10 Ideas to Enjoy Strawberries : From Main Course to Dessert

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Every year I anticipate the strawberry season with much impatience. I love the scent of strawberries, which is a combination of milky sweetness, caramel richness and apple blossom freshness. While for the first couple of weeks I am glad to enjoy the juicy berries with nothing much besides a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, as days go by and the berries get more plentiful, I devise new ways to enjoy this seasonal favorite. Admittedly, my perfumery experiments significantly influence my culinary adventures, such as when I worked to juxtapose strawberry notes with an orange blossom accord, which resulted in a fragrant wild strawberry (fraises des bois) effect. Or when I discovered that strawberry pairs beautifully with anise notes, producing an interesting warm and cool effect. Perfumery and gastronomy are tightly linked, after all. Below are some of my favorite ways to enjoy strawberries, inspired by both classical pairings as well as my own flavor-fragrance explorations.

1. Strawberries and Sour Cream/Crème Fraîche

Although strawberries and cream is a classical pairing, in Russia and much of Eastern Europe, it is the tangy richness of sour cream (or crème fraîche, a richer variant) that provides a lush foil for the juicy red berries. I admit that I remain partial to this combination. The pleasantly tart milky flavor of sour cream makes the berries seem even more fragrant and decadent. Strawberries may be mixed with sour cream and sugar or the components may be served separately with the guests selecting their own combination. A nice variation is to use honey instead of sugar. Also, try serving strawberry shortcakes with whipped crème fraîche instead of the usual heavy cream. It is heavenly!

2. Strawberries Macerated with Orange Blossom Water and Honey

In Italy, strawberries are often macerated in a mixture of lemon juice and sugar, while in England, the ruby richness of port accents the milky caramel flavor of berries. I love all of these variations, and I recently discovered yet another one to enjoy. The Concord grape note of wild strawberries is easy to approximate with the use of orange blossom water. Simply drizzle berries with some honey or sugar, add orange blossom water and let them macerate for at least 30 min.

3. Salad with Strawberries, Basil and Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

The flavor of strawberries marries really well the anisic notes: basil, fennel, tarragon, anise, etc. For a refreshing and delicious summer salad, combine strawberries and lettuce (or baby spinach, arugula, watercress) with basil leaves torn in large pieces and a simple balsamic vinegar dressing. The balsamic vinegar is a nod to an Italian tradition of serving berries with the tangy, rich balsamico. Combine balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil in a proportion of 1 : 5 (or to your taste,) add salt, pepper and mix well. For a lunch course, you can add slices of prosciutto (see below) and roasted hazelnuts.

4. Strawberries and Prosciutto

Strawberries and pork make a perfect pairing, because both contain lactones, aromatic components that give them a rich milky note. While waiting for the melon season to start, try this variation on a classical prosciutto and melon theme—drape paper thin slices of prosciutto over strawberries. Absolutely delicious!

5. Strawberries, Dark Chocolate and Goat Cheese

Dipping strawberries in hot melted chocolate is one of my favorite things, especially when dining tête-à-tête. For a somewhat less messy variation, strawberries match nicely with fresh goat cheese and and a chocolate bar broken up into small pieces. Take a bite of a strawberry dipped in goat cheese, a bite of chocolate… No words are needed at this point…

6. Grilled Salmon with Strawberry and Red Onion Chutney

Accent strawberries with lemon or lime juice, and the result is a fruity, tart relish that beautifully offsets the richness of fish. My strawberry chutney is a fresh, uncooked fruit sauce that can be made with any type of juicy fruit—mango, orange, papaya, pineapple, melon, kiwi or even berries like raspberries and blackberries. Mince red onion (or shallot,) macerate it in lemon juice, add minced cilantro, chili pepper and fruit cut into small pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Grilled pork also goes well with this chutney.

7. Strawberry and Sambuca Sorbet

As I mentioned above, strawberry and anisic notes make for a particularly stellar marriage, which is very easy to enjoy in sorbet form. The strawberry sorbet recipe I use is quite simple, with the only caveat that the sorbet base must be aged overnight to result in optimal texture. Blend 2lb of strawberries into puree, sieve to remove seeds, add sugar syrup, juice of ½ orange and 2 Tbsp of Sambuca (anise flavored liqueur). Sugar syrup is made out of 1/2lb sugar and 5oz water. Mix sugar and water together, bring to boil and simmer till the sugar is dissolved completely. Add juice of ½ lemon and take off the heat. Cool completely before adding to strawberry puree. Refrigerate sorbet base overnight and freeze in the ice cream maker. Of course, if serving to children, skip the alcohol. To tell you the truth, perfectly fragrant strawberries do not really need any other flavor embellishment.

8. Strawberry Pistachio Tartlets

The milky sweetness of pistachios and their jewel like hue is a perfect backdrop for red berries. Strawberries, in particular, take well to this pairing. If you have tartlet shells already baked, assembling this dessert takes minutes. Whip heavy cream with sugar to taste, add a few drops of vanilla extract and a handful of powdered pistachios. Fill the shells and top with strawberries. You can also use sponge cake rounds instead. A perfect end to the summer meal consisting of chilled soup and grilled fish.

9. Strawberries, Yogurt and Rosewater Lassi

Lassi is an Indian chilled yougurt drink. One of my favorite experiences with lassi has been in Gujarat, a state on the western side of India. I was served a tall glass filled with rich buffalo milk yogurt, clotted cream, sweetened with palm sugar and rose petals cooked in syrup. I am certain that this is what ambrosia tastes like. While at home I cannot get most of these ingredients, it does not prevent me from trying my hand at various lassi variations. Strawberry and rosewater is a wonderful duo, with the lemon and honey richness of rosewater balancing out the milk sweetness of the berries. For 2 cups of strawberries, you will need 1 cup of Greek yogurt, sugar to taste and 1 tspn of rosewater (or more, depending on the brand of rosewater you use and your taste.) Blend into thick puree and dilute with water or milk to desired consistency. The reason I specify Greek yogurt is because it tends to result in a fuller, less sour flavor.

On buying rosewater: After sampling pretty much every single brand of rosewater I could find on the market in the US, I have settled on Mymoune brand. It comes from Lebanon and smells of honeyed, sweet rose petals. Many other brands seem to spike their product with food safe rose synthetics, and while they are perfectly fine for most cooking and cosmetic preparations, I find the flavor to be overly sharp. Mymoune is made by a women’s cooperative in Lebanon, and besides rosewater, I love their rose syrup, orange blossom water, and apricot and fig jams.

10. Strawberry Fool

This classical English dessert has seen some revival lately, which is a good thing. Fool, a dessert of sweetened whipped cream folded into fresh or cooked fruit puree, is a wonderful way to enjoy summer’s bounty. When strawberries are in season, I turn to my favorite recipe from Elizabeth David’s book Summer Cooking:

“ 1lb. of strawberries, 3 oz. sugar, 5oz. double cream. Sieve the hulled strawberries. Stir in the sugar. Add this purée gradually to the whipped cream, so that it is quite smooth. Turn into a shallow crystal or silver dish, and put in the refrigerator for several hours, if possible underneath the ice-trays, so that the fools gets as cold as possible without actually freezing. It is important to cover the bowl, or everything else in the refrigerator will smell of strawberries.” Utterly simple and perfect!

Photography © Bois de Jasmin.

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47 Comments

  • ines: This has definitely picqued my interest. I usually enjoy strawberries straight on but there are some ineteresting pairings on your list I’d love to try (I adore prosciutto so now I’m wondering what it would taste like…) May 23, 2011 at 4:22am Reply

  • Ann C: These all sound delicious! I definitely plan to try strawberries with sour cream; I’ve always topped my strawberries with sweetened whipped cream. May 23, 2011 at 6:41am Reply

  • Tracy Bloom, LMT: Sweet! Saving these for the first hot day… thank you! May 23, 2011 at 8:43am Reply

  • Zazie: I am hopelessly addicted to strawberries!
    Your post makes my mouth water… I especially loved the first 5 recipes!
    Yesterday I made a quick dessert with strawberry: pannacotta with moscato jelly and strawberry coulis. Maybe not very original, but easy to make and very satisfying!!! May 23, 2011 at 9:25am Reply

  • Bulldoggirl: Oh my, I have got to try that Sambuca sorbet! Thanks so much for such an inspirational post. I love the smell, taste, look, and feel of strawberries more than just about any other fruit. However, NOT in perfume :o). May 23, 2011 at 9:27am Reply

  • Mals86: Oooooooh. May 23, 2011 at 9:53am Reply

  • Suzanna: I live next door to Florida’s strawberry fields and the berries are easily available. Although the berries are big and voluptuous and gorgeous to look at, they are always a bit sour from being harvested before they are ripe. Your suggestions, especially the sorbet, will help coax out their full flavor.

    I also like strawberry/rhubarb pie, a traditional summer dessert where both ingredients are available. May 23, 2011 at 10:02am Reply

  • Grusheczka: Strawberries with sour cream are a childhood favorite 🙂 I grew up in Poland and enjoyed strawberries picked from my mother’s garden with sour cream, or with kefir, which I still can get here. You’re right, creme fraiche works really well, too. We also mashed them up and mixed them either with sugar or honey and just ate them like that, straight out of the cup. But sour cream is still my favorite 🙂 May 23, 2011 at 10:44am Reply

  • Victoria: I love the combination of fruit and meat, so when I discovered how nicely strawberries and prosciutto went together, I have been exploring pork+strawberry pairing in various forms. They really marry nicely! May 23, 2011 at 11:11am Reply

  • Victoria: You know, in Eastern Europe sour cream and berries is a common pairing. It really works beautifully. Or yogurt, kefir, farmer’s cheese… The tangy milky quality makes berries taste even sweeter. May 23, 2011 at 11:15am Reply

  • Victoria: You are welcome! I hope that you will enjoy them. May 23, 2011 at 11:15am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, your dessert sounds wonderful! I will have to try it too. Moscato jelly especially sounds delicious. May 23, 2011 at 11:16am Reply

  • Victoria: That sorbet was a completely serendipitous discovery. Now, we make it every year.
    In perfume, yes, I am not a big fan of strawberry notes. Insolence is an exception, but I love it in spite of strawberry rather than for it. 🙂 May 23, 2011 at 11:32am Reply

  • Victoria: 🙂 May 23, 2011 at 11:32am Reply

  • Victoria: A strawberry/rhubarb pie is delicious! I also like making crumbles. One recipe I have involves combining strawberry/rhubarb with vanilla extract and rosewater. It is so good! May 23, 2011 at 11:33am Reply

  • Victoria: I still have wonderful recollections of eating wild strawberries with kefir in Poland. Mmmmm….. 🙂 May 23, 2011 at 11:38am Reply

  • ScentScelf: Just reading this is happiness. My mom introduced me to strawberries + sour cream; I, in (later) turn, introduced her to strawberries + balsamic vinegar. One of those delicious aged balsamics…mmmmmm….

    Thanks for this. May 23, 2011 at 12:07pm Reply

  • ScentScelf: Oh…and I’d be *fool*ish not to mention strawberry shortcake. The smell of shortcakes fresh out of the oven, knowing what lay ahead…fabulous. And Grandma’s strawberry rhubarb pie. Two varieties, one chilled with a cream cheese bed under the filling/over the crust, the other a more traditional style.

    Of course, straight up fresh picked strawberry accompanied by dribbling down the chin is a nice one, too. 😉 May 23, 2011 at 12:11pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, and this in turn makes me smile! I would love the recipe for your grandmother's chilled pie with cream cheese. It sounds absolutely wonderful!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 23, 2011 at 12:21pm Reply

  • Carter: Last night I took a pound of berries and macerated them in red wine, a little sugar and lemon juice. Absolutely delicious. May 23, 2011 at 1:09pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds so good! I will have to try it tonight. We went to pick berries over the weekend, and we now have 10lb to use up asap. They are so ripe! My whole place smells of strawberries. May 23, 2011 at 2:03pm Reply

  • minette: you’re so cute. your words hold and caress this lovely fruit as much as (and maybe even more than) they do when you write about perfume.

    i love strawberries, and some of these pairings are new to me – so thanks! i still remember the warm wild strawberries my mother used to grow in those terracotta strawberry pots. and, as a child (and now), i used to mush them with sugar then freeze them for my own “sorbet.”

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! May 23, 2011 at 2:24pm Reply

  • Sharon Reading: Don’t forget the classic French recipe of stawberries, whole floating in champagne with pinon nuts! May 23, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, strawberries and champagne…. A classic! Thank you for a reminder, Sharon. May 23, 2011 at 2:59pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are very kind! Thank you. 🙂 Flavors are just as exciting to me as scents in the bottle, and they are so inspiring. Love to play around with the ideas, and cooking is so rewarding, especially when it can be shared with the loved ones!

    I also had those strawberry pots, and I hope to acquire them next year. This year, I am traveling so much that I am hardly ever at home to take care of my mini patio garden. May 23, 2011 at 3:28pm Reply

  • Tulip: Elizabeth David is a favorite in our house – strawberries and cherries too! May 23, 2011 at 6:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: I read her books whenever I feel tired, stressed out or simply whenever I want something uplifting and inspiring. She is an amazing writer and her books are the ones I would keep, if I had to pair down my library. May 23, 2011 at 6:31pm Reply

  • behemot: I am from Eastern Europe (Poland) and even today, after all these years in the US , farmer’s cheese and strawberries make may favorite breakfast. And my favorite dessert consists of strawberries and creme fraiche…Sometimes, people look with curiosity at my choices…
    Thank you for this post – you really put me in a good mood! May 23, 2011 at 7:02pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am so glad! And thank you for putting me in a good mood, in turn. 🙂
    Farmer’s cheese is something I would even make at home, if I do not have time to drive to the Russian/Polish store. It is one of my favorite breakfast foods too. My husband used to look askance at it, but now he enjoys it too. May 23, 2011 at 7:30pm Reply

  • Carla: Enjoyed this post. I served strawberries with balsamic vinegar over the weekend. You really have to be careful not to use too much and you have to mix it well, but with some sugar and the strawberry juice it makes for the yummiest strawberries in syrup after a day out on the counter. My French husband balked at first. The French are very sure of themselves culinarily, as they well should be, and he had never heard of it. But he enjoyed it too. May 23, 2011 at 9:04pm Reply

  • Suzanna: Try adding some very ripe nectarine to the crumble. It is sublime. May 23, 2011 at 9:20pm Reply

  • behemot: What do you use to make it? Bulgarian buttermilk? May 23, 2011 at 9:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yogurt, which I heat up very very slowly, using a heat diffuser. I usually make yogurt the night before (heat up 1/2 gallon milk to 100F, add 2T of yogurt which contains live cultures, cover, wrap in a blanket and leave till next morning.) Then I heat up this homemade yogurt and once the whey starts to separate from solids (it takes about 20-30 min on this very very gentle heat,) I strain it. It does take some planning, but the preparation is essentially very straightforward.
    You can use buttermilk (sodium citrate free!) as well. Here is a very good, fail-proof recipe:
    http://yulinkacooks.blogspot.com/2006/04/how-to-make-tvorog-farmers-cheese.html May 23, 2011 at 9:36pm Reply

  • Victoria: Sounds just amazing! I can already imagine the combination in my mind. You bet that the moment I can buy nectarines I will be making this crumble! 🙂 May 23, 2011 at 9:37pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am glad to hear it. 🙂 My husband also was very apprehensive about this combination (for exactly the same reason!) But he enjoyed it in the end.

    You are right about the quantity of balsamic vinegar. Too much, and you cannot taste the berries. May 23, 2011 at 9:38pm Reply

  • Victoria: Tonight we had grilled pork chops (marinated pork in garlic, parsley, thyme, fennel greens, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper) with strawberry-red onion chutney. For dessert–some ricotta topped with strawberries macerated in rose and orange blossom water and honey and pistachios (as per Amanda’s suggestion on BdJ Facebook page.) Very delicious. Orange blossom AND rosewater really work beautifully with berries, resulting in a rather complex flavor. The key is not to use too much. May 23, 2011 at 9:43pm Reply

  • behemot: Thank you so much , Victoria! I will try to make it tomorrow. It takes time to get to the closest Russian store, so I prefer to make the cheese at home. Will have to read the label on buttermilk!
    Love your recipes, too. I made salmon with strawberry glaze last year and it turned out very tasty. I will now yours as well as strawberries with pork , why not. Pork is very good with other fruit like prunes or apples, so I am very curious how it tastes with strawberries. Probably very nice.. May 23, 2011 at 9:48pm Reply

  • behemot: I am going to visit Poland in two weeks, hope for the peak of strawberry season..and great organic creme fraiche from my local store…really good.. May 23, 2011 at 10:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: Our Russian stores are also far away, so I resort to these homemade means. That being said, when we lived in Ukraine, my grandmother made farmer’s cheese at home (in the city) whenever we had excess milk. She would let the milk sour naturally and then heated it up. This trick will not work with the pasteurized milk here!

    Do try strawberry chutney. It is really a nice counterpart to anything grilled. I was also surprised how nicely it matched with pork. May 24, 2011 at 10:06am Reply

  • Victoria: I hope that you will catch the wild strawberry season too! And dark Morello cherries, although cherries do come a bit later. May 24, 2011 at 10:07am Reply

  • Grusheczka: My aunt just went there with her two kids, and they’re loving every second of it (we’re from the south-eastern part, right next to the Ukrainian border). It’s a great time of year to be in Poland. You’re making me nostalgic 🙂 Whenever I go, my grandma makes fresh farmer’s cheese from scratch, it’s the most wonderful thing in the world and it still remains one of my favorite flavors in the whole world. I love to eat my farmer’s cheese on freshly baked bread with sliced tomatoes. In fact, if I had to eat one thing for the rest of my life, that’s what it would be. Enjoy your stay in Poland! May 24, 2011 at 10:32am Reply

  • Grusheczka: This just made my day! Thanks for the recipe! May 24, 2011 at 10:33am Reply

  • Victoria: I hope that it turns out well! It certainly works perfectly for me. The important thing is not to overcook the yogurt/buttermilk, or else the curd will be rubbery. May 24, 2011 at 11:05am Reply

  • Aloix: I had a strawberry & cucumber cocktail once years ago in Mexico that I still keep meaning to try to recreate, the flavors went remarkably well together. The fruits were muddled, and I think it had rum in it, that’s all I remember… May 24, 2011 at 4:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Mmmm, I can imagine that they might work nicely together. Cucumber's green, melon-like flavor and the creamy sweetness of berries…
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 24, 2011 at 7:21pm Reply

  • Carla: Mmmm, that dessert sounds straight out of the Middle East, and sounds so good. Makes me think of Claudia Roden. Orange blossom syrup works over almost any fruit, as I discovered when trying to use up an expensive bottle before its expiry date. May 25, 2011 at 4:48pm Reply

  • behemot: Thank you so much. I am from Krakow, but my Moms family is from the eastern Poland. Will be visiting there, too. May 27, 2011 at 6:14pm Reply

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