Celebrate the season ... strawberry season!


Strawberry season is here! We've eaten them sliced for breakfast, had our first strawberry shortcake, made strawberry rhubarb pie and have already been given a pint of this season's jam. Of course we plan to make our own supply of jam to get us through to Strawberry Season 2015, but there is something special about a gift of jam, don't you think?

While I haven't actually picked any myself, I know that there are many available, both at farm stands and as pick-your-own. My aunt and I were just discussing where the best berries might be -- when you grow up on a produce farm that specialized in berries, including the coveted "Sparkle" strawberry, your standards are pretty high -- but we haven't yet eaten enough berries from enough farms to have formed any opinions yet this year. Time will tell and then we'll do some picking and jamming, probably freezing a bunch whole to use in our off-season smoothies.

Knowing that the season still holds picking berries and jam making as well as fresh strawberry pie, a community strawberry supper at the Dummerston Grange and other delicious ways to enjoy this favorite berry is a reminder, feeling a bit like waking up on the last day of school, that summer is here. Add in Margot's new pajamas featuring strawberry-strewn bottoms and the strange but welcoming resurfacing of our old family favorite nighttime book "Jamberry," and you can't help but to feel like this is going to be a great year for strawberries. It gets you thinking: "What else can we make with them?"

Being honest about how much time I want to spend preparing berries vs eating berries I think my new favorite is going to be roasted strawberries. Roasting may just be my favorite way of cooking anything as I love the way it caramelizes natural sugars and makes everything taste just the right amount of sweet and, well, roast-y. Roasting strawberries that already have more natural sugar in them than other commonly roasted foods make them divinely sweet and lusciously juicy. Roast with a few interesting ingredients and you have some wonderful new ways to enjoy your seasonal strawberries. Try them on yogurt, in a parfait, over ice cream or even topping crostini with a favorite goat cheese.

Roasted Strawberries

(makes about 1 cup)

1 quart strawberries, washed and hulled

1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (you could also use honey)

Optional (depending upon your taste or thoughts on a recipe):

1/2 teaspoon vanilla or 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or a splash on Cointreau Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking pan with parchment paper. Halve small berries and quarter large ones so that they are all roughly the same size. Combine sweetener and any optional ingredients, then add and toss the berries until coated. Roast about 30 minutes or until the berries have shrunk a bit and things have gotten juicy. Allow to cool and then serve as you like.

The roasted berries are good either warm or cold and will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. This method is a great way to quickly use any extra berries that you might have on hand and if you are unfortunate enough to have gotten a hold of some not-so-fabulously-flavored berries, roasting will bring out their best.

Celebrate strawberry season with both traditional favorites and something new. Roasted strawberries and jam are delicious but if you come across any great combinations or new recipes that have really impressed, please let me know -- this season is so fleeting we should all share ways to best enjoy our local strawberry goodness!

Julie Potter is a wife, mother of two, avid gardener and passionate cook who believes good food doesn't have to be complicated. Share your thoughts with her at jpottercooks@gmail.com.


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