Lauren Groveman a recipe for delicious living

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

(October 26, 2006)

Liam asked Lauren:
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Right about now (each year), I start disliking the way fresh strawberries taste because they've lost that really fresh "sunshine" taste that they have throughout the summer. But, because strawberries make a really easy dessert, I was wondering if there was a recipe for serving fresh strawberries during the "off" season, since they're still so readily available. Thanks for your help.

Lauren says...

Well, there's no way to truly duplicate the taste of sunshine in locally grown fresh strawberries, when in season, but there are certainly ways to boost their flavor even when not perfectly sweet, on their own. I like to think of fresh strawberries eaten "as is" as one of the greatest gifts of summer. In the off seasons, though, I shift my thinking to wanting to enjoy strawberries as a colorful adornment. I look for ways to celebrate and utilize what "off season" strawberries do have to offer, without apology.

The easiest way to sweeten things up is, of course, to simply add sugar.
Two tablespoons per dry pint (generous 2 cups) should be good. Stir them around to encourage the sugar to penetrate the flesh. Let sit, undisturbed, for a minimum of 10 minutes and not more than 2 hours.

When altering the taste of fresh strawberries, you'll need to expect (and welcome) textural changes. Think sauce! When you add sugar to berries, after several minutes, the cell walls of the berries will begin to breakdown and the berries will soften and exude juice (not necessarily a bad thing at all.). What I usually do is add another flavoring to the berries, at the same time that I add the sugar. This process is called "maceration" which differs from marinating tough cuts of meats, in hopes of rendering them tender, while also imparting flavor. With fruits, which are naturally tender, the goal of maceration is to just add flavor, and then to use the "new resulting texture" in ways that are appropriate. Things to use to macerate fresh strawberries: thawed frozen orange juice concentrate (2 tablespoons per dry pint), or pick a type of liquor that tastes good with strawberries and use 2 tablespoons. i.e. Grand Mariner, Crème de Banana or Framboise (raspberry liquor), all partner beautifully with strawberries and make a delicious sauce for ice creams, frozen yogurt and sorbets. This is also a great way to "juicy up" a fresh fruit salad that incorporates all kinds of cut up fresh fruits, after they've left their peak season.

To maintain the fullest texture in flavored strawberries, keep them whole. Just rinse them and drain them and roll them around, gently, on doubled paper towels. Pull off their stem ends. Although it's not mandatory, because the central hulls of strawberries are often tough and always tasteless, I like to remove them. However, doing this does make the berry more vulnerable to a quicker cellular breakdown. This doesn't bother me, however, since the added flavors get to touch more spots in the berry itself, creating a fuller flavor all the way around. Slicing, halving and quartering the berries are also perfectly fine and offer a textural difference that's very satisfying. Whether left whole or not, to preserve best texture, add your ingredients to the berries about two hours before serving, occasionally stirring gently. This is just the right amount of time for the berries to absorb flavor and to render juices that you can then use as a sauce. Leaving the berries out, covered at room temperature, while macerating, will further help their tastes to marry. Leftovers are delicious, albeit texturally softer, and need to be refrigerated.

To remove the central hull of a strawberry: After pulling off the stem, insert the tip of a short paring knife into the top of the berry, following the whitish outline of the core, and having the tip angled slightly in toward the center. After making a full revolution with the knife, pull the blade out of the berry, which should bring out the hull along with it. Discard the hulls. You can also use one of those tweezer-type tools called a "strawberry huller" but, to me, the pressure required to do this correctly often leaves the berry bruised and unattractive.

The other way to enjoy strawberries in the off-season is to make a coulis (a fruit puree). You can even combine the puree of different fruits to make a wonderful sauce (or dip) for whole fruit or to use as a vibrant bed for individual servings of pound cake or angel food cake. Some good combinations with strawberries are: raspberries, blackberries (puree berries with seeds and force the pulp through a fine-mesh sieve that sits over another bowl. Add the raspberry puree to pureed strawberries.) There's no need to strain fruits that don't have bothersome seeds, strawberries, included). Ripe mango puree is a fabulous combination with strawberry puree, as is freshly squeezed orange juice. After combining the purees, add a few drops of strained fresh lemon juice and then sugar (or a complimentary melted down jam) to taste, along with a little liquor, if desired.

Here's a very simple recipe for Macerated Strawberries that I've made for years, using fresh strawberries in a very delicious way, even after the sweet taste of sunshine has been long gone.

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Fresh Strawberry Sauce

Strawberries

Yield: serves 6 to 8

The combination of this ruby red sauce that's loaded with berries is just great with a scoop of French-vanilla ice cream. Place the ice cream in bowls, ladle the sauce over the top, add a good dollop of lightly sweetened, and vanilla-scented whipped cream and then top the whole thing off with some toasted sliced almonds. Totally delish.

    Special Equipment

  • Short paring knife or strawberry huller
    Ingredients:

  • 2 full baskets (12 to 16 ounces each), cleaned, stems and hulls removed and berries kept whole
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) seedless raspberry jam
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier or other orange or banana flavored liqueur (optional)
  • Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
  • Whipped cream, as an optional accompaniment
  • Toasted sliced almonds, as an optional accompaniment

1) To assemble the sauce: Place strawberries in a large bowl. Combine jam, water and sugar in a 1-quart saucepan. Stir over low heat to dissolve sugar and liquefy jam, stirring frequently. When mixture begins to bubble from the center, remove pan from heat and stir in Grand Marnier. Pour mixture over strawberries and let cool, uncovered. When cool, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

2) To toast nuts, if using:
Place the sliced almonds on a shallow baking sheet and bake in a preheated 350F oven for 10 minutes, or until they turn golden, without allowing them to scorch. Shake the pan occasionally, while baking, to help them to redistribute and heat evenly. Let cool, before serving.

Timing is Everything

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  • The strawberries can be cleaned, stemmed and hulled early in the day and kept chilled.
  • The sauce (melted jam, water and sugar) can be assembled early in the day. Keep at room temperature. If entertaining, before your guests are scheduled to arrive, re-warm the sauce, whisking frequently, without getting it too hot. Stir in the liquor, if using, and pour the sauce over the berries. Let the berries sit, at room temperature, until it's time for dessert.
  • The nuts can be toasted days ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.
  • The ice cream can be scooped a day ahead and placed in the freezer, on a shallow baking sheet lined with wax paper. Cover the scoops with plastic wrap.
  • The whipped cream, if using, can be made early in the day and kept in the refrigerator, well covered.
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Lauren Groveman recipes have been featured in many national magazines and local newspapers. Her books "The I love to Cook Book: Rediscovering the Joy of Cooking for Family and Friends" and "Lauren Groveman's Kitchen, Nurturing Food for Family and Friends" are available through Amazon.com. Lauren hosts an hour-long, "live" weekly radio show, Food Family & Home "Matters," on 1460 WVOX.

For in depth information on Lauren Groveman as a writer, teacher, TV & radio host, as well as her recipes and cooking tips visit her website at www.laurengroveman.com

Lauren is a Larchmont resident. She is happily married and blessed with three wonderful children.