Friday, June 4, 2010

Strawberry Shortcake

Here's what Farmer John had for us in Silver Lake this week:

Red beets
Red radishes
Tat soi
Negi onions
Russian kale
Red romaine
Green chard
Squash blossoms

This week we're introducing a new farmer, Phil McGrath from McGrath Family Farm. They are certified organic and are based in Camarillo. This week, McGrath Family Farm provided:

Black radishes
Spring onions
Black kale
Dandelion greens
Romaine head lettuce
Red chard

Local strawberries have been in season for nearly two months; and we're fortunate to have such luscious berries grown less than 50 miles away in Camarillo. A substantial percentage of the nation's strawberries are grown in Camarillo which gives us access to some of the ripest and freshest fruit on the market.

Ripe strawberries are terrific by themselves or with a little cream, but strawberry shortcake is a wonderful and easy dessert to whip up. When the strawberries are as beautiful and tasty as the ones we got today, I like to start by macerating only half of them; I use the rest fresh. Then I mix up a quick shortcake, or sweet biscuit dough, and bake it. Just before serving I whip the cream and assemble the dessert.

Strawberry Shortcake

Macerate the Berries:
Wash 1 pint strawberries. Divide in 2 equal portions. Remove the hulls and slice half of the berries into a medium bowl. Set remaining berries aside. Sprinkle 2-3 T granulated sugar over the sliced berries. Cover and set aside on the counter for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally, or refrigerate for several hours. The berries should soften slightly and the sugar and juice from the berries should form a light strawberry sauce. If you'd like, add 1-2 t Grand Marnier or Cointreau with the sugar.

Make the Shortcake:
1 C flour
2 t baking powder
1 rounded T granulated sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 stick (1/4 C) cold butter, cut into pieces
3 oz milk or cream

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a medium bowl or stir them thoroughly with a fork.

3. Add the butter pieces and mix with a fork or pastry blender until the mix resembles a coarse meal. [You can do this in a food processor, just be careful not to over-mix.]

4. Add the milk or cream all at once and mix with a fork or your fingers until just combined. It's ok if it's lumpy. Don't over-mix.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead it once or twice until it holds together. Pat it to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes. I usually pat mine into a round disk and cut it into 8 wedges.

6. Place shortcakes on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool.

This recipe makes about 8 shortcakes, but you'll only use 4 with 1 pint of strawberries, as 1 pint of berries makes about 4 servings. For 8 servings, double the berries or add a pint of another fruit. Or save the shortcakes for another use, they're great for breakfast with butter and jam.

To assemble shortcakes:
1/2 C whipping cream (or more to taste)
1/2 t vanilla
2 t powdered sugar

1. Whip the cream with the vanilla and sugar.

2. Slice the remaining fresh berries that were set aside and stir them into the macerated berries.

3. Slice open 4 shortcakes and arrange on 4 plates.

4. Divide the strawberries among the 4 shortcakes. Be sure to spoon some of the juice from the macerated berries on each of the shortcakes.

5. Top with whipped cream.



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