Someone is stealing my strawberries! Yesterday I found the culprits, a pair of quite adorably plump little striped chipmunks who dive under the Reemay (put there to protect the berrries from all too eager birds) and feast to their heart’s content, unnoticed by madame la propriétaire. Is this Mr. MacGregor’s garden or what?
So the trick is to get out and get as many berries as I can before the critters eat me out of house and home.
And then what to do with them?
Strawberry shortcake for the Fourth of July? By all means.
And strawberry jam? I still have jars in the larder labeled June 2008 so maybe that’s not such a great idea (I must, reluctantly, toss that in the rubbish). Nowadays, if I need strawberry jam, I get it from my friend Bonnie Shershow who makes fantastic jam and sells it on the internet—take a look at www.bonniesjams.com.)
Frozen strawberries? Yes, definitely. And this year I’ve converted totally to Ziploc freezer bags—whole berries, frozen on a sheet pan so they don’t mush together, then popped into a freezer bag with either a little sprinkle of sugar or a quarter-cup of simple syrup to which I added a couple of tablespoons of balsamico (not the real stuff, per carita, but good quality imitation at least). Each one-pint bag is enough for two servings over ice cream when strawberry season is long gone. And thanks be to Demeter, or whoever watches over cooks and gardeners, for freezers.
Then there’s Sara’s strawberry risotto which she and Nico remember from school days in Rome. We used to walk home from Mater Dei, the school they attended in Piazza di Spagna, to our house in the now glamorous Palazzo Taverna, along a street called via dei Pianellari where we stopped for lunch in a tiny osteria whose specialty was risotto con le fragole. That was long before strawberry risotto became a Big Thing in Roman restaurants so we had it all to ourselves.
This is the recipe she developed and published in her wonderful cookbook, Olives and Oranges (Houghton Mifflin, 2008):
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- Fine sea salt
- 2 cups carnaroli rice
- 10 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut in half or quarters (1 3/4 cups cut berries)
- 1 or 2 teaspoons sugar, or to taste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 3 1/2 cups chicken broth, heated to a simmer
- 1 1/2 cups freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until the better is melted. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice, increase heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice is chalky-looking, about 5 minutes.
Add the strawberries and sugar (1 teaspoon for very sweet berries, 2 for tarter ones), stir to combine, and cook until the berries soften slightly, then add the wine and continue cooking, stirring, until most of the wine has been absorbed. Add a cup of broth and cook, stirring, until mostly absorbed, then keep adding broth by half-cups, cooking and stirring, until most of the broth has been absorbed and the rice is tender but still firm to the bite. Add a final 1/4 cup of broth, remove from the heat, add a handful of grated cheese, stir to combine, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with chives and pepper and serve immediately, passing more cheese if you wish.