How long have Heather and I been waiting for plump, blushing berries! Their siren call begins in early spring, as the armies of southern farmed “straw”berries (because they taste more like straw than actual berries!) start invading our stores.
There is very little to compare to the delicate perfume of a freshly picked local berry. These little gems explode with flavour and are an incredibly precious gift of summer. Last summer, we waited and waited for strawberry season because the cold spring did little to welcome summer’s shy beauty to the table. Miraculously, despite the less than summery weather, local strawberries are popping up at the farmer’s markets and local stores this week.
And while blueberries seem to get all of the superfood hype, strawberries are no shrinking violet in the nutrition department. Thanks to their generous helping of anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals, strawberries help to protect your heart by protecting LDL cholesterol from oxidative damage; they help moderate blood sugars and even support your own natural blush with all of that skin-loving vitamin C.
When selecting strawberries, give them a sniff – they should smell sweetly of strawberries (of course!). Look for shiny, plump berries without any traces of mould. Strawberries are incredibly delicate and perishable so carry home carefully and refrigerate immediately. Never wash strawberries until just prior to use; otherwise, they will become mushy.
So to begin, a little amuse bouche…
I love the taste of strawberries and balsamic but because not everyone embraces the richly sweet and acidic flavour of balsamic vinegar at dessert, I thought we could spin the winning combination for a luscious appetizer with local chèvre.
Balsamic Strawberry Treats
1 cup washed and quartered local strawberries
1 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar (for a spicy treat, try Nonna Pia’s Chili Lime Balsamic Reduction)
1/2 cup local chèvre, I like Happy Days
12 whole grain crisps, such as Raincoast Crisps or Martin’s Marvelous for a gluten free version
Combine strawberries and balsamic in a small bowl and allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. Meanwhile, spread the crisps evenly with chèvre and then top with strawberries. So simple! Summer is no time to be stressing out in the kitchen. Enjoy these on the patio with a glass of a summery white or rose (Joie Farm is one of my favourites!).