Friday, May 20, 2011

The Tragedy of Strawberries

How could I even say such a thing?  Fresh strawberries are one of my favorite fruits:  their sweet/tart, juicy flavor; the intoxicating scent of ripe berries; the gorgeous contrast of bright red berry, yellow seeds and green stems and sepals.  They’re practically a harbinger of summer.  I love fresh strawberries.  Where’s the tragedy in that?  The tragedy is that I’m a tad bit allergic to them.

strawberry with cracked pepper
It’s not a severe allergy by any means.  I can eat a couple of them without incident; with an antihistamine, a few more.  But occasionally common sense and good judgment abandon me, and I eat more than I should.  The hives that began appearing before I went to bed Wednesday night told me I went a little bit too far.  And I wasn’t surprised to see them.

strawberries with vanilla sugar
In addition to the berries that begged to be tasted while I was hulling them Wednesday, I also thought a smoothie with fresh strawberries and almond milk would be really good.  It was.  Then a few hulled berries left over with some vanilla sugar on top.  And then of course there was the spatula from the pâte de fruit that needed to be sampled.  I went a bit over board.  Apparently I’m as inept with moderation as I am with patience.

Given my impatience, the project I’m undertaking next will be a test.  I’d recently come across a recipe for Strawberry-Chipotle Preserves.  The title sounded interesting enough for me to save it without reading completely through it.  Since I still had half the flat of strawberries left, it seemed a good time to try it – thus necessitating actually reading the recipe.  As you may recall with caramels and pâte de fruit, I find waiting 24 hours for results to be excruciating.  This preserve recipe takes seven days.  Seven.  Days.  It so better be worth it.

I also had enough berries left to dehydrate a few for future use in another take on the cocoa-nut granola.  I'm thinking chocolate, almonds, strawberries . . .  The nice little cubes I wanted didn't quite work out as planned. 


I thought I would use my butter cutter to slice down the strawberries and then cut them in half.  As it turns out, it just smashed them mostly.   So much for my shortcut. 
 (I have tried five times to change the size of the above text.  Sometimes Blogger is incredibly frustrating!)

And so much for my even little cubes.  Apparently I need to be practicing my knife skills a bit more.

So for Day One of Strawberry-Chipotle Preserves, I washed and hulled about three pounds of berries; added some sugar, lemon zest and juice; a pinch of salt and two dried chipotle chiles.  The instructions said to coarsely chop the chipotles.  These things were not going to be chopped with any knife I own.  I had to cut them up with scissors.  Chipotle seeds were flying everywhere.  The berries are still macerating with their liquid waiting for me to proceed to Day Two.  Day Two is going to have to wait until I get home from a shopping trip to Belleville. 

After all the strawberry love, I made our first meal out of the Madhur Jaffrey cookbook I just got. We had Salmon in a Bengali Mustard Sauce with saffron rice and steamed green beans.  When the hubs saw that I was cooking salmon, and it was with our usual Yoshida's sauce, he was worried.  He didn't say as much, but he didn't have to. 

I stayed pretty true to the recipe this time.  I did decrease the amount of cayenne by about half and make up the difference with paprika.  The jalapeno is what was available instead of more authentic bird chiles.  And I didn't have any mustard oil on hand.  But it still worked. 

You can't imagine how satisfying it was to totally surprise him.  So now empowered, I'll be attempting a lot more recipes in the future.  I guess I need to find some mustard oil.

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