Strawberries offer delightly summer taste treats

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Strawberries and rhubarb combine beautifully in crisps and cobblers ; this one has a surprise tang of orange zest.

Last week, this column offered some rhubarb recipes in impatient expectation of that early-spring gift. Today, we’ll follow up with another soon-to-be-available delight, strawberries. Many folks buy them in the supermarkets’ organic section, but nothing’s as good as your own home-grown gems. Either way, you’ll love these delights – beginning with our illustrated pairing of the two compatible fruits. Enjoy!

Rhubarb-Strawberry Cobbler

Filling:

6-8 stalks rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)

2/3 cup granulated cane sugar

1 Tb. orange zest*

1 Tb. salted butter

1 Tb. flour

3 cups sliced strawberries

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the rhubarb, sugar, and zest, stirring until rhubarb begins to show juice, about 2 minutes; add butter and flour and turn heat up to a boil, stirring constantly. After about 1 minute, add diced strawberries, folding in gently. Immediately remove from heat and pour fruit mixture into a deep 10-inch pie dish. Set aside.

Batter:

1 3/4 cup flour

1 Tb. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

6 Tbs. salted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces, divided

1/2 cup granulated cane sugar pus 2 Tbs., divided

3/4 cup half-and-half

2 Tbs. grated orange zest, divided

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter in small pieces working with your fi8ngers if you wish, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and blend in with fingers or fork, then slowly incorporate the half-and-half with a fork.

Spoon dough over the fruit mixture in pie dish. Mix 2 Tbs. sugar and remaining orange zest and sprinkle over the top. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until golden-brown. Cool slightly and serve with or without whipped cream.

*You may use grated lemon zest if you wish for a different taste experience.

Heavenly Strawberry Torte

1 yellow or white cake mix or your own recipe for 2-layer cake

3 cups ripe strawberries, cleaned

1/2 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 cup cane sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Pinch of salt

2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon real butter

1 pint real whipping cream

Bake two layers of cake and allow to cool. Process or mash 2 cups of the strawberries for filling. Slice remaining cup attractively lengthwise, cover and refrigerate.

Prepare filling: Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt in pan, then add 1 cup of mashed strawberries and the water. Bring to a boil, stirring and cooking until thickened and clear. Remove from heat, stir to cool slightly then stir in the butter and 1 cup of the remaining mashed strawberries. Fold and stir until well mixed and chill for 1 hour. When berry mixture is chilled through, stir in the lemon juice. Return to fridge until well thickened.

Whip the entire pint of cream in a large, deep, chilled bowl until fairly stiff. Do not add sugar or vanilla. Stir in mashed strawberry mixture, folding with a large spoon to mix completely.

Using a good cake or bread knife, slice each cooled cake layer through horizontally to give you four layers. Place one piece on a cake plate, smooth side down (crumb side up) and top with 1/4 of the whipped mixture. Repeat with second and third layers. Place final fourth layer with smooth side up.

Spread with remaining topping and arrange last cup of sliced fresh strawberries atop in rows or circles as you desire. Serve with pride.

This beautiful dessert is a dazzler – tasting as lovely as it looks.

Strawberries with

Meringue Cloud

2 Tbs. finely chopped walnuts*

6 cups full-ripe strawberries, hulled, halved

1/4 cup orange liqueur OR pure orange juice

8 Tbs. pure cane granulated sugar (or to taste)

3 large egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1 Tb. powdered sugar

Lightly toast chopped nuts in oven. Remove and set oven to 500F. Meanwhile, place strawberries in a large bowl and mix with liqueur and 2 Tbs. granulated sugar (or to taste). Pour into a 10-inch shallow non-stick frypan or 2-quart oval casserole dish.

In a large bowl combine egg whites and cream of tartar, beating with an electric hand-held mixer at high speed until foamy.

Gradually add 6 tablespoons of granulated sugar; continue to beat until whites hold stiff moist peaks.

Mound meringue evenly over center of strawberries as shown, sprinkle with nuts*; sift powdered sugar evenly over meringue, Bake in center of oven until meringue is golden – about 4 minutes . Serve at once to gasps of disbelief.

* You may use toasted pine-nuts or slivered almonds, and feature other berries as you desire. Pass a dish of ground candied ginger for optional sprinkling if you wish.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at bcdailybee@bonnercountydailybee.com. or by phone at 208-265-4688.

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