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Strawberry Fields Forever
Strawberries and summer are synonymous to me. I have fond memories of visiting U-pick farms during my childhood in Indiana, filling flats to take home so mom could make jars of strawberry preserves and desserts of strawberry shortcake. As an adult one of my favorite summer salads is spinach with fresh strawberries and goat cheese. Of course, I also use them in smoothies and love them dipped in chocolate. That’s been about the extent of my “experimentation” with the sweet tart fruit, but after an event with the California Strawberry Commission I see a lot more culinary possibilities.
The event was hosted by MJ Tam, founder of Chicagonista.com, and she invited several Chicago-area bloggers to attend. She recently toured California strawberry country with four other bloggers from all around the country and last week the Commission came to Chicago. As we arrived at The Chopping Block we were invited to drink cocktails (both alcoholic and non-) made with strawberries and were presented with an array of food choices that used strawberries in different, and delicious, ways.
As we enjoyed items like strawberry and goat cheese pizza and mini crab tacos with strawberry and mango salsa we heard from George Chavez, a California grower; and David Grotto, a Registered Dietician and Chicagoan.
Some of the things we learned:
- 80% of strawberries come from California
- California has very stringent standards for growing
- There are more than 600 family-owned strawberry farms in the state
- Strawberries should not be washed until they’re ready to eat!
- A cup of strawberries has more Vitamin C than an orange
- Strawberries also contain potassium, folate, fiber, and antioxidants
As a bonus we were all given two copies of “Strawberry Recipes For Everyday” from the California Strawberry Commission, and Grotto’s “101 Optimal Life Foods“, which teaches you how to eat healthy by actually adding delicious foods insteaf of taking them away. I get to keep a set (yay!), and I also get to give a set away! If you’d like to win, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Strawberries RULE” in the subject line. Don’t forget to include your full name and address, and I’ll pick a winner Monday, August 1, at 8am.
I was pleased to see that two of my favorite selections from the evening were included in the strawberry cookbook. One of them was the Strawberry Shortcake Sliders and the other was what I thought offered the most surprising taste of the evening, the Strawberry Gazpacho. It was so good I’ll be making it to take to Ravinia this weekend!
- 3 pounds fresh California strawberries, stemmed and chopped
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 pound English cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 3/4 cup Sherry vinegar
- Salt and black pepper as needed
- 4 cups Jicama, peeled and julienned
- 1 bunch chives, cut in 1 1/2-inch length
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- Salt and pepper as needed
- 1/2 pound fresh goat cheese
To make Strawberry Gazpacho, in blender purée strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, jalapeño and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper
To make Jicama Salad, combine jicama, chives, oil and thyme; season with salt and pepper
For each serving, to order, mound 1/3 cup Jicama salad in center of soup plate, Carefully ladle 1 cup Strawberry Gazpacho around salad; top with 1 ounce goat cheese, formed into a ball.
Makes 12 servings
Phots by: Lahleyoo