“Miss Jennifer! I found a perfect strawberry!” A mere three seconds later, “Miss Jennifer! I found another perfect strawberry!” A full minute passes: “Miss Jennifer! This is the perfect strawberry!” And so it went for the next twenty minutes or so. According to my little three-year-old friend (my neighbor’s precious daughter), the fields at the u-pick strawberry farm we were visiting were packed with perfect strawberries. And I shared her childish exuberance.
Meandering down the dusty aisles between slightly raised rows of strawberry plants searching for perfect specimens is exciting but also therapeutic. The sight of bright, shiny cardinal-red berries peeking out through green leaves is thrilling, while the repetitive motion of plucking them from the plant and dropping them into a bucket is relaxing.
Plus, strawberries are so pretty; they’re a treat for your eyes before you ever get them into your mouth. But good looks alone don’t get anything that’s edible very far with me. They’ve got to taste good too. When you’ve found yourself among a patch of really good strawberries, you’ll know it with just one bite. The brilliant red hue carries through the entire fruit; you’ll find little to no flavorless white core. And that translates into sweetness, a “perfect” (to quote my young friend) marriage of simple sugar with a tiny tang that pops up on the back end of your taste buds.
When I get my hands on some good berries, I eat them straight out of hand while they’re still warm from the sun to experience the best of the ruby gems. But if you’d like to make further use of them, here are two ways to embellish but not outshine them.
FRENCH TOAST WITH MASCARPONE & STRAWBERRY SYRUP
Tart, sweet, buttery, soft, creamy, sticky, and crisp. There’s so much going on at once in this dish, it’s like a party in your mouth. (I apologize for using such a cliché, but, in this case, the shoe fits. Another cliché, I know. I’m seeking help.) The cheese is a yummy mate for the strawberry syrup, which is incredibly easy to make. The French toast is a basic recipe. Feel free to sub some croissants or brioche for the white sandwich bread. You can also lighten it up a bit and use half-and-half instead of cream.
8 slices of white bread (or any bread you like)
3/4 cup of cream
2 teaspoons sugar, divided
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
8 tablespoons mascarpone cheese at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter
Whipped cream (optional)
Place strawberries in medium sauce pan with 1 teaspoon sugar and three tablespoons of water. Put on medium heat and simmer. Once the berries begin to break down, turn the heat back a bit and keep cooking until they start to thicken to a syrupy consistency. It should take about 10 minutes.
Heat the butter in skillet over medium-high heat.
Whisk together eggs, cream, and 1 teaspoon sugar.
Dip bread in egg mixture and cover all sides.
Make sure the pan is good and hot and place bread slices in single layer in pan and cook on each side until golden brown. You’ll probably have to do this in two or three batches depending on the size of your skillet. Keep the first slices finished warm on a plate with a loose tent of aluminum foil.
Once all the slices are done, put one on each plate and spread 2 tablespoons cheese on the toast. Top with a second slice and top that with strawberry syrup and, if desired (and why not?) whipped cream.
SIMPLE STRAWBERRY DIP
8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
1, 15-ounce jar of marshmallow cream
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Blend the cream cheese, marshmallow cream, and nutmeg with a hand mixer or with a whisk. Place the cloud-like mix in a pretty bowl and use whole strawberries, tops still on for handles, to scoop it up.
SEE ALL “STRAWBERRY FIELDS NOT FOREVER” PHOTOS HERE