Strawberry Madness and Weekend Picks

Posted on June 16, 2011

On Monday I had two pints of fresh local strawberries in the refrigerator.  By Tuesday, one pint had been eaten, all by myself I confess, sliced into plain yogurt.  On Wednesday, the second pint almost suffered the same fate.  No longer enough berries to turn into a shared dessert for the family, my id reasoned, so might as well.  Into the colander they went.  I washed them, I set them to drain.  I collected bowl and spoon.

Luckily for the rest of the family, I left the draining berries for a few minutes to check in with friends on Facebook.  Appearing at the top of my wall was this from Jacqueline Church, known around Boston and on the web as the Leather District Gourmet: “Shortcakes, jams, crepes are everywhere. What about savory strawberry recipes?”

What indeed?

Jacqueline suggests a salad with fresh strawberries.  I offered one last year at the beginning of CSA season.  A splash of a good, oaky vinegar will brighten the sweetness of the berries, and turn a strawberry’s juice into something slightly more complex and interesting.

Taking Jacqueline’s question as a bit of a challenge, I decided to go a little further into savory strawberry concoctions this year but without straying too far from the classic berry-vinegar combination.  I’ll save the truly groundbreaking ideas for next June.  After all, there will be berries to dispatch next year too.

Spinach and Goat Cheese Pizza with Drunken Strawberries

Macerating strawberries in a mixture of wine, balsamic vinegar, and sugar for a few hours at room temperature is the key.  The wine’s tannins combined with the oak from the vinegar’s aging process to impart a savory meaty flavor to these berries.  But still their sun-drenched sweetness shines through and enlivens the pizza’s greens and creamy cheese.

The glazed berries that didn’t make it onto the dinner pizza will be on tonight’s grilled chicken.  But I bet they’d taste great with grilled halibut too.  Hmmmm.

  • 1 pint fresh, local strawberries
  • 6 Tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
  • red wine, such as a Grenache
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 recipe pizza dough (I used the frozen remainder of May 30’s rosemary pita bread dough, but use your favorite)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil infused with 1 crushed garlic clove, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp black pepper for brushing the pizza dough
  • 1 slice good bacon, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 cups fresh, local spinach leaves, washed and torn into pieces
  • 4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 ounces mild fresh goat cheese, crumbled

First combine wine, vinegar, and sugar in a non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic).  Stir to combine.  Wash, hull, and cut the berries in half.  Place the pieces in the wine mixture.  Cover and let sit for a few hours.

While the berries finish macerating, begin building your pizza.  Roll out the dough of choice and brush with the garlic oil.  Sprinkle this with shredded mozzarella.  Set aside.

Brown the bacon slivers in a large skillet set over medium high heat.  When they are crispy, add the spinach leaves to the pan.  Toss once or twice to coat with the bacon, then remove from heat.  Remove the spinach-bacon mixture from the pan to a plate and set aside.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Strain the liquid from the berries and place the liquid into a medium heavy-bottomed skillet set over medium high heat.  Reserve the berries.

Bring the liquid to a boil and maintain a steady simmer-boil in order to reduce the liquid to about 3 or 4 Tbsp of thickened syrup.  Watch heat and cooking time carefully to avoid burning the syrup.  When liquid has become nice and reduced enough to coat and stick to the back of a spoon, remove the pan from the heat.

Return the drained strawberries to a glass bowl and scrape the thickened wine-vinegar syrup over them.  Toss to coat.

Top the pizza with the spinach-bacon mixture and the crumbled goat cheese.

Sprinkle as many or as few glazed strawberry pieces as you like over the top of the pizza.

Bake for 15 minutes in the bottom third of the preheated oven, or until the pie is golden on top and the bottom of the crust has browned evenly.

Let rest a minute or two before slicing.  Serve warm.

©2011  Jane A. Ward

Now for this weekend’s picks from my part of the North Shore:

READ “ULYSSES” FOR BLOOMSDAY, Jabberwocky Bookshop, Newburyport

Today, June 16, is Bloomsday – the one and only day written about in James Joyce’s master novel, Ulysses.  In honor of the Irish novelist and his classic work, volunteer readers will visit Jabberwocky Bookshop between the hours of 1 and 9 pm to take turns reading aloud 15-minute passages of the book.  Event is free to the public and refreshments will be served.  Jabberwocky Bookshop is located at 50 Water Street, The Tannery, Newburyport.  For more information, visit here.

NEWBURYPORT ART ASSOCIATION ABSTRACT ART EXHIBITION, 65 Water Street, Newburyport

The Abstract Artists’ Group of New England invites you to attend the opening reception of their group show held at the NAA this Saturday, June 18 from 7 – 9 pm.  The show runs now through June 26, and the galleries are open Monday through Friday from 11 am – 5 pm, and Sunday from 1 – 5 pm.  If you can’t make Saturday’s reception, drop in during open hours.  Show is free to the public.  For more information, please visit here.

 

NEWBURYPORT FARMERS’ MARKET, The Tannery Parking Lot, Newburyport

Week 8.  The Tannery is the place to be early on this Father’s Day Sunday.  Shop so that you can go home and make Dad a local, seasonal dinner from the Market’s fresh produce and local goodies.

Join the vendors and market organizers from 9 am to 1 pm this Sunday, June 19 at the Newburyport Farmers’ Market.  New to the Market this year: local wines!  Come and check out the products from nearby wineries, Jewell Towne Vineyards and Still River Winery.  Stroll the stalls, grab your treats, then settle in to listen to some great music and visit with friends and neighbors.

And from the rest of the consortium…

The clever Seth Albaum over at Lynn Happens has some great ideas here.

Everyone’s favorite Two Palaverers give you some fun suggestions here.