Strawberry Fields Forever

I’m going to tell you a little secret.

I didn’t really like strawberries as a child. I kind of pretended to like them because what kind of freakazoid roams this earth not having a taste for the sweet, juicy  berries? My sister absolutely loved them but I only tolerated them doused in syrupy glaze and covered with whipped topping out of the freezer section.  Ugh. I felt ashamed for not loving strawberries like every other human being on the planet.

Thankfully, my taste buds grew up and I fell in love with the little seeded wonders. Strawberries are at the height of the season right now so this called for a little field trip to our local veggie market where they offer U-pick strawberries.

Being at the orchard, to me, is like being a kid in a candy store. There is an abundance of fresh produce in varieties that I only get to see in food network specials.

We meandered around the store for a little while checking out all the local offerings and I snagged some yellow tomatoes and Georgia peaches from the discount table. I paid a whopping dollar for each. Oh, the excitement! I’ve never had a yellow tomato before! I also hadn’t had lunch since I was saving myself for the strawberry picking but quickly inhaled a peach before the low blood sugar mood swing set in.  Hubs satisfied his sweet tooth with a scoop of homemade ice cream.

The bounty

Off to the fields we went like little worker bees to pick our fresh berries.  I politely pretended not to see the sign that clearly stated “DO NOT EAT THE STRAWBERRIES. PLEASE WAIT UNTIL YOU GET HOME TO ENJOY YOUR FRUIT.”  Um, I’m sure that was just a suggestion. The only reason I wanted to pick my own darn strawberries was so I could eat three quarts of them before I had to pony up actual cash.  Hubs scolded me for the first 15 berries but then I noticed he was stealthily stealing nibbles in between picking and taking pictures.  You should have seen him, all hunkered down pretending to take artistic photos while really he was smashing berries in his mouth like the rapture was coming.

We made our way through the rows at a ridiculously leisurely pace and tried to ignore the dad a few rows over who was cussing his kid out for trying to pick a green berry.  Then, the migrant workers started honing in on our berry territory.  It quickly became a race to get the best berries but in the end, we couldn’t compete with the speed and efficiency of the professional pickers. We mounded as many more berries as we could into our now overflowing bucket and began the walk back to the register.  The return trip meant more sampling because, let’s face it, I had exhausted all my energy trying to out-pick the field workers.

Strawberry Suicide. I am mourning both the berry and my shoe.

I need a permit for those berry picking guns.

Back at home, I was nostalgic for a traditional strawberry dessert. Strawberry shortcake fit the bill in every way. Perhaps I over-identify with this dessert because my mother dressed me up as Strawberry shortcake and paraded me around to family and friends while taking pictures that were later used to embarrass me in front of my middle school crew.  I’m sure the outfit will be just as cute on her. When she’s 80. In a nursing home.

If you know me at all, however,  you know I don’t do just traditional. I had to try something new and exceptional. I kept hearing about how beautifully balsamic vinegar and strawberries go together so I thought it would be a nice change of pace to cover store bought sponge cakes (a tradition in our family) with a balsamic berry mixture. Hubs scoffed at me from the corner of the kitchen as if I was cooking cyanide instead of a sophisticated dessert.  Always the caring husband, he was willing to try the new recipe, but made a sour face upon first taste.  He didn’t like it the other 7 bites I made him take every fifteen minutes after that either.  He’s crazy. I knew I was onto something with this. It became a strawberry cake-off.

Lick the left side of the screen. Tastes better, right?

Hubs made his version of the sweet treat and we presented them to our guests at the BBQ. It probably would have been nice if you had some pictures to view of this event, but we gobbled our desserts up before I remembered to snap a few photos. For the sake of the blog, I recreated the recipe the next morning so you could have a little visual stimulation. I’m sure shortcake for breakfast qualifies as health food given the high antioxidant power of strawberries.

Hub’s cronies tried to maintain that his version was better based on the fact that they didn’t want to break some sort of “dude code” but  my girls piped up and vetoed his strawberry mush in favor of my tangy, sweet, citrus infused berry cakes. And wouldn’t you know that the next day, while I was photographing my masterpiece and hubs was drooling over it, he conceded defeat and admitted there was a little something special about my recipe.

Balsamic Strawberry Sauce

1 cup sliced strawberries

1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

1/4 c. turbinado sugar

 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

In a small saucepan, heat balsamic vinegar on low heat. Add sugar and stir until dissolved. Pour over sliced strawberries and add lemon zest. Mix thoroughly and let the flavors marry in the fridge for a little while. Or eat it now. It’s up to you.

Truthfully, this recipe is one for the books. Pull it out when you want something kind of fancy but don’t have a lot of time to get anything together.  You don’t even have to pretend as if you like strawberries with this one. You will actually love them. Even if you still have nightmares from being dressed up as an 80’s cartoon character.

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