- Published: June 22, 2013
We went to visit Jeremy’s people last weekend. We came home a raffle basket won at the church picnic and 6 quarts of perfectly ripe strawberries.
Our youngest snoozed most of the way home…completely wiped out from repeatedly throwing himself down slides and through obstacle courses on the night before. Is there such a thing as bouncy house overload? The rest of us chatted about the people we saw or had hoped to see. As the multi hour drive passed, I divvied out handfuls of our unexpected bounty, sweet red berries the size of walnuts. Ripe strawberries turn out to be good road trip food. I ate mine stems and all; my family who generally demurs at eating the greens followed my lead and gobbled them whole. The fruit was red all the way through; the green leafy crowns were tender and the stems still snapped. We made it home a full quart short of our initial stash.
Three of the remaining quarts we stashed immediately in the freezer, and they infused the week’s smoothies with their peak perfection. Two quarts we kept at hand to eat again by the handful and to top our breakfast pancakes.
With the last of the fresh berries, I had a plan to make strawberry shortcake but was waylaid by an unexpected muse. I had picked up Columbus entrepreneur Jeni Britton Bauer‘s cookbook for a read. Promising to deliver the glorious seasonal flavors of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, the book’s first recipe was Roasted Strawberry and Buttermilk Ice Cream. Roasted Strawberry? You know, I have some of those.
Now, as a first exploration. I wasn’t so ambitious as to make the ice cream but preparing the flavoring had its own potential. Jeni promised that a short roasting of the fruit would concentrate its flavor, and I liked the thought of the light syrup that the cooking might release. I grabbed two handfuls of strawberries and my vented roasting pan and started in.
In presenting her recipes, Jeni also presents her Ohio suppliers. Her prose on the fragrant mint that one farm surprised her with turned my mind to my Ohio garden and the great cloud of balm mint right outside my door. Ideal for teas, the planting was starting to go wild. What better way is there to cut back an edible plant than to chow it down?
Along with stalks of balm mint, I grabbed a sprig of parsley just because it smelled so good and rescued the last great stalk of rhubarb left in the garden.
All these I chopped and tossed with the whole, unhulled strawberries adding a generous tablespoon of walnut oil, a pinch of salt, a splash of port, and a dusting of sesame seeds. These I roasted in a 400 degree oven for a good 15 minutes—more than a few minutes—but enough for a light blackening on the flesh of berry and stems. I spooned the roasted fruit into bowls and splashed a little more port on the grilling pan to release caramelized juices into a light syrup. To sweeten the pot, into each bowl I dolloped a melon ball scoop of ice cream, Jeni’s splendid Wildberry Lavender. The ice cream cooled the tongue so that each taste of strawberry rhubarb would shine. The result was indeed wonderfully intense and satisfying and all a fitting end to those last perfect strawberries and the last great gifts of spring.