Thursday, May 22, 2014

Strawberries Three Ways!


We ran away. Just for one night.
Jay and I took a quick trip up to Blue Ridge, GA this past weekend and it was a little slice of heaven. 
Rainy and green, it was quiet up there. The earth smelled of delicious dampness and I felt a slowing down of myself that lasted for several days.

A few highlights from our trip:

Dinner at Harvest on Main - patio dining is the best and our meal was super tasty {I ♥ the smoked salmon and trout spread}.
We stayed in the Bungalow at The Fernbrook Inn,  just a few minutes from down town Blue Ridge. Cozy bed, big ole tub with jets, and sweet Debbie, who cooked breakfast and chatted with us.
Lastly, there's Mercier Orchards. I'd been wanting to visit in the fall during apple picking season. Apparently it is swamped then. So, they had fresh strawberries when we went and I couldn't resist. My dessert-making brain couldn't wait to get working on the luscious, perfumed beauties.


The day after we got back, I spent half my day in the kitchen dreaming up what to do with my berries. Ended up making three dishes...Strawberry Shortcakes with Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean Cream, Strawberry and Cocoa Granola Parfait, and an Arugula Salad with Pecans, Feta, and Strawberry Dressing. Oh boy!











































Ok, I think the photos speak better than anything else here. 
So I continue.





I hope this post inspires you on a few levels. 
Go somewhere new with someone you like! Even a short trip can be a boon to your spirit.
Get outdoors and enjoy the rainy, green days when you can get them.
Grab some fresh berries and play in the kitchen.

Recipe #1

Strawberry Shortcakes with Coconut Milk Vanilla Bean Whipped Cream
Serves 8

Biscuit recipe adapted from Rebecca Rather

Sugared strawberries
About 1 pound fresh strawberries, gently rinsed and dried
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Biscuits
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus more for dredging
1/2 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup heavy cream, chilled

Coconut milk whipped cream
1 can unsweetened coconut milk, refrigerated overnight
2 Tablespoons caster sugar, or more to taste
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half and seeds scraped out

Prepare strawberries: hull the strawberries and then slice them vertically. Toss the strawberries in a bowl with the sugar. Let sit for at least 15-20 minutes to let them get juicy.

Make biscuits: Place the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a food processor. Process quickly to blend. Add the cubes of cold butter and pulse quickly until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Blend the vanilla into the cold heavy cream. While processor is running, pour in the cream. Stop the machine and continue to pulse just until the dough comes together in a ball. Form into a disk.

On a lightly floured surface, place the disk and roll out until it is about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Cut out with a 4-inch biscuit cutter. 
Dredged the tops of the biscuits in extra granulated sugar and place onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until they begin to turn golden brown. Cool for a few minutes.

Make the coconut whipped cream: Open the refrigerated can of coconut milk. Carefully scoop out the firm layer that is sitting near the top of the can. Place this cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip. Add in the seeds of a vanilla bean and 2 tablespoons of caster sugar. Whip on medium high speed until cream reaches a soft peak.

To serve: slice the biscuits in half with a serrated knife. Place bottom half of the biscuits on a plate. Spoon over a generous amount of strawberries and syrup and then some of the sweetened coconut whipped cream. Top with the other half of the biscuit. 
Swoon and enjoy.

Recipe #2

Strawberry and Cocoa Granola Parfaits - Dairy-Free

{so this was my "second dessert" using some of the same ingredients from the shortcakes....just no shortcakes}

Leftover sugared strawberries
Leftover coconut milk vanilla bean whipped cream
Granola of your choice {I used Love Grown Oat Clusters Toasted Granola - Cocoa Goodness}
Fresh mint sprig
Some type of parfait glass or glass ball jar

Easy, peasy. Layer as you like. I put granola on the bottom, then a layer of the cream, followed by strawberries. Garnish with mint sprig.
I like using the jar with lid here, because you could easily pack this up and take it on a picnic.

Recipe #3

Arugula Salad with Pecans, Feta, Sliced Strawberries and Fresh Strawberry Dressing

{no amounts here except for dressing, which can also be modified to your taste}

Salad
Handfuls of baby arugula
Pecans {toasted or not}
Feta cheese crumbles
Sliced strawberries

Strawberry dressing
About 10 strawberries, rinsed and hulled
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all dressing ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust.

Toss arugula with pecans, feta, and slice strawberries. Plate and drizzle with dressing to taste.



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