Vail Simply Seasonal: Strawberries are summer’s sweetheart | VailDaily.com

Vail Simply Seasonal: Strawberries are summer’s sweetheart

Sue Barham
Simply Seasonal
Vail, CO Colorado

Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado – With its delicate heart shape and passionate red color, it’s no wonder the strawberry is the sweetheart of summer. This berry is a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, and the ancient legends say that sharing a strawberry leads to falling in love.

Wild strawberry plants were first discovered in Italy around 234 B.C. When the first settlers to the New World arrived in Massachusetts, they learned that native Americans were cultivating the berry plants. The crushed berries were mixed with cornmeal and baked into strawberry bread. It is believed that the Colonists experimented with this dessert treat and from it developed what is known today as strawberry shortcake.

The western migration of American settlers and the discovery of the mild climate of California proved critical to the development of strawberry cultivation. Since 1900, farmers have grown this crop, improving upon cultivation techniques and developing new breeds of strawberries. Now over 25,000 acres throughout the state are devoted to this fruit. This accounts for approximately 80 percent of our nation’s strawberry consumption, while the rest comes from Florida.

Americans love strawberries – their favorite of the berry family. A boost to one’s health, a serving of eight medium strawberries provides more than the daily requirement of Vitamin C, while being fat, sodium and cholesterol free. And they contain too few calories to mention.

Eaten plain, strawberries are the perfect picnic food – sweet, juicy and slightly tart.

“Strawberries are a delicious addition to summertime salads,” said Jeremy Kittelson, executive chef at Restaurant Avondale. “Or whirl some in your blender for a nutritious breakfast shake.”

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He shares some easy recipes here:

Strawberry banana power shake

1 cup skim milk

3 tablespoons wheat germ

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 small very ripe banana

4 ice cubes

Place all ingredients in a blender; blend on high speed until smooth, scraping down ingredients in blender if necessary. Divide into two tall glasses and drink with a straw. Makes 2 servings.

Balsamic strawberries

16 ounces fresh strawberries, hulled and large berries cut in half

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Place strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle vinegar over strawberries, and sprinkle with sugar. Stir gently to combine. Cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours. Just before serving, grind pepper over berries. Serve with whipped cream, mascarpone cheese, as a topping for ice cream, or try as an untraditional strawberry shortcake.

Strawberry streusel muffins

3 cups flour

1 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup margarine

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 1/4 cups applesauce

1 cup strawberries, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Place paper cup liners in muffin pans. Combine streusel ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside. Combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder in a bowl and stir. In another bowl, cream margarine and sugar. Add eggs to the sugar mixture, beating to combine well. Stir in applesauce. Add the flour mixture, stirring just till moistened (don’t over mix). Fold in strawberries. Spoon batter into muffin liners about 2/3 full. Top with streusel. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Makes 15 muffins.

Streusel:

1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons butter, melted

Spinach strawberry salad

4 cups washed spinach, torn into bite size pieces

1 cup frisee

1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1 cup hulled, sliced strawberries

Salt and pepper to taste

Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup honey

1/3 cup olive oil

3 or 4 hulled strawberries

Toss all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Place the vinegar, honey and strawberries in a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking.

Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4. (Add roasted chicken to make this a main dish salad.)

Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale. Larkspur, (larkspurvail.com) at the base of Vail Mountain, has been serving American Classics with a fresh interpretation since 1999. Avondale, (avondalerestaurant.com) opened in September 2008 in the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa and features a West Coast inspired, market driven menu.