Jewels of the Season
It comes as no surprise that seasonal eating is the new rage in foodie culture-and there has never been a finer time than the present to eat. Remember when TV dinners used to be a hip treat, or the days when a tub of margarine in your fridge meant health consciousness? Thank goodness we have moved on, or is it. . . moved back?
Eating seasonally used to be the only option. Families and tribes collected, hunted, or grew what was locally available for each meal. Perhaps an exotic traveler may pass through, trading spices for a clean bed, but for the most part, native, seasonal edibles were the only foods on the table.
In modern times, we have explored other options. State-of-the-art shipping methods has granted us access to bananas, grapes, and mangoes anytime throughout the year. What a treat! So why are many of us opting out of this advancement? Perishables sourced far from home, picked before they are ripe, shipped, and gassed to encourage “ripeness,” cannot compare in the slightest to what can be grown fresh, right down the road.
This brings me to the topic of strawberries. First bred in Brittany, France in 1740, the garden strawberry is a cross between Fragaria virginiana from North America, and Fragaria chiloensis from Chile and Argentina, boasting outstanding flavor and size. Most of us are familiar with this common fruit. Few however, are lucky enough to know strawberries the way we were intended due to the dominance of commercially produced cultivars which lack the intense flavor of earlier cross breeds. Strawberries available right now, grown in our special Western North Carolina climate, should have a category all to themselves. All others pale greatly in comparison, and the word is getting out!
Saturday morning, I arrived at farmers market early, thinking this would ensure a leisurely shopping experience. I strolled around, checking out the scene before making my first purchase from Anne at Gaining Ground Farm. A few rows of pint boxes cradled the seasons first cheery strawberries. I set two boxes aside, and chatted with Anne. By the time I had paid for a few other items, and turned around to fetch the berries, a mob surrounded the remaining pints. I even saw a guy reach for a box before a breathless shopper said to him, “Those are mine!” Yikes! This is great! We are obviously here to buy something our globe trotting, tech savvy, modern food system cannot provide....local, seasonal delicacies! Harvested and sold to us by the hands that grew them.
Strawberries shipped from distant lands are not, and will not ever compete with this flavor! I would wear them on a string around my neck for their sheer beauty if I could stand to smell them dangling right below my mouth without nibbling. These are jewels of the season my friends! Get them while you can!
Local Strawberry and Goat Cheese Tart:
*1 pint fresh local strawberries, sliced
*1 cup local plain goat chevre
*1 Tbsp. local honey
Crust: (Adapted from the Silver Palate)
1 2/3 cup organic all purpose flour
1/4 cup fine raw cane sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
10 T unsalted high quality butter, chilled
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. cold water
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in the butter. Incorporate the butter using your fingertips until the mix resembles a course meal. Whisk the egg yolks, vanilla and water together in a separate bowl. Add to flour mixture using a fork. Form the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface.
Working in batches, smear a small portion of the dough in a forward motion on work surface using the palm of your hand. Scrape off of work surface and repeat with remaining dough.
Divide dough in half and form into disks. Wrap in wax paper and chill until firm.
Preheat oven to 425.
On a piece of wax paper or parchment, roll out one of the dough disks to fit a buttered 7 inch tart pan.
Place the dough in the pan, pressing into all areas of pan. Trim edge. Line the dough with a circle of parchment fit to the bottom of the pan. Place dry beans over the parchment and bake for 8 minutes on the middle rack of oven. Remove the beans and parchment. Pierce bottom of crust with a fork a few times.
Bake another 7 minutes until crust is golden and cooked through.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Thoroughly blend the goat cheese and honey in a small bowl. Gently rinse strawberries. Cut away tops and slice lengthwise. Spread the honey and goat cheese mixture evenly over the base of the crust. Arrange the strawberry slices to cover the top. Slice and serve.
*This crust recipe is the same for the butter cookies posted yesterday. Messing around with pastry dough for different applications never flops.