One of the downsides of supermarket shopping is that we feel entitled to strawberries all year round. We’re so used to plastic cartons of large, flavorless berries that when real strawberries hit the stands we might overlook them, and pass by on our way to more exotic treasures. But that would be a huge mistake.
Franca Tantillo, of the farmstand Berried Treasures, agrees: “When you get a really good strawberry, that flavor is the most amazing thing. Some people say, ‘Look for small ones because they have more flavor,’ but that’s not true. It’s all about the variety. The ones we have here were crossed with a wild strawberry, so they’re small, but not so tiny, and they have a very robust flavor. A little sharpness, a little more acid. You can’t beat a fresh strawberry that’s ripened in the sun. I think they’re the best fruit of summer.”
Strawberries are perfect all by themselves, but would it be gilding the lily to add a dollop of softly whipped cream? Or to dip them in sour cream sprinkled with a thick layer of golden brown sugar? Or crème fraîche and crushed ginger cookies? Or melted pitch-dark chocolate? I don’t think so.
How about sandwiching them inside a softly crumbling scone, still warm from the oven, with a ball of really good vanilla ice cream? Or using them to top a billowing pavlova, or angel food cake?
Make a simple no-churn strawberry ice cream by whipping 2 cups of cream; then stir in a can of sweetened condensed milk and ½ cup of strawberries (blended with a teaspoon of icing sugar to sweeten slightly) and freeze.
Take a savory route, and add a handful of berries to a simple salad, maybe with some fresh ricotta, arugula, spinach, and balsamic vinegar. Strawberries pair beautifully with slices of cold duck or beef. Try adding them to a simple salmon salad — salmon, endive, lemon juice, olive oil, strawberries, and torn mint.
Top a rainbow slaw with pomegranate seeds and strawberries.
If you have a glut of berries, make a little pot of jam — a quart of berries blended with half a cup sugar and the juice from a lemon (about two tablespoons). Simmer gently for about 10 minutes until thickened (reminder, the jam is HOT; don’t lick it to test!).
If cooking isn’t your thing, check out the sublime strawberry trifle at the Farm on Adderley (1108 Cortelyou Road, Brooklyn; 718-287-3101), where you’ll find a lemon poundcake base, a panna cotta foam, and an herbal hit of candied fennel seed to complement the sweetness of the strawberries — summer on a spoon.