by Mary June Thompson, Celebrate Knoxville Food Writer. –Strawberries are typically at their peak of perfection this season. Some savory suggestions to try, if you haven’t already: include them in a spinach salad with a sweet vinaigrette and feta cheese; along with other berries over mixed greens and goat cheese; paired with burrata cheese, basil, and a thick, wonderfully aged balsamic vinegar; as the base for a spicy salsa; or even grilled.
Strawberries are always a welcome sight at the Market Square Farmers Market in downtown Knoxville and usually sell out fast. Photo by Celebrate Knoxville.
One of my favorite non-traditional uses of this beautiful berry is as the base for a refreshing drink. By using the actual fruit instead of a mix, my cocktail even has a healthy component (and tastes oh-so-much better). Cheers!
½ cup white sugar
½ cup water
1 tsp. dried lavender flowers
1 cup fresh strawberries, stems removed, and halved (or quartered if large)
3 oz. vodka
4 oz. club soda, chilled
For Lavender Simple Syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Cook until sugar completely dissolves, stirring occasionally, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in lavender flowers. Simmer 2 minutes. Turn off heat and steep for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain. Set aside.
For Strawberry Purée:
Place strawberries in a mini food processor (or blender). Pulse (or blend) until strawberries reach a thick, syrupy consistency. Place a fine mesh sieve over a measuring cup. Transfer the purée, in batches if necessary, to the sieve and use the back of a spoon to gently press down on strawberry purée to release the juice and leave the pulp behind. You should end up with at least ¼ cup of strawberry juice. (Reserve remaining pulp to spoon over pancakes, yogurt, ice cream, etc. if desired.)
In a cocktail shaker, combine strawberry juice, ¼ cup lavender simple syrup (or to taste), vodka, and ice. Shake until combined and chilled. Pour evenly into 2 glasses with ice. Top each with 2 oz. club soda. Serve. Enjoy!
Mary June Thompson has been cooking and entertaining for nearly two decades. During this time, her cooking style has expanded and evolved from typical American fare to encompass many different types of cuisines, including Italian, French, Greek, Asian, Mediterranean/North African, and Latin American. Focusing on obtaining the best available ingredients and preparing fresh, healthy dishes with bold flavor defines her cooking style, regardless of cuisine.
—Sustainable Cooking, CelebrateKnoxville.com, May 26, 2015.