Jun 2, 2012

Eating Local Hawaiian Strawberries

Sweet Maui strawberries grown & packed by
Noel Escobedo Farm.

Click on photo to view larger. 
California is the leading producer of strawberries in the nation, and most of these berries come from the Salinas and Watsonville area. Having lived near Salinas, I am very familiar with these large red strawberries. They were dirt cheap and delicious because they were locally grown and picked ripe. Fortunately Hawaii produces its own strawberries. These strawberries are not picked until all of the sugar has developed into the fruit when they are ripe and sweet. It wasn't until I moved to Hawaii that I realized I had never really tasted great strawberries. It must be the clean air, temperature, aloha, something. Hawaii grown strawberries are packed with intense strawberry flavor. Here on Moloka'i and everywhere else in Hawaii, strawberries can be found in grocery stores and open markets. Unfortunately they are California strawberries. 

Waimea, on the island of Hawaii, is the main producer of strawberries in the State, and is known for having large and especially sweet strawberries. One food blogger put it this way "If you haven’t eaten Waimea strawberries, you haven’t quite lived yet. They are so sweet, they taste like perfume!" One of my favorite local strawberry farms is on the island of Maui, Kula Country Farms. They produce a year-round crop of these delicious berries on their 55 acre farm, and sell about a thousand cases a week. You can find their Kula Strawberries at their farm stand located past mile marker 13 on Kula Highway across from Rice Park. Call them at (808) 878-8381 or visit http://www.kulacountryfarmsmaui.com/. Tip: bring cash, they don’t take credit cards. Another strawberry farm in Kula, on Maui, is Coca Farms. They grow a variety of strawberry called "camarosa". The fruit from this variety is very large and firm and holds up well in rainy weather. Also the Noel Escobedo Farm, shown in the photo above. Many of Hawaii's top chefs are serving strawberries from these farms. More people are demanding locally made, locally grown foods, and the farmers and the markets are responding. I am also a big advocate of eating fresh food that comes from where we live, and eating locally grown fresh strawberries is the way to go.

Strawberry tips: For best flavor, do not wash the strawberries until you are ready to eat or use them. Moisture is the enemy when it comes to storing strawberries. As strawberries tastes best at room temperature, remove from the refrigerator approximately 1 hour before they are to be used. Store fresh strawberries in a colander in the refrigerator. This allows the cold air to circulate around them. Do not cover them. Remove caps from strawberries only after washing (the caps keep the water from breaking down the texture and flavor inside the strawberries). Remove the green caps (stems) with a light twisting motion or with the point of a paring knife.

Strawberry Nutrition: Strawberries are not only good to eat, they are also "good for us." They are an especially tasty source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Strawberries are low in calories: one cup of unsweetened strawberries has only 55 calories.


Dark Chocolate-Yogurt Dip
1/2 cup Greek Yogurt
2 tablespoons Hershey's unsweetened 100% cocoa powder
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until it is an even dark color and all of the brown sugar granules have dissolved, about 3 minutes.

For dipping, serve with fresh Maui strawberries, fresh pineapple sticks, sliced apple bananas, marshmallows, graham crackers, pound cake cut into squares, macadamia nuts, etc..

Makes 1 serving.

Strawberry Salad with Blueberries
Honey Mustard Dressing (see recipe below)
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, washed, dried, and chilled
1 cup thickly-sliced fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon sliced almonds or sesame seeds, toasted
1 small red onion, thinly-sliced (optional)
Fresh blueberries (for garnish)

Prepare Honey Mustard Dressing; set aside. Remove stems and veins from spinach and tear into bite-sized pieces; place into a large salad bowl. Toss spinach with 1/4 cup of Honey Mustard Dressing for every 6 cups of spinach greens; toss gently. Add strawberries, sliced almonds or sesame seeds, and onion; toss again and serve. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Strawberry Sorbet
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
2 pints fresh ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 tablespoons vodka

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water. Stir until mixture comes to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand approximately 10 minutes.

Lightly rinse and dry the strawberries; hull and cut in halves. In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries with 1/4 cup of the sugar syrup.

Add lemon juice, vodka, and pureed strawberries to the remaining sugar syrup; stir until thoroughly blended.

NOTE: The vodka (or any other type of alcohol) is the secret to a soft sorbet. Alcohol itself does not freeze and adding a little bit keeps the sorbet from doing the same. Vodka is excellent to use because it doesn't affect the taste.

Ice Cream Maker - Transfer mixture to ice cream maker, process according to manufacturer's instructions.

Freezer Method - Pour into container, cover, and place mixture in the freezer. When it is semi-solid, mash it up with a fork and refreeze again. When frozen, place in a food processor or blender and process until smooth. Cover and refreeze until serving time.

NOTE: Can be prepared 3 days in advance. Cover and keep frozen.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Zabaglione with Fresh Strawberries
Zabaglione is a light foamy custard-like dessert that is fantastic with strawberries.

5 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dry or sweet Marsala wine*
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream), whipped until stiff
5 1/4 cups fresh strawberries

* Marsala wine is traditionally used, but you can also substitute sherry, Madeira, or Grand Marnier.

Set up a double boiler or a medium-size stainless-steel bowl over a pot of simmering water. Check to make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water, or the eggs may scramble.

With a hand held electric mixer or thin wire whip, beat the egg yolks and sugar together approximately 3 minutes or until pale yellow. Slowly whisk in the Marsala wine and set the bowl over the barely simmering water (Reminder - water should not touch bottom of bowl).

Continue to beat constantly, approximately 10 to 15 minutes, until the eggs triple in volume, thicken, and reach a temperature of 140˚F, as registered on an instant thermometer. The eggs will first become frothy, then as they cook, they will slightly stiffen but still hold the air. If you stop whipping or the water boils you might scramble the eggs. Be sure to move the beater or whip around the bowl so the eggs cook evenly. NOTE: If the eggs begin to curdle pull the insert away from the water for a few seconds to cool it (keep whisking constantly).

Remove from heat and cool the mixture completely in the refrigerator. When the mixture is cool, gently fold in prepared whipped cream using a rubber spatula.

NOTE: Zabaglione can be made ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for several days. Bring the sauce to room temperature before serving with your favorite berries.

In a serving dish (a large martini or wine glass makes a nice presentation), dollop some of the zabaglione. Add fresh strawberries. Finish by adding another good-side dollop of zabaglione and top with mint sprig and a few more berries. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Strawberry Cheesecake in a Glass
1 pint basket strawberries stemmed and sliced
3 tablespoons currant jelly or 2 tablespoons sugar
8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons skim milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup light whipped topping
1 cup graham cracker crumbs

In bowl, toss strawberries with jelly; cover and set aside. In mixer bowl, beat cheese, milk, juice and sugar until smooth; fold in whipped topping. Spoon 2 tablespoons crumbs into each of four 8-to-10-ounce stemmed glasses; top each with about 1/4 cup of the strawberries, 1/2 cup of the cream cheese mixture, then the remaining crumbs and strawberries, dividing equally. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 6 hours. Makes 4 servings.

Strawberry Cream Pie with Dark Chocolate Crust
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, divided
3 cups half-and-half
6 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (9-ounce) package chocolate wafer cookies
1/2 (4-ounce) semisweet chocolate baking bar, chopped
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 quart fresh strawberries (4 cups)
1/4 cup red currant jelly
1 tablespoon orange liqueur (I use Grand Marnier, you can buy an airline size bottle from liqueur stores)

Whisk together first 3 ingredients and 2/3 cup sugar in a medium-size heavy saucepan. Whisk together half-and-half and next 2 ingredients in a small bowl; gradually add to cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat, and transfer to a bowl; cover and chill 4 to 24 hours. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pulse wafer cookies and chopped chocolate in a food processor 8 to 10 times or until finely crushed. Stir together cookie crumb mixture, melted butter, and remaining 1/3 cup sugar; firmly press mixture on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 9-inch pie plate. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 30 minutes). Spoon chilled half-and-half mixture into prepared crust. Cut 8 to 10 strawberries in half, and arrange around outer edge of pie (leaving tops on, if desired); hull and slice remaining strawberries, and arrange in center of pie. Cook jelly in a small saucepan over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until melted. Remove from heat, and stir in liqueur. Brush jelly mixture gently over strawberries. Chill, uncovered, 30 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Victoria Sandwich Cake
This is a classic everyday strawberry cake meant to be served with a cup of tea in the afternoon in England. Two 9" round cakes are put one on top of the other with a strawberry jam filling on the bottom of one half, then a butter cream filling on top of the other half.  It is then sandwiched together. The top is then dusted with powdered sugar and crowned with fresh strawberry halves around its edges, making for a beautiful presentation. The cake itself is similar to a pound cake. You could use raspberries instead of strawberries if you prefer. Either way, it's a beautiful cake.

Ingredients For the cake:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup softened butter
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

Ingredients For the filling:
1/2 cup butter softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar plus a little to sprinkle on top
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup good quality strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Place all of the ingredients in a mixer or food processor and blend until everything is mixed.

Split the batter between 2 greased 9 inch round cake pans, and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, beat the butter until smooth and creamy, then gradually beat in icing sugar. Beat in vanilla extract. Spread the butter cream over the bottom of one of the cakes and then spread the jam over the bottom of one of the other and sandwich them together.

Dust the top with a powdered sugar before serving. Makes 8 servings.

Note: You can cut 4 fresh strawberries cut in half lengthwise and put them on top of the cake evenly around the outer edge after dusting with sugar. This will make for a more beautiful presentation.

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