Sunday, June 13, 2010

It's 1915! And strawberry season.

I had visitors over the weekend, and introduced one of them to the magic that is a Farmer's Market. She'd never been to one before and was slow to taste-test the samples. I think because she saw me eating them while the vendor was busy helping someone else, she assumed I was "stealing" them the way you have to do at the supermarket when you're not sure the grapes are ripe. I let her know that yes, not only is it okay for you to help yourself to samples, the vendors WANT you to. Help yourself to as many varieties as you like, then buy the best ones. They're all convinced they have the best, and they want you to know it, hence the samples. By the end of the morning, many free samples later, she was a convert.

Among the samples we tried were some REALLY beautiful, dark, sweet strawberries. They were the best at the market so I bought three trays of them, with visions of our little girls eating strawberries and cream for breakfast the next day.

Well, tough luck for me they decided to beat traffic on the way home by leaving that evening and driving through the night, so now I have all these wonderful strawberries and no family to cook for. I can't eat three trays of strawberries all by myself! Hmmm, what to do, what to do...

I've got it! That recipe for Strawberry Bavarian Cream has been rattling around in my head for a while. I am forever in search of fancy jello molds at Goodwill and antique stores, and while I haven't yet found a fluted jello mold like the one in the picture, I do have an old panna cotta mold that will do in a pinch! I've certainly got the strawberries for it! Really, the only thing I had to go out and buy was the cream. I don't keep it on hand because I'd drink it out of the carton like milk and look like the Michelin Man by now.

I mashed the strawberries one at a time through a sieve with a spoon because I didn't want to go to all the trouble of cleaning out my food processor when I was done. It has a million parts and they all catch little bits of food when I use it. It takes forever to clean it, it's really quite annoying. Well, next time I'll use the food processor. It's worth it. I've found a new way to measure "forever" since that's how long it took to mash all the strawberries into as fine a pulp as I needed.

I followed all the instructions, poured it into my panna cotta pan, and waited til morning...

Ahhhh, the finished product! Isn't it lovely? It cuts like harvest pie, or the lightest key lime you've ever had. I often wish I had a better camera on my phone, but no camera can tell you how it tasted. The texture is fluffy with just a little graininess because of the seeds and pulp. I'm sure if I had strained it all out it would be smooth, like cool whip, but this way is better because you can tell it had fresh ingredients, no one just mixed whipped cream and jello together and poured it in a bowl. It has a marvelous perfume, because I used farmers market strawberries that had just been picked that morning, rather than store bought berries that had been shipped last week. I can't emphasize enough the difference fresh ingredients make. One day I hope to be able to grow alpine berries -the highly perfumed, tiny progenitors of modern strawberries - and use them in this recipe.

Next time I won't bother with adding sliced berries to the mold. You can't see them and they take away from the soft, fluffy texture. It's a little work, to be sure, and you will mess up a few extra dishes, but oh, it's soooo delicious. I just wish I had a few little girls to share it with today. Ah well. I'll just have to eat it all myself. Poor me.