurt Spoon Cake.

Oh, let’s not forget about cooking them down to make a sauce or reducing them even further to make a syrup.  You can add the strawberry sauce to oils and vinegars to make both savory and sweet dressings.  Chef Diana has introduced me to shrubs, preserved juices with vinegar, and strawberries are PERFECT for this!