Courtesy Alex Guarnaschelli. Inset:Cindy Ord/Getty
Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her PEOPLE.com blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.
I think it’s so cool that the strawberry plant is a member of the rose family.
I am obsessed with summer fruits and wait for that right time of year with the strawberries start to taste like candy. Where I live, there are the prized “tri Star” strawberries. I’m starting to think the tinier the strawberry, the bigger the flavor.
When shopping for strawberries, I always look for one that are evenly ripened and look red from top to bottom. A white top can signal a berry that is bitter and tasteless. Beware. Then again, I also like when strawberries are slightly under ripe. If you mix them with some sugar and lemon juice, they almost taste like a different fruit. Try to avoid strawberries that have soft spots or blemishes. Smell them! You may look a little nutty at the market, but give them a smell. You’ll be able to tell a lot by the smell.
Have a few strawberries in the back of the fridge? Simmer them with sugar and a splash of vinegar to make jam. I know it sounds unusual to add a splash of vinegar to fruit or something that you will likely eat when you want something sweet, but I find the zing of a little apple cider vinegar makes the strawberries taste like a better version of themselves.
Cocktail time? Purée some strawberries with sugar, lime juice and some chilled seltzer water for a refreshing summer spritzer. Of course there is always vodka as an option when the kids aren’t around too.
If you are avoiding flour in your diet, try slicing a few cherry tomatoes, sprinkle with lemon juice and top with slices of strawberry. The combination of strawberries and tomatoes is so delicious and summery to me. I love making salads or snacks that just don’t need flour or anything heavy. But the ultimate to me?
I will admit: I am a sucker for strawberry shortcake.
I make the shortcakes ahead, hold in the fridge and just bake them off fresh right before serving. What’s better than warm shortcake with strawberries and whipped cream? Not much that I can think of!
I like to sauté peeled and thinly sliced rhubarb with honey for a few minutes until tender and stir into the strawberries for a pleasantly sour note to this dessert.
Makes about 12 biscuits
1½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, plus some additional for rolling
2¼ tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1¼ to 1½ cups heavy cream
1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Make the biscuits: In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Sifting not only assures that the dry ingredients will be free of lumps but also mixes them together. Here’s where it gets messy: use your hands to mix together dry ingredients and integrate the cream. Take care there is no remaining flour in the bottom of the bowl. Turn the biscuit mixture onto a lightly floured flat surface and with floured hands, pat the biscuit mix down until it is about 1 inch thick. Note: if the outside edges start to show cracks, cup the outer edge with your hands and push the dough towards its own center. Pat the edges so the dough is a 1-inch square. Lightly flour a knife (to avoid sticking as you cut) and slice the biscuits into 1½ inch by 1½-inch squares. This way, you won’t make scraps and all will be used.
3. Bake the biscuits: Arrange the biscuits (with some distance between each) on a non-stick baking sheet or one layered with a sheet of parchment. Refrigerate them for about 15 minutes to give them “resting” time before baking. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until they start to brown lightly. Remember the biscuits will continue to cook even after they are removed from the oven so if their centers seems a bit moist, that’s good! Better to undercook and let them “rest” a little.
2–3 pints strawberries, hulled and split
3 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. raspberry jam
1½ – 2 cups whipped cream
1. Mix all of the ingredients except the whipped cream and let it marinate in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
2. To serve: split the shortcakes, Spoon the strawberries over the bottom half and top with a generous dollop of the whipped cream. Serve immediately.