Sunday, June 10, 2012

Strawberry Love - Of Mousse and Margaritas

From Queen Anne's Farmer's Mkt, Seattle
Like a fragrant bouquet of red roses, a basket of ripe, plump strawberries can set my heart aflame. And, when we are unmercifully teased with out of season, imported, picked green and tasteless baskets in the grocery, the arrival of truly ripe and luscious local fruits makes me downright giddy.

As a child I was lucky enough to be able to freely wander in the local fields and forests. Idyllic.  Pretending, immersed in fabulous stories that lasted for hours as we imagined, improvised and made them exciting in our childish minds. My friend and I mixing up climbing trees, catching polliwogs and when we were very lucky, picking wild strawberries. Teeny, tiny little gems hardly bigger than your pinky fingernail and so few each one found was like a treasure. Hardly a bite, and barely enough juice to stain your fingers as we gently pulled the berry from the vine, eagerly searching for yet another.

Just picked wild strawberry
The central coast of California is blessed with an incredible environment for agriculture. The Salinas Valley has it's lettuces, Castroville their artichokes and the Pajaro Valley their strawberries -- world renown, for premium gourmet fruit. With modern delivery infrastructures these delicacies can be delivered within a day or less to famed restaurants who require the finest. Santa Cruz County plants over 3,300 acres of fruit resulting in a 2010 harvest of 129,330 tons. Strawberries are taken seriously here. The name Driscoll is sought after when farmers seek planting stock. For over 100 years this collection of farmers have been naturally breeding the optimum strains for quality, appearance and taste.

One of my dearest friends in the world's father ran the Kobara Family Farm, raising the famed Driscoll berries on the fertile banks of the Pajaro River and within miles of the Monterey Bay. Once a year, when the season was at it's height we were told to wait for the call. In a time before texting, twitter and cell phones (or even ubiquitous answering machines and voice mail) that meant being near your phone -- yeah, wired and corded. The large flatbed farm truck would be loaded with flats of berries that were just too ripe for shipment, but ready to eat, now! Frantically and systematically, she would make call after call, "I am coming your way in two hours, be there." If you were fortunate to connect,  the rendezvous was set with the coordination and rapid pace of a covert op. You had to be ready to drive halfway across the county, meet at a cross roads for the rapid exchange and a quick hug. Then zoom off she went in her loaded Volvo wagon for another drop. Driving home we were made slightly heady by the intoxicating and uncommonly rich, honey sweet smell of the ripened berries in the back seat. What to make?

Oh my the concoctions and preparations available. Other than just rinsing and eating I am a sucker for simple strawberry shortcake like my Dad made. Sweetened biscuits still warm from the oven with a dusting of sugar, light and fluffy until soaked in the rosy red juices of the macerated fruit and topped with mounds of whipped cream. On a recent warm weekend my darling son surprised me with a half flat of local ripe berries. I had about a pound and a half of fresh rhubarb waiting for me so I combined the two into this pretty, pretty mousse. Recipe adapted from Rhubarb-Mascarpone Mousse Cake by Shelley Wiseman on Gourmet Live.  I will save the complete recipe for a special occasion, it looks just spectacular.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Mouse
The tang of the rhubarb paired with the innate sweet strawberries plus the high butterfat of the creamy mascarpone with whipped cream give this mousse indulgent richness -- not for those dieting for sure. Unless you can restrain yourself to only a spoonful.

Later in the week with the afternoon temperatures rising, motivated by a really long day at work resulted in evening cocktails on the deck. Ahh, strawberry margarita time!

Cool and refreshing on a warm afternoon -- Strawberry Margaritas anyone?
I split the quantity of fruit 50/50 for the mousse portion of the recipe and followed the directions as written (don't be surprised, I can do that!) The mousse easily makes 8 servings in pretty glasses.

For a great margarita recipe I went with Guy Fieri's, but there are many out there that will work just fine. 

To get you started with even more ideas check my friend's take on this berry:

What will you make?

I hope you find something deliciously strawberry to make while they are around, bright, fresh and sweet.  


Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sweet Summer Bliss

It's early yet. The dry heat of summer held off by remnants of spring and morning fog on the central coast. Memorial Day has past, parade over, and our children are fidgeting in the last of their school days before they bolt out the door yelling joyously, "Summer!" But not quite yet, the clock suddenly slows, stretching out those last few days into minutes that seem to last forever.

Strawberry Lemonade

Come away with me.
It's hot inside 
and there's a breeze on the deck. 
The afternoon sun shimmers in the trees 
and the table is shaded just right.

Come away with me.
As we sit and sip some lemonade.

Come away with me.
As we stop thinking so much 
and let the lightness of the day 
and the chirp of the birds 
replace the noise in our heads 
and the heaviness in our hearts.

Come away with me.
As we sit together 
comfortable in the silences. 
Because, in this moment, 
we feel so connected
words are not necessary.

Come away with me.
As we sit together and just

Claire Robinson's Strawberry Lemonade Recipe