Saturday, June 15, 2024

Need to use some plump, delicious strawberries? We’ve got you covered

It’s not just in Mexico that people love strawberries: these sweet red fruits are the most popular berry in the world. In Mazatlán, where I live, fresas y crema (strawberries and cream) is one of the most in-demand treats, sold in every store and by street vendors as well.

Mexico was actually the world’s biggest exporter of strawberries in 2020, overtaking Spain.

There are hundreds of varieties of strawberries, with slightly different shapes, color, flavor and firmness. At their best, all of them are irresistibly sweet.

And therein lies the challenge: how to pick the best strawberries for eating, for cooking or for freezing?

The first thing to know is that strawberries are very perishable; you haven’t been imagining that. It’s most likely through no fault of your own that they don’t last more than a day or two after purchase (if even that!).

strawberry syrup
With just a few minutes and a saucepan, you can turn classic pancakes into something special with homemade strawberry syrup.

Their high water content (90%) makes them fragile and susceptible to rot — but that’s also why they freeze wonderfully. Kind of a delicious double-edged sword.

The best thing to do is to use strawberries the day you buy them. If that’s not possible, don’t wash or hull them until you’re ready to use them.

Just pat them dry and store, refrigerated, in layers separated by paper towels. If I know I’m just going to use them in yogurt or smoothies, I’ll hull and slice ’em, mix in a bit of sugar and store them in a covered container in the fridge. They may not stay firm, but at least they don’t go bad.

One of my pet peeves in buying commercial strawberries is that they’re inevitably hard and tasteless. They may look pretty, but that’s about it. Here in Mazatlán, I’ve sometimes been able to find “real” strawberries at the big weekly flea market and also at the organic farmers market when they’re in season.

When purchasing, look for berries that are firm and bright with a bit of a shine — a good gauge of freshness. (Of course, if you can sample, do that as well!)

Strawberries are easy to freeze and need just a bit of prep. Wash, dry and hull them carefully, then spread them in a single layer on a cookie sheet, lined with parchment if you like. Freeze overnight, then transfer to an airtight container.

Spinach-Berry Salad with Crispy Goat Cheese

  • One 6 oz. goat cheese log, cut into 1-inch medallions
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¾ cup panko bread crumbs
  • 12 strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 oz. baby spinach or torn spinach leaves
  • 3 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
  • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Working one at a time, dip each goat cheese medallion in egg, then in panko, pressing on crumbs to firmly adhere. Place on parchment-lined plate, refrigerate 30 minutes.

In blender, mix 4 strawberries, vinegar, olive oil and honey. Purée until smooth, about 30 seconds. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice remaining strawberries and toss in a bowl with spinach and pine nuts.

Heat vegetable oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Fry cheese medallions until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes each side, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Toss salad with vinaigrette, add goat cheese on top, and serve.

spinach and goat cheese salad with strawberries
Add a dash of sweet to your savory by slicing a few perfectly ripe sliced strawberries atop a spinach and goat cheese salad.

Strawberry Fool

The classic British dessert, updated.

  • ¾ cup fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and chopped
  • 6 Tbsp. sugar, divided, plus more to taste
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup chilled heavy cream
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla

Place half the strawberries and 3 Tbsp. sugar in small saucepan. Cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until berries have softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, add sugar to taste. Chill completely, about 1 hour.

In a bowl, mix remaining strawberries and 3 Tbsp. sugar. Refrigerate about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whip cream to soft peaks. Gently fold in yogurt and vanilla. Reserve ¼ cup whipped cream; fold chilled strawberry compote into whipped cream. Spoon strawberry cream into glasses alternating with macerated strawberries. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.

Strawberry Avocado Salsa

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cup diced strawberries
  • 1/3 cup diced mango
  • ½ -1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • ¼ cup diced red onion
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp. honey, or more to taste
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients, stir well and serve.

Strawberry Syrup

Add to sangria, yogurt, vanilla ice cream, oatmeal, salad dressings or sparkling water — or drizzle on pancakes!

  • 1 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

Combine strawberries, water, and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over high heat until boiling, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce to simmer; cook about 10 minutes till berries are soft. Remove from heat; cool and strain. Reserve or discard berries. Syrup will keep one week in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

strawberries with pico de gallo
Strawberries make a surprisingly great addition to pico de gallo-type salsas.

Easy Strawberry Galette

  • 1¼ cup flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ package cream cheese
  • 1 stick cold unsalted butter
  • 2 lb. strawberries
  • 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar

In food processor, pulse flour, salt, and 1 Tbsp. sugar. Add cream cheese and butter; pulse until large crumbs form. Add 3-4 Tbsp. water; pulse just until dough begins to come together. (Alternately, mix dough by hand.) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface; gently knead until combined. Pat into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

When ready to bake, roll dough between 2 sheets of parchment into a 12” diameter circle, 1/8 inch thick. Transfer to baking sheet; refrigerate 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F.

In large bowl, toss strawberries with cornstarch, vanilla and remaining sugar. Arrange strawberries atop dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Fold border up and over strawberries to create a 1-inch-wide rim. Brush crust with egg wash and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake galette until golden, 40–45 minutes.

Strawberry Toast

  • 1 slice multigrain or sourdough bread
  • 3 Tbsp. requesón or ricotta
  • 1 Tbsp. orange marmalade
  • ¼ cup diced strawberries

Toast slice of bread and top with ricotta, marmalade and diced strawberries.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, featured on CNBC and MarketWatch. A retired journalist, she has lived in Mexico since 2006.

Have something to say? Paid Subscribers get all access to make & read comments.
Little girl standing in a doorway blowing a kiss

A secret to happiness in Mexico, and maybe in life: A perspective from our CEO

Mexico News Daily CEO Travis Bembenek shares how a mindset shift can improve happiness, not just in Mexico, but anywhere.

Mystical Mexican memes to move the morose

Get your biweekly fix of Mexican jokes, translated into English by our resident meme mistress.
Mexican pesos

Let’s talk about money: How to ‘pichar un baro’ in Mexico

Language expert Paulina Gerez is back to teach you all about how to talk about money (and spend it) in Mexico.