So, strawberries are starting to peak. Those beautiful crimson gems that should release a gentle aromatic and explode a big sugary hit on your tongue. But everyone washes them – yikes. They are little sponges absorbing the moisture diluting their potency and worst of all breaking down. Now, I am personally all for a little dirt especially on a strawberry. If that grit annoys you at most take a damp towel and wipe the berry clean. I can never figure out where the seeds start and the dirt ends.
Do not tell me you are washing the berry to remove the pesticides for while I will agree that you can remove a certain portion from the berry topically they are rife with bug killers, mold retardants and fungus zappers throughout. I am not deluded into believing I am ridding these late spring arrivals of a quintessential tenant – eat organically. I have yet to find an organic supplier of these earth-hugging droplets. Not being too militant about life, and I refuse to deny myself of such a natural treasure I eat them – but never wash them.
Strawberry Compote with Homemade Ricotta Cheese - yields 6 servings
For Ricotta cheese
2 quarts Whole Milk
1/2 cup Distilled White Vinegar
In a four quart sauce pan bring the milk to just below the boiling point, approximately 180 degrees and remove from the heat. Stir in the vinegar giving the milk about three stirs only. Allow the mixture to sit for 20 to 25 minutes at room temperature. You should notice the milk starting to curdle almost immediately. If the milk does not start to curdle within the first five minutes add in an additional 1/4 cup of vinegar.
Line a sieve with about 4 to 5 layers of cheese cloth and place over a deep bowl or pot. After the milk has sat for the prescribed amount of time gently pour the curds and whey into the sieve. Allow the cheese to sit for 30 minutes to drain off the whey. The curds are your ricotta. Use immediately or store, refrigerated for a few days. You should store the ricotta in a glass bowl with a piece of plastic placed right down on top of it to prevent a skin from forming.
1 quart of Strawberries
1/4 cup Honey
1/4 cup Lemon Balm - leaves only, roughly chopped ( or use mint, hyssop or lavender)
With a damp towel wipe the strawberries clean of any dirt. Cut off the green tops from the strawberries, known as the hull. Then cut the strawberries in half or quarters depending on their size.
In a sauce pan large enough to hold all the ingredients, add half the strawberries, honey and lemon balm. Over a medium flame cook the strawberries until they just start to breakdown, approximately 15 minutes. Then mix in remaining strawberries and remove from the heat.
To serve place a dollop of the ricotta on the plate and then spoon over the strawberry compote. Garnish with a crisp almond cookie.