Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Slice of Strawberry Rhubarb Pie | photo by Zoë François

It is rhubarb season and I am doing my very best to use it in as many desserts as I can. This will thrill those of you, like me, who love this vegetable baked in pies, crisps, tarts (try this brown butter rhubarb tart), quick breads and jam, as much as I do. For those of you who have never fallen in love with it, have no fear, it’s a short season. Ha. Having said that, I do hope you’ll give it another try. It adds a wonderful, tart element to this strawberry rhubarb pie, which would otherwise be too sweet for my taste. I love strawberries, but they are a bit too sweet and jammy on their own in a pie. The marriage of rhubarb and strawberries is perfection, because sometimes opposites attract.

No pie is right without an excellent crust. It needs to be sturdy enough to hold up to the filling, but once a fork goes through it, there should be little resistance and lots of flakiness. Every family seems to have their favorite pie crust recipe, which is so wonderful. I am sharing the crust I use most and you can watch me make this whole strawberry rhubarb pie in my instagram video(more…)

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Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry shortcake zb 11

When I moved into our new house last year, the one thing I left behind at my old address, other than my amazing neighbors, was my garden. Some of you may remember Stefan and my “urban farm” project. I’d worked, or at least assisted, in the creation of a spectacular 14 x 14-foot farm. In my new house we have great big trees, that give us wonderful shade and privacy, but my chances of recreating my vegetable garden are zero. I’m lucky just to grow hostas. I studied the patterns of the sun on my new yard, in hopes that a small sliver of day light would present itself. The only spot is a little nook by my back door, but it is covered in concrete, so tilling the soil will never happen. On a trip to the farmers market I bought a potted patio tomato. Why not herbs and berries in pots too?

patio garden

Now I have a rather impressive (albeit small) crop of lavender, sage, rosemary, lemon verbena, mint, other herbs and

strawberries

two varieties of strawberries. It isn’t the lush mini-farm I once had, but at least I can step out my back door and “harvest” from the pots.

strawberries

Truth be told, I’ve only eaten a handful of strawberries from those pots. I’m not sure if it is the rabbits, which we have many, or my boys, who are eating them all? The few I have picked are sweet, a little tart and the most spectacular color red, throughout. The berries we buy in the store are often perfect looking, but when you cut into them they reveal a hollow, white interior, that resembles an empty shell, with a flavor to match.  The home grown variety are dense and lovely, just small in number. My new neighbor, who just happens to be an inspired food blogger, Stephanie Meyer of Fresh Tart, brought me a perfect summer gift of a couple pints of hand picked, locally grown strawberries. They were just like my little beauties from my pots, but a recipe’s worth. When she handed them to me, I knew I should do as little to them as possible, they just don’t need adorning. A tiny bit of sugar, a splash of a sweet wine, some herbs from my pots, paired with shortcake and whipped cream. That’s it. (more…)

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Homemade Fresh Strawberry Jello for Mother’s Day

strawberry jello

Jell-O always seemed a bit like magic to me. Add water to the brightly colored, sugary powder and in no time it’s solid and giggles like a good belly laugh. The problem is, the stuff in the box tastes like congealed, watered-down kool-aid. There is no actual fruit involved, just artificial color and flavor. Luckily gelatin desserts have earned more respect in the past decade with the popularization of panna cotta and other sophisticated, intense flavors, like wine and espresso. The best part of using gelatin is being able to create sexy shapes out of a liquid. Panna cotta just wouldn’t be the same if it was a puddle of custard on a plate. Knowing how to work with unflavored gelatin properly means you can set a liquid, without having it bounce like a rubber ball. You want to use just enough to keep its shape, but still have a smooth, luscious feel. This dessert is nothing but pure, ripe, sweet strawberries pureed and set with a bit of gelatin in a fun mold. A bowl of perfect strawberries and cream is nice, but when you present this regal dessert to your mom, it will take her breath away and she deserves that. (more…)

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Lemon-Lime Mousse with Fresh Strawberries

lemon mouses

I adore Key Lime Pie and order it as often as it appears on a dessert menu. Most of the time I’m disappointed. It is usually too sweet, not tart enough and the texture just screams gelatin. When I took a bite of this mousse it reminded me of a super light key lime pie filling. The best part is that it doesn’t actually require key limes, which have a short growing season and the bottled stuff just leaves me flat. The mousse is tangy, just a touch sweet, and it is so light, it melts on your tongue. The fresh strawberries lend a perfect balance of flavor and texture to the dessert. I put them in glass jars because the lemon-yellow mousse and lipstick-red strawberries are so pretty together I wanted to be able so see them. It is also the best way to bring dessert along to a pot luck or picnic. These jars are probably familiar to many of you who eat Bonne Maman French preserves that come in them. I save the jars and pretty checkered lids to reuse. (more…)

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The Best Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream – roasting is the secret.

Last weekend my folks presented me with a container of fresh strawberries they picked up at an Amish Farmer’s Market. They were ruby red and absolutely gorgeous, in a not-from-the-supermarket way. Their shapes were slightly distorted, their sizes uneven, and yet, they smelled like pure strawberry, in a way Bonne Bell Lip Smackers can only wish for. The beauty of growing your own fruits and vegetables or buying local is that they have a certain ugly beauty, which is not an oxymoron at all. The Japanese call this gorgeous imperfection “Wabi-sabi” and it is what makes a piece of pottery (or fruit) special and clearly not mass produced.

My husband’s favorite ice cream is strawberry. In fact, it can be a point of frustration between us when we go to Convention Grill for dinner. We always split a malt, and it always has to be strawberry. Their malts, even a 1/2 order are fit for a family of 4, so I can never finish one on my own and prefer to share, but does it ALWAYS have to be strawberry? Yep, married for 20 years in August and that is what the man likes, so be it. When I saw the container of strawberries from the farmer’s market I knew instantly that I would use them in ice cream. The color was outrageous and they just begged to be dipped in cream, but not until I roasted them in a touch of balsamic to add even more character. I roasted them to concentrate the sugars and to get rid of the excess water content before mixing them in the vanilla custard ice cream base. This produced a more intense strawberry flavor and a much smoother, less icy consistency. I like to leave some chunks in my fruit ice cream to add texture and drive the favor home, but not if those chunks are hard as a rock. Roasting the fruit first created the perfect flavor and texture. I even made a malted milk shake for my husband with it, which was CRAZY good! (more…)

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