Fresh strawberries are one of spring's great treats. We happened to be in Chattanooga, Tennessee, last weekend and went with friends to The Chattanooga Market, a terrific indoor-outdoor market that is held each Sunday in an old foundry on the south side of town.
It was strawberry central in Chattanooga -- overflowing pints and gallons of plump berries -- and Chattanoogans were snatching them up. We desperately wanted to buy some, but were afraid they wouldn't let us on the plane with them.
We weren't too upset. We've started to see the first hints of strawberries in our nation's capital and expect they'll be booming soon. Although they're not yet available at the farmer's market, they have been plentiful (and deeply discounted) at the supermarket, so we've purchased our fare share.
What to do with them?
Our favorite way to prepare strawberries is to simply cap and quarter them, toss them with balsamic vinegar and brown sugar, and refrigerate them overnight. The sweetness of the brown sugar and fruit is a wonderful contrast to the dark bite of the vinegar, making for an almost tart but delicious sweet treat.
When a friend came over for dinner recently, we had a bounty of strawberries in our fridge and decided to make the shortcakes featured in this month's Everyday Food. In their recipe, a rhubarb compote is served on the cakes.
The shortcake recipe is wonderful. It comes together very easily and the resulting shortcakes were light and just perfect, studded with a dusting of sugar.
Served packed with balsamic brown sugar strawberries and topped with a generous dollop of homemade whipped cream, they were a wonderful and relatively easy dessert, impressive enough for guests but easy enough to pull together after work.
We've got to get some more strawberries!
Balsamic Brown Sugar Strawberries
The Bitten Word
1 pint strawberries
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dark or light brown sugar, depending on your preference
Cap and quarter strawberries and place in a large bowl. Mix with balsamic and sugar. Cover and refrigerate, two hours to overnight. If the strawberries are not sweet enough for your tastes, add more brown sugar.
Prep: 25 minutes
Total: 55 minutes, plus cooling
* 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for work surface
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
* 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 cup heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, combine flour, butter, baking powder, salt, and 1/3 cup sugar and process until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk and pulse just until moistened, 4 to 5 times.
2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands, gently pat into a 4-by-8-inch rectangle. Cut dough into 8 squares and transfer to a baking sheet; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Let biscuits cool on baking sheet.
3. In a large bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and beat until soft peaks return. To serve, split biscuits with a serrated knife; sandwich with rhubarb compote and whipped cream.