It’s not too early to think about strawberries, thanks to the Florida strawberry growers. They began hand-harvesting the first berries of the winter season in late November. Each year Florida is the major U.S. supplier of strawberries from November to early spring.
The growers have been lucky with the unusually cold winter weather, according to Sue Harrell, marketing director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “The fields look good. It has slowed down our production with ripening of fruit and harvesting,” she said.
According to the association, the perfect storage temperature for strawberries is 32 to 36 degrees. Strawberries should be stored in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator in a clamshell container or a partially opened plastic bag to maintain high humidity. Use berries as soon as possible after purchasing. Flavor is best at room temperature, so remove the fruit from the refrigerator an hour or two before serving.
The association has announced the first Florida Strawberries — A Taste of Summer All Winter Long Recipe Contest. The deadline for entries is Feb. 28. A total of $6,000 in cash prizes will be awarded. There are two divisions, home cooks and professionals. The categories for entries in each division are: starters and salsas, salads, sweets, and best photo. Entry form, rules, and information are at FloridaWinterStrawberryContest.com.
Here’s an easy recipe to help inspire strawberry creativity.
Strawberry Shortcake Pastries
package Pepperidge Farm Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets (1 sheet)
3 cups sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups sweetened whipped cream or whipped topping
Cooks note: To make 3 cups sweetened whipped cream, beat 1 cups heavy cream, 3 tablespoons sugar, and teaspoon vanilla until stiff peaks form.
Thaw pastry sheet at room temperature 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss strawberries with sugar.
Unfold pastry on lightly floured surface. Cut into 3 strips along fold marks. Cut each strip into 3 squares. Place 1 inch apart on baking sheet.
Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack. Split pastries into 2 layers. Spread bottom layers with whipped cream. Top with strawberry mixture and pastry tops. Garnish with additional whipped cream and strawberries if desired.
Yield: 9 servings
Source: Pepperidge Farm
A Valentine’s Dinner with Chef Bradford Thompson, a culinary consultant in New York City, will be held at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Culinary Vegetable Institute at 12304 State Rt. 13 in Milan, Ohio. The five-course menu features an amuse-bouche of celeriac soup, a first course of roasted baby beets, and a second course of warm arctic char with sunchokes, Meyer lemon, and pickled radish. Winter Squash Ravioli prepared with fresh ricotta will be the next course. The entree is beef short rib au feu with glazed roots and carrot coulis. For dessert, sweet potato custard with a spiced raisin puree and ginger sable will be served.
The cost is $85, not including tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 419-499-7500.
The Charleston Wine & Food Festival will be March 4-7 in Charleston, S.C. The festival showcases culinary professionals, celebrated chefs, and winemakers. Among the events is the Brewmasters Beer School, Sizzling Spanish Wines Seminar, a wine and chocolate pairing, a Pitmaster Bourbon-Q Dinner, and Lowcountry Gospel Brunch. Cooking demonstrations will include restaurateur and cookbook author Michelle Bernstein of Miami, Daniel Boulud, Matt Lee & Ted Lee (of the Lee Bros. cookbooks fame), and restaurateur Donald Link of New Orleans. For the cost of events and information go to foodandwinepackages.com or call 843-727-9998 ext. 4.
King Arthur Flour's Baking Education Center in Vermont has announced the January-April schedule. Adult classes include: From the Wood-Fired Oven; Whole Grains; Breads (Yeasted and Quick), and Classes to Bake a Meal. There are also professional classes and Baking with Kids. For information and updates visit kingarthurflour.com or call 800-652-3334.
Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.
Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6155.