Results tagged strawberries from David Lebovitz

Fraises des bois

fraises des bois

When I worked as a baker in California, we’d get three flats of fraises des bois (“strawberries of the woods”, or wild strawberries) for a few precious weeks in the summer, cultivated by a woman who lived about an hour north of San Francisco. Each intensely flavored berry, no bigger than the tip of a pencil eraser, had to be hand-picked and took someone nearly an hour to collect one basket’s worth of them. I don’t remember the exact price of each basket that we paid (was it $6 ?), but they were expensive back in the 80s. Added to that, you must use fraises the bois the same day you get them because they break down pretty quickly, and by the next day, it’s too late to serve them fresh. A few times when I drove up there to pick them up, the heady smell of the tiny, wild strawberries in my car drove me nearly insane.

(I’d often stop on the way home from work really late at night to pick up some local barbecue, and that had the same effect. More than once, I’d have to pull over the grab a rib because the smell driving home was driving me out of my mind, which – I guess – seems to be a theme in my life…the losing my mind part, not just the driving around with food in the car business.)

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Strawberry Vodka

strawberry vodka

I was scrolling through Twitter recently and one of the folks that I follow mentioned “Strawberry Vodka.” Normally fruit-flavored vodka wouldn’t interest me, I was happy to hear about a simple recipe and technique from Sean Timberlake of Punk Domestics, and since it was strawberry season and my market was bursting with fresh berries, I decided to give it a go.

I made it myself the following day and it was quick, and wonderful. The flavor of the vodka is like drinking syrupy berries in their prime with a kick of alcohol in the aftermath, and it could not be easier to make. It makes a great summer drink; just add an ice cube or two, and you’re ready to sip! I asked Sean if he’d like to write it up as a guest post to share, and he happily agreed. Thanks for sharing, Sean… – David

Strawberry-Infused Vodka

by Sean Timberlake of Punk Domestics

Vodka infusions were my gateway drug to DIY (Do-It-Yourself) food. And once I had been bitten by the cooking bug, I discovered ways of imparting flavors into bland, neutral vodka to produce something utterly new. The technique is almost the opposite of cooking: When you cook, the magic ingredient is heat. With infusions and liqueurs, the magic ingredient is time.

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Vegan Strawberry Ice Cream

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I was thinking of having “If you change the ingredients in a recipe, results will vary” tattooed on my forehead, but there wasn’t enough room. (Although if my hairline keeps receding at this rapid pace, it may happen sooner than you think.) When I used to teach classes, folks were always wanting to tinker with recipes, especially ice cream, replacing the cream with what-have-you. Or to replace the sugar with something else. I’m not sure why, because I spend an inordinate amount of my life developing and testing recipes to get them just right.

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Unless I’ve personally tested it, it’s pretty hard to give my nod of approval and tell what will and what won’t work in recipes, especially when it comes to swapping out sweeteners and dairy products since their counterparts behave quite differently than one might think. Ice cream, of course, depends on cream to give it that particular texture and flavor. But I do like and use non-dairy alternatives at home on occasion and saw no reason why I couldn’t churn up a batch of ice cream without a drop of dairy.

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Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam Recipe

strawberries

Do you know what media training is? If you don’t, it’s when they teach people to behave on television and radio. They work with politicians, business executives, and, of course, in this day and age, they work with a lot people (and I mean, a lot…) that are involved in corporate and celebrity crisis control. But there’s a special group of media trainers that teach you how to cook on television, which is trickier than just sitting there getting grilled by Stephen Colbert, I’m sure of that.

Cooking on tv is much harder, because instead of just sitting there having a casual chat, you need to be fielding all sorts of goofy questions at the same time as measuring out and explaining fourteen different ingredients to the weatherman, wondering where that damn spatula is and how you’re going to fold egg whites without one, cursing yourself because you forgot to turn off your cell which is vibrating like mad in your back pocket, trying to get the name of the book you’re supposed to be promoting into the conversation when the seriously-skinny host only wants to talk about her diet, and watching out of the corner of your eye because the camera crew is impatiently waiting for you to finish so they can pounce on your brownies.

About ten years ago I had media training, a one-on-one weekend where it was just me and the media trainer—who basically yelled at me for 48 hours, non-stop.

In fact, I think he blew out my left eardrum.

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Rhubarb Tart FAIL

rhubarb tart

I hadn’t planned on buying rhubarb yesterday morning, but I was at the stand of my favorite producteur and there it was, and there I was, so our collective fate was sealed.

As I waited for him to wrap my stalks tightly in brown paper, my mind raced to think what I would do with them. By the time I handed over a couple of euros, I’d made up my mind that they’d make a fine filling for the baked tart shell I had waiting at home, with a thin layer of lemony pastry cream.

It’s been odd around here lately. I think there’s something in the air; le morosité of Paris, as they call it, the general malaise that smacks the city in a collective wallop, like the tiny, sharp grains of pollen that are wreaking havoc on the sinuses of us all. Yes, it’s warmed up and the city is even more beautiful, but a string of May holidays has Parisians bolting for the borders, heading away for le petit weekend any chance they can. There’s just something odd in the city that I can’t quite put my finger on.

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Goat Cheese Custard Recipe with Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup

When I moved to Paris, I moved a whole ton of stuff with me. Plus one yellowed scrap of paper. It was a recipe that I tore out of some newspaper eons ago, for Goat Cheese Custard.

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I had high hopes for the recipe, enough to schlep it with me across the Atlantic and look at it wistfully every once in a while, guarding it for almost a decade, until I finally got around to making it this week.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt Recipe

strawberries

At the markets during the spring and summer here in Paris, there are piles and mounds of strawberries. The sweet, fruity scent pervades the air as you get closer to the stands. I always come home with a kilo (2 pounds), which costs about 3 euros (about $3.50) and I eat as many as I can during their season. Some people swoon for the pale gariguette berries, which are slender and pointed, although I’ve tried them several times and don’t find them much better than the everyday Chandler variety that’s normally available.

While at the market this week, being such a good customer, I got a deal on a large flat of strawberries so after much jam-making, I decided to take my ice cream maker out for a spin and whip up a batch of Strawberry Frozen Yogurt.

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Unlike the stuff at the mall, real frozen yogurt is made from plain, whole-milk yogurt, fresh fruits, and some sweetener. Although some people like to drain their yogurt first for a richer end-result, I prefer the lighter style of frozen yogurt. You can use Greek-style yogurt, which is three times richer than whole milk yogurt. Slicing the berries and tossing them in sugar makes the strawberries bright red in color and can make ho-hum berries quite delicious.

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Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
About 1 quart (1l)

French yogurt is astoundingly good and I suggest you use a good-quality, whole milk or Greek-style yogurt for best results.

  • 1 pound (450g) strawberries, rinsed and hulled
  • 2/3 cup (130g) sugar
  • optional: 2 teaspoons vodka or kirsch
  • 1 cup (240g) plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Slice the strawberries into small pieces. Toss in a bowl with the sugar and vodka or kirsch (if using) until the sugar begins to dissolve. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours, stirring every so often.

Transfer the strawberries and their juice to a blender or food processor. Add the yogurt and fresh lemon juice. Pulse the machine until the mixture is smooth. If you wish, press mixture through a mesh strainer to remove any seeds.

Chill for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Brittany’s Butter Bonanza

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Of all the regions in France, one of the most peculiar is Brittany. The cuisine is hearty, earthy, and dynamic – like the terrain. The coastline is a virtual lunar landscape of jutting rock formations, with pristine beaches (with somewhat frosty water) tucked in between them. Consequently, upper Brittany is somewhat remote and not a popular tourist destination. Most of my days begin at an almost-deserted beach with a dip in a frigid, clear water, and finish at a lively crêperie, picking through a mound of moules frites, steaming-hot mussels simmered with white wine and local shallots served with a overly-generous pile of frites that I always think that I’d never be able to finish. (But, of course, I do.)

Ah, summer vacation in Brittany. There’s not much to do here except swim in the chilly water, and eat seafood, red onions (more about them in a later post), and spread the delicious salted butter on everything that I can.

Unlike the rest of France, the Bretons don’t eat much cheese…in fact, there are no local cheeses that I can think of that are produced in the region and I didn’t see one fromagerie in the entire ten days of our trip. But they make up for it by offering up lots of butter, which they’re justifiably famous for. When you compliment a local pastry shop or restaurant on their cuisine, they will invariably respond proudly, “C’est la beurre de Bretagne!

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There’s also not so much wine wine consumed either. The locals favor sparkling, lightly-alcoholic apple cider. A fizzy bottle is popped open before each meal and served in traditional bolées, similar to a squat coffee cup with a handle.

But back to the butter—it’s the best I’ve ever tasted. Breton butter is notable since it’s almost always flecked with large, coarse grains of salt that crunch when you bite into them. Much of the salt used is harvested on ponds and marshes in the Guérande, where the famed fleur de sel is harvested as well. And unlike the rest of France, people in Brittany often butter rye bread, that’s served with oysters. (So next time you’re in Paris and that waiter gives you a quizzical look when you ask for butter, tell him that you’re from Brittany.)

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Naturally much of this butter makes its way into buckwheat crêpes, or galettes de blé noir (when made with buckwheat flour, or blé noir, they’re normally called galettes rather than crêpes. You can buy crêpes at most of the local pastry shops, and if you’re lucky, they’re still warm.

One night I picked up a stack and for simple dessert, I heated a bottle of hard apple cider in a skillet, added a handful of unrefined cassonade sugar, a modest knob of Breton salted butter and some delicious prunes from Gascony. Once the cider was sweet and syrupy, I added some folded crêpes, a pour of Calvados, and voila!

Perhaps the most famous dessert of the region is the Far Breton. Far is the Breton word for ‘custard’, and the Far Breton is remarkably similar to a custard tart sans the crust. Like everything, there are good versions, and not-so-good versions (like pretzels on the streets of Manhattan). You’ll find Far Breton everywhere in Brittany; in supermarkets, outdoor markets, restaurants, and pastry shops. Like flan in Paris (which is a wedge of custard tart, and not the inverted caramel custard that many of us are used to,) a slab of Far Breton with prunes is often a mid-afternoons snack, or le goûter for hungry folks.

Although I find most of them rather dense and heavy, I knew that if I tried as many as possible like Goldilocks, I would certainly find the version that was “just right”. And sure enough, the best was from a pastry shop in Lesneven called Labbé, a few steps off the main square.

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Another extraordinary treat is the Kouign amann, which is pronounced (and spelled) a few different ways, depending on your accent.

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A friend who visited Brittany once wrote me and said, “A stick of butter would seem light in comparison!..” when describing his first encounter withKouign amann. And indeed, the word amann is the Breton word for butter.

I had to try one from several bakeries, since it’s one of my favorite desserts: layers of flaky pastry baked with plenty of salted butter and sugar, until it’s all dark, crisp, and caramelized? Bring it on. Sometimes they’ll sell it by the slab at outdoor markets, and they slice off a hunk for you and sell it by the kilo. But the best thing I ate all week was…

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Ok, I know what you’re thinking. Here I was surrounded by fabulous buttery creations, but then I discovered strawberries from Plougastel. But honestly, these were the best strawberries I’ve ever had. Although usually I judge fruit based on its aroma before I buy (and these had little smell), these looked so ruby-red and glistening, that I just had to try them. Each one was sweet-sweet-sweet! Each was juicy with flavor, like a soft piece of sweet strawberry candy and deep red all the way through. I’ve never had strawberries like that before, although I’ve seen them in the markets in Paris, they never looked so appealing as they did at that village fruit market in Brittany.



Related Links and Posts

Allegedly the Birthplace of Kouign Amann

Le Bateau en chocolat (Georges Larnicol launches a chocolate boat, video)

Kouign Amann Recipe

A Great Kouign Amann in Paris

Kig ha farz

Larnicol: Kouign Amann in Paris