We may be short on good news, but there’s one thing we can cheer: January marks the beginning of strawberry season.
Florida is the country’s second largest strawberry supplier, exporting thousands of pounds of strawberries each year to various states across the country. According to the Florida Strawberry Grower’s Association, Hillsborough County alone supplies 15% of the nation’s winter strawberries, producing an impressive 20 million flats of fresh berries each season. These juicy little berry bombs are not only refreshing but they are packed with potassium, antioxidants and vitamin C. Who doesn’t enjoy a sweet, chocolate-dipped strawberry confection or glistening, fresh strawberry slices atop French toast? And we all swear our own mother’s strawberry shortcake recipe is the world’s best. But an unconventional year calls for unconventional strawberry recipes.
When cooking with strawberries, most people think of either sweet breakfast nosh or dessert-inspired recipes. But strawberries are a versatile ingredient you can add to many savory dishes for a tangy pop of acidity – like my Strawberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce (recipe follows).
Chef Tip: Frozen strawberries make a splash. Wash and trim fresh your strawberries, and pat dry. Store in a large zip top bag and freeze whole (slicing larger strawberries in half). The next time you pop open a bottle of bubbly at brunch, throw a couple of frozen strawberries into the flute. Not only will they keep your champagne cold but you have a palate cleanser at the bottom of your glass!
Celebrating the Strawberry
Plant City, known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, hosts the annual Florida Strawberry Festival. This year, the festival is scheduled for March 4-21. While there will still be rides, 4-H animals and carnival games, in an effort to control crowds and enforce social distancing, the music will have to wait for another year. flstrawberryfestival.com
Strawberry Chipotle BBQ Sauce
(Yields 1-2 cups sauce)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large sweet onion (minced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 pints fresh strawberries (rinsed, ends trimmed, chopped)
2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 c. ketchup
⅔ c. light brown sugar (packed)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dried mustard
Salt and pepper as desired
Method: Sweat onion in olive oil until translucent; Add garlic. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer to reduce, approximately 20 minutes or until consistency is thick and viscous. Using a blender or hand mixer, purée sauce until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week. Recommended with grilled chicken and veggies.
Beware of your grill’s temperature when cooking with this sauce as the sugars can easily burn. Coat your grilled item when it’s within five minutes of being done, moving your meat to a cooler spot on the grill. The sugars will caramelize and brown when ready.
Fresh Strawberry Avocado Salsa
If you’re adhering to 2021 resolutions to eat healthier try making this fresh strawberry avocado salsa for your next snack or socially-distanced gathering. Made with whole ingredients, this recipe is both healthy and satisfying, diet or not.
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and vein removed, diced
½ cup red onion, peeled and chopped
1 whole avocado, peeled and chopped
Zest and juice from 1 lime
Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Method: Add strawberries, jalapeño, red onion and avocado to bowl. Add lime zest and juice, toss to coat. Add cilantro and season with kosher salt.