Tempting recipes for National Strawberry Day

Strawberries and cream. Chocolate-covered strawberries. Strawberry shortcake. How can a little fruit that offers so many benefits, tempt us with decidedly decadent incarnations? Since today is National Strawberry Day, feel free to explore that question in any way you choose. I want to focus on recipes that highlight the versatile strawberry’s cheery bright red color, juicy freshness, and sweet-tart flavor. And about those benefits: strawberries contain abundant vitamin C, plus potassium, fiber, and iron. A whole cupful has only about 45 calories. Generally, a pint of strawberries is equal to 2 cups of hulled, sliced berries.

Chilled California Strawberry Soup

As a refreshing starter course or light dessert, this three-ingredient recipe from the Sonoma Mission Inn couldn’t be easier. From “Spa Food” by Edward J. Safdie; makes 4 servings.

1 cup fresh strawberries, washed and hulled + 4 strawberries for garnish

1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice

1/4 cup nonfat skim milk

Chill all ingredients for at least an hour before serving. When ready to serve, place the cup of strawberries, the apple juice and skim milk in a blender container; puree. Pour into chilled cups or bowls and garnish each with a whole strawberry. Serve immediately.

Spring Vegetable Salad

The sweet-tart side of strawberries plays well with vinegar and greens in this eye-appealing salad from “Plant Food” by Mathew Kenney; makes 4 servings. If you don’t have all of the vegetable ingredients, it will still be a winner.

Vegetables:

4 cups baby mixed greens

1 cup sunflower sprouts

1 cup small purslane leaves and stems

1 cup thinly sliced French breakfast radishes

1 cup shaved asparagus (use a vegetable peeler)

1 cup snap peas, deveined and split open

1/4 cup mint leaves

1/4 cup basil leaves

In a large bowl, lightly toss all ingredients together; set aside.

Pistachio Puree:

1 cup pistachios, soaked in water overnight

1/4 cup filtered water

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

In a blender, combine softened pistachios and remaining puree ingredients; blend until smooth. Pass through a strainer to remove any lumps.

Strawberry Vinaigrette:

1 cup chopped strawberries

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup grapeseed oil

In a blender, combine strawberries, vinegar and salt; blend until smooth. Emulsify oil into strawberry mixture.

Assembly:

Place 1 tablespoon Pistachio Puree on each plate. Toss vegetables with strawberry vinaigrette, reserving some vinaigrette for garnish. Evenly divide salad among plates, on top of puree. Using a spoon, drizzle more vinaigrette around salad on each plate; serve.

Strawberry Shiver &Kiwi Topping

Wash and freeze the berries whole or cut in half, then make this easy and colorful dessert when needed. Recipe from “The Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma Cookbook” makes 4 servings.

4 cups hulled fresh strawberries

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/2 cup nonfat sweetened condensed milk

Spread strawberries on a baking sheet and place in freezer until frozen solid, at least 4 hours. In a food processor, process berries until they form very fine, icy shards, 1 to 1 – 1/2 minutes. Stop and scrape down sides about every 30 seconds. Add lemon juice and condensed milk; process until mixture is smooth and pale pink, 2 to 3 minutes, again stopping to scrape down sides. Serve right away, or freeze in a tightly covered container for up to a week.

Kiwi Topping:

5 kiwifruits, peeled*

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons tequila

Cut 4 of the kiwifruit into chunks. In a blender, puree kiwis and water until smooth. Scrape mixture into a bowl; add sugar and tequila and stir until sugar dissolves. Serve right away, or freeze up to a week. *Do not peel the fifth kiwi if not serving right away. Save until ready to serve the dessert.

To serve: divide strawberry shiver among 4 bowls. Top each with an equal amount of the kiwi topping and garnish with kiwi slices.

Strawberry Bavarian

For a fancier but easy “company” dessert, this creamy creation can be served in small portions with fresh whole berries, if you are worried about the caloric content. Recipe from “Pure &Simple” by Marian Burros; makes 6 to 8 servings.

1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled

2 envelopes unflavored gelatin

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cherry-flavored liqueur

2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Whole strawberries for garnish

Puree strawberries in a blender. In a saucepan, soften gelatin in the cold water; add puree and sugar; heat and stir until gelatin is dissolved. Cool mixture, then add cherry liqueur. Chill in a large bowl, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to thicken. Fold in whipped cream; spoon into an 8-cup mold or serving bowl and refrigerate until mixture is set. To serve, unmold and top with whole berries.