By Rosie Hawthorne on May 30, 2013
May is strawberry month, and what better way to embrace the season and take advantage of the luscious strawberries available than with a Strawberry Perfect Meal that celebrates strawberries from start to finish.
My menu starts with a strawberry appetizer, moves on to a double strawberry salad, then a strawberry-enhanced scallop entrée, and ends on a high note with a strawberry and custard dessert.
My appetizer course is a spin on a traditional bruschetta. Bruschetta (pronounced
broo-SKET-ta) is an Italian antipasto, meaning “before the meal,” and we usually think of bruschetta as a savory treat. Generally, bruschetta is sliced, grilled or toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.
Depending upon the region of Italy, different toppings are used for bruschetta — artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, peperoncini, provolone, mozzarella, and prosciutto and other cured meats.
Instead of going with the traditional savory bruschetta, I’m going with a sweet bruschetta. For best results, use a good rustic Italian bread, for example, a ciabatta. You could substitute with any hearty bread with a porous texture and chewy body.
8 slices from a loaf of good, hearty bread
Kiwi, peeled and sliced
4 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp honey
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp maple syrup (I use the real thing, not the chemicals.)
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla
Sliced almonds, toasted
A nice fruity extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Thinly slice the bread and grill or toast until lightly browned. Drizzle a little olive oil over top.
Mix cream cheese, honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and vanilla until smooth.
Spread a layer of cream cheese mixture over each toast.
Place strawberry slices, kiwi slices, and blueberries on top and sprinkle with toasted almonds.
My salad course packs a double punch of strawberries. I have plump, juicy strawberries in a mixed greens salad with a vibrant, fresh strawberry dressing, wrapping everything together in a lovely package.
Mixed Greens Salad With Strawberry Vinaigrette
Mixed greens – assorted lettuces, spinach, arugula, broccoli/alfalfa sprouts, microgreens
Bleu cheese, crumbled
Sliced red grapes
Use your imagination and talent and taste buds to combine a harmonious mélange of the above. Assemble a nice green base, and then add the extras, sparingly at first, until you are comfortable with the canvas. Drizzle strawberry vinaigrette over salad.
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 TB balsamic vinegar
2 TB honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lime
1 cup oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper, to taste
Purée strawberries, vinegar, honey, mustard, and lime.
Slowly drizzle in oil, whisking constantly and making a nice emulsion.
As for the type of oil to use, if you have a favorite extra virgin olive oil, use it.
That’s all flavor.
Pour dressing over greens and toss to coat.
One of my favorite seafoods is scallops. Scallops are so versatile and lend themselves to many different preparations. For my entrée, I’m serving sautéed scallops with a strawberry and balsamic vinegar reduction. For the greens, I’m serving kale, cooked with red peppers, diced ham, a little olive oil, and a pinch of sugar.
Strawberry and Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
1 cup chopped strawberries
⅓ cup brown sugar
1 cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup honey
Combine strawberries, brown sugar, and vinegar in a small sauce pan. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to less than a simmer. I place my sauce pan in an iron skillet to diffuse the heat. A reduction can burn easily if left over direct heat and diffusing the heat gives you some wiggle room. I use a skewer to mark the level of the sauce, then reduce it by half. Add in the honey and reduce by half again. The whole reduction process will take a few hours.
Don’t rush it.
Seasoning Mixture for Scallops
Equal parts white sesame seeds, black sesame seeds and red chili flakes.
In a dry pan, toast the sesame seeds and chili flakes over medium heat for a minute or two.
Caution: Have adequate ventilation. Toasting red chili flakes can present respiratory challenges.
When the reduction is ready, start on your scallops. Rinse the scallops well and pat dry completely. Sprinkle lightly with seasoning mixture.
Heat your skillet over medium high heat and add in a tablespoon each of butter and oil. The butter is for flavor; the oil is to raise the smoke point. When butter bubbles, add in the scallops and sear on each side — 2-3 minutes each side, depending on size. Be careful not to overcook. Serve the scallops with the strawberry balsamic vinegar reduction.
I happen to have micro greens growing in a pot on my deck, so I added those for a nice peppery touch.
For dessert, I’m serving a strawberry and custard brulée, which offers a gloriously delicious finale to our meal.
Strawberry And Custard Brulée
⅓ cup sugar
2 TB flour
¾ cup skim milk
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 large strawberries, sliced
Brown sugar and/or turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Mint garnish, optional
Combine sugar, flour, and egg in a saucepan. Gradually stir in milk/cream mixture. Cook over medium low heat, whisking briskly and constantly, until mixture thickens, about 4-5 minutes. Do not let the egg scramble. If necessary, hover the pan over the heat source, to keep the egg from cooking. When mixture thickens, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Cover and chill thoroughly.
Place two strawberries, sliced, in bottom of each ¾-cup ramiken. Spoon custard evenly over strawberries. Sprinkle brown sugar and/or turbinado sugar over top of the custard and quickly fire the sugar with a mini blow torch until crackly and bubbly. If you don’t have a kitchen torch, place under the broiler until sugar is caramelized. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top and garnish with mint, if desired.
A custard brulée is a wonderful thing. The contrasting textures of smooth custard and crackly sugar, paired with the heat of the crust and the cold of the custard, and the freshness of just-picked strawberries is a winning combination.
For more recipes, please visit with Rosie at Kitchens Are Monkey Business.