Here in Los Angeles, we can be looking at getting the first of the strawberries in late winter or early spring. The sun here shines brightly and warm. Because of this weather kindness, we have amazing produce here all throughout the year and in each season. Our farmer’s markets never go away. They stick around every week, bringing us some of the best fruits and vegetables in the country and arguably the world. Roaming the stalls and different stands at the Sunday Hollywood Farmer’s Market or the Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer’s Market in any given season is almost a supernatural experience–for the lovers of food and the dreamers of dreams that is.
I buy my strawberries at the farmer’s market (I like Harry’s Berries) only when I cannot make it to a farm to pick them myself. I was lucky enough to get to pick twice this year. I made strawberry jam, wine, margaritas and a few desserts.
Where do I begin? I did not intend an almost month long hiatus. I returned from Maui, got my bearings and then boom, my computer broke. There’s a first time for everything I guess. I have always had good luck when it comes to electronics and I’m happy to report I’m really not used to having to have things fixed. Like sent away and fixed. My computer is back in my life, for now it seems. So here I am with a new post and recipe for you.
I was excited to be visiting Maui in (almost) Spring time as I knew Kula Country Farms would be open for strawberry picking. I raced over there one day before they closed to grab some berries. It was raining, which I don’t mind, but no berry picking pictures because of the wetness.
Strawberry season is almost upon us kids. Temecula Valley Strawberry Farm will be opening on March 1st and my Chandler strawberry plant (who is aptly named Chandler) is already blowing up with berries. Chandler has been with me for many moons now and he makes strawberries almost all year long with only a few dormant months in between exploding with berries. He’s a weird one, but I love him and the fruity delights he provides me with. Since he’s only one plant, I always eat the berries as snacks. There are never enough at one time to make any kind of recipe, but one day I hope to have enough space so Chandler can have some friends. Until then, it’s all about farm trips and the far mar for me.
I have seen various concoctions for strawberry preserves/spreads paired with hot peppers. I actually sampled a pencil-eraser sized dollop of strawberry-ghost pepper jam that had my mouth pretty steamy for a while. Probably not my first choice for toast, but pretty good all the same. That gave me the idea to bake a TexasStrawberry-Habanero Pie. Strawberries generally don’t make the best pies all on their own because they are so juicy, but I figured I’d give it go and see if I could make the pie work. I’m happy to report that while it was ever so juicy, it was not a soggy mess. Joy. Pie joy.
It’s obvious by now. I could spend the rest of my days creating vegan versions of Eat the Love recipes. It’s like….my favorite. My absolute favorite. I know this may seem strange, but I know I have a similar palate to certain omnivores. It’s strange, because they eat so much differently than I do. I just know that Irvin’s combinations really strike a chord in me. Not only do they inspire me, but some of my vegan versions of his treats are the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten. My own recipe creations are always and ever evolving and really hope to be as inspired and creative as Irvin is someday. I feel the same way about Geoffrey Zakarian and less so about Giada, but many of her recipes translate into some damn fine veganese cuisine.
But on to the recipe. These were originally blondies on Irvin’s site, but the vegan version most definitely translates more to a cookie bar than a blondie…meaning, instead of being chewy, or slightly cakey or of general brownie/blondie texture, this is more of a cookie dough that you take and bake into a huge delicious square instead of round flat circles. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
White Chocolate Pistachio Cookie Bars w/ Strawberry Balsamic Topping
1 pistachio meal (shell pistachios and make this in a food processor–be careful not to blend to long or you will get paste)
For the topping:
1 c strawberries, chopped
1 tbsp unbleached cane sugar
1 tsp tapioca starch
3 tsp balsamic vinegar, divded.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8×8 or 9×9 square pan. Line with parchment paper.
Place the Earth Balance, olive oil, and sugars in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream together until light and fluffy and the color of cinnamon sugar. Add the egg replacer, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions. Add vanilla extract. Add the salt and beat to incorporate. Add the flour and pistachio meal, mix to incorporate. The dough may seem just a bit dry, that is okay. Press firmly into your pan.
Make the topping by adding all ingredients except 1 tsp of balsamic to a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the strawberries start to release their juices and the mixtures thickens slightly. Remove from heat and then stir in your reserved 1 tsp of balsamic. Use a rubber spatula to spread this topping over the cookie bars. Do not try to swirl it in, the cookie bars will be more of a dough than a batter, so swirling is not really possible here. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Let bars cool before slicing them.
Strawberries were my favorite as a kid. They have always captivated me with their bright red colors and tiny seeded flesh. I enjoy the juicy sweet varieties and even like the not so sweet ones too. There’s just something about them that I have always loved. I like to eat them in their raw state (sans powdered sugar or sweetener—ew). It was only two or so years ago that I made my first strawberry-rhubarb pie and have been enjoying strawberries in cooked desserts ever since. Of course I still enjoy them in uncooked desserts too.
Strawberries are definitely one of those fruits that you should buy organic/chemical free. It shocks me how much poison they dump all over conventional strawberries. I’ve been growing them for years and I find them both disease and pest resistant without much help from me.
For the first strawberry dessert of the season, I made this Honey-Balsamic Strawberry Galette. I saw the recipe over on Honey & Jam. The recipe is almost vegan, but if you don’t want to use honey, sub brown rice syrup or agave.
With the next batch of strawberries came this incredibly rich pie. This pie reminds me of strawberry shortcake with a touch of lemon, only pie. It’s really easy to make, super rich and creamy like mousse, but with a touch less air.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. Roll out your crust and place it in a 9″ pie plate. Take a fork and poke some holes in your crust for ventilation. Place a piece of parchment paper in your crust and add pie weights, dry beans or rice. Bake your crust until it starts to turn golden. Depending on what recipe you use, the exact baking time will vary, but it should take around 15 to 20 min. Once your crust is cooked, remove from oven and let cool completely.
For the filling, chill your Healthy Top for about 30 min. Once the Healthy Top has chilled, pour it into the bowl of your standing mixer. Add meyer lemon zest, salt and sugar. Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment and turn to a high speed. Whip according to package direction or until peaks form. Take 1 pint of your strawberries, hull, stem and slice them. Fold them into the whipped cream.
Transfer your whipped cream to your pie crust. Stem the remaining strawberries and arrange them on top of your pie. Drizzle with meyer lemon juice. Heat your jam for a minute in the microwave; once melted, brush the jam over the berries. Serve and enjoy!
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting the brand new Temecula Valley Strawberry Farm in the Rainbow/Fallbrook area just past Temecula, Ca. I went to high school not far from the area, so I still consider them local to me, even if they aren’t exactly the closest farm to LA.
It was overcast and there were scattered showers the day I visited, so I pretty much had the farm to myself. One of the coolest things I discovered about TVSF is their unique growing method. They use a hydroponic system to grow their berries; that means no soil, no pesticides, and TVSF‘s method uses about 85% less water than traditional strawberries planted in rows in the ground, so the farm is pretty eco-friendly. The strawberries are not technically organic, as TVSF does use a very limited amount of fungicides to protect the berries from mold and fungus. However, organic farmers are allowed to use the chemical methyl bromide which is a known carcinogen, so always remember to investigate!
When I arrived, I was greeted by a friendly face, given info on prices and given a couple of baskets to collect my bushel of berries. It was a gorgeous day despite the clouds. Sometimes things just look more beautiful on the whitish-grey backdrop that a cloudy sky creates, and the strawberries were no exception. They were a vision of perfection. I kept imagining what wonderful things I could make with all of the perfect strawberries and I decided on an Old Fashioned Strawberry Pie. Look for the recipe below.
Temecula Valley Strawberry Farm
U-Pick Strawberries, $3 per lb.
Thu – Sun:
5452 5th Street
Fallbrook, CA 92028
Old Fashioned Strawberry Pie
Ingredients: (preheat oven to 425°F & lightly oil a pie plate or tart pan)
3 tbsp arrowroot–*I subbed this is place for cornstarch, the only difference between this recipe and VD. Arrowroot is a type of starch taken from an herb. It is more digestible than cornstarch, but does not give the same type of “shine” that cornstarch gives to things. I prefer it over cornstarch and would use it in place of cornstarch in a recipe wherever needed.*
1/2 c purified water
Combine dry ingredients together in a bowl. Cut in the Earthy B by using a pastry cutter. Shortbread crust comes together pretty fast, so once a dough starts forming, go ahead and start pressing it into your pie plate or tart pan. Bake in preheated oven about 12-15 min keeping an eye on it. Remove and let cool completely.
Mash or blend enough berries in a food processor to equal one cup. Put the arrowroot and sugar in a saucepan. Then add the berries and water and turn the heat on and up to medium. Stir the mixture frequently and bring it to a boil. Boil for about one minute; mixture should be rather thick and syrupy at this point. Let the mixture cool a few minutes. Meanwhile put your remaining strawberries in a big bowl, if they weren’t in one already. Once the syrup has cooled for a few minutes (about 10 or less), pour it over the raw, whole strawberries. Stir them around to make sure they are all evenly coated and then pour them into your shortbread crust. Refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours so the pie can set. Top with vegan whipped cream like homemade coconut whipped cream (pictured), MimicCreme’s Healthy Top, or Soyatoo.
I have a really good memory. I believe that once things are encoded into the brain, they are never forgotten. I think people just lose or don’t have the ability to recall. I’ll be going about my day and then remember, in vivid detail, a dream I had as a child. It’s strange because the memory has been stored for so long, it sort of surprises you when it just comes into your mind. My first memory of my life is from when I was 2. I remember being suspended in a baby floatie in my cousin’s above ground pool on Staten Island. I don’t really remember the experience, like what was talked about, or the way the water felt, but I remember the images. My bathing suit, my red baby floatie tube etc. I also have a few other memories from that age. Oh dear, I’m blathering about memory. What I’m getting to, is that part of how I exercise my memory is that I write things down and repeat things. Like ideas for food! I have so many ideas for recipes, alterations, veganizations and the like, that I need to write them down or they won’t get made for 6 months….when I sporadically recall what I had wanted to make. But really, I come to this magical internet place to talk about food, not brains (memory=brainzzz!). Okay, sometimes brains, but food mostly. Now to the foodz.
Does everybody love cornbread? I think so. There are traditional, savory cornbread fans and there are sweet cornbread fans (think Marie Callender’s) and then there are people like me, who love and appreciate both. I was looking at some of my ideas and today the idea of Sweet Strawberry Cornbread jumped out at me. This is just a basic sweet cornbread with strawberries and corn added in and topped with a little all natural strawberry cane sugar. This was the first time I’ve experimented with this particular combo and I am happy to report I was super pleased with the results. I hope you will be too.
Sweet Strawberry Cornbread Muffins
1 c cornmeal
1 c unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ c raw turbinado sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp egg replacer
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 c coconut milk (not the kind from the can, the So Delicious kind! ps. I like unsweetened)
1/3 c corn oil
½ c strawberries, chopped into small pieces
¼ c corn
*strawberry infused cane sugar, for sprinkling on top, optional*
Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a muffin tin with liners.
Mix cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder thoroughly. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined, do not over mix. Add the strawberry pieces and corn and give one or two stirs, as few as possible. Fill the liners about ¾ way full and bake for 18-20 min. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins should come out clean.
* I wanted to include a little note on organics. I don’t write the word organic before all of my ingredients, well, because it’s too much writing. But just know, my basic policy is that if I can get the ingredient organic I do and if I can’t, I will buy conventional or not use that ingredient. That being said, I will only use organic corn and strawberries. Conventional corn is heavily genetically modified and conventional strawberries are heavily laden with pesticides and other poisons. It’s best to always go organic for those particular foods. For more info on which foods are important to always buy organic and which foods are okay to buy conventional, check out The Dirty Dozen and The Clean Fifteen.