We have real treasure right here in our small Southern town! You may not be aware of it, but we are in the heart of the strawberry season.
While many people enjoy strawberries from the grocery store, the real treasure is in a ruby ripe berry, warmed in the sun and picked at the peak of perfection.
These are the berries you dream about—deep red globes brimming with flavor, waiting on the plant for you to pluck them. They have a divine fragrance and are just so sweet that when you bite into one, it bursts with rich, succulent juice.
For my readers further North, this treasure may be a few weeks getting to you, but trust me, it's worth the wait and the work of picking your own.
Here in Murfreesboro, there are several strawberry farms that allow you to pick berries as long as they have ripe ones available. Yesterday, I had the pleasure of picking at Batey Farms and I can attest that they have some of the best picking and berries around.
The rows are neat and well-tended, the plants are easy to reach and best of all, the berries are delicious. It may seem like picking berries is a lot of work, but in just a half hour at Batey Farms, I had two buckets filled with ruby ripe yumminess.
Once you have your berries, the easiest way to use them is to simply hull them, wash them gently and make sure they are dry before you store them or serve them.
You can freeze them by laying them out on a cookie sheet and putting them in the freezer for a day or two before transferring them to more convenient containers.
You could make a load of strawberry jam or a pie or two.
OR, and this is my recommendation, devour them right away in the freshest possible state. Serve them simply with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.
You could also make a strawberry dessert "bar" for your friends and let them assemble their own perfect dessert. Pick up a pound cake or angel food cake at the grocery store on the way home.
After that, it's simply a matter of arranging your dessert buffet and calling your friends and family to the table. If you want to jazz things up a bit, grill your cake slices and/or add a touch of liqueur to your strawberries just before serving.
Strawberry Dessert Bar
1 Quart fresh ripe strawberries, washed, dried and halved
2 Tablespoons liqueur (such a Grand Marnier or Rum)
1 pound or angel food cake sliced into inch thick slices
4 Tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 Cup whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Butter the cake slices lightly and grill them just until the pan leaves brown marks on the cake. Arrange the grilled cake slices on a platter with the bowl of strawberries. Whip the cream with the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon until stiff peaks form. Serve the whipped cream alongside the cake slices and berries, letting guests assemble their own dessert.