Monday, June 3, 2013

Brown Sugar Roasted Strawberries with Vanilla

Brown Sugar Roasted Strawberries with Vanilla,
 and yep, in a big Weck Jar from Amy
I have this strawberry bed. It was completely unintentional; they came free with my seed order about three years ago. They didn't look like much, but the variety was called Mara des Bois, a French bred berry that is sweet like a woodland strawberry, and not quite as small, but easily cultivated. I plopped the half-dozen plants in an unused corner of the garden and promptly ignored them for the most part.

Few fruit the first season, and last year I DID feed them, but had so much trouble keeping them properly bird-netted that the birds won nearly all of the berries. This year I figured out a much simpler and effective way to net them, and with some compost and tending, we're getting a real crop. I picked a little over two pounds of deep red, sweet homegrown strawberries. More to come, too.  Strawberry plants do multiply and those original half-dozen have begat at least four dozen plants. I highly recommend the variety; Jung Seeds has Mara des Bois strawberry plants at a very reasonable price. You'll never look at one of those white cored, bland berries coming from the left coast quite the same way after you grow some at home.

Still, a couple of pounds of berries is quite a lot for the two of us to consume, and I'm really not ready to start freezing stuff yet. A few weeks ago I had a dessert in a local restaurant that was topped with roasted strawberries. Roasted berries were quite the thing a several years back, and I'd forgotten how roasting strawberries concentrates the flavors. It is also a great way to make a bounty of berries last in the fridge, unless you eat them all with a spoon right out of the jar. These are won-der-ful. Chuck really wanted me to make a pie, but there are no homemade pie crusts in my freezer and they're on my to-do list. Far down. But it did get me thinking. Suppose I doodle up the berries with some sugar and vanilla, roast them and then, if I make some quick tart shells later in the week I can just spoon in the roasted strawberries. And using a dark sugar like coconut or turbinado will add a rich, deep, roasty note of flavor. If you can't find either of those sugars, granulated Sugar in the Raw, or plain old granulated brown sugar will work. But even if I don't use the roasted berries in tarts, I can see a roasted strawberry fool (whipped cream and roasted strawberries) or even in a dish with a dab of creme fraiche or Greek yogurt.

NoteIf you can't get local berries, wait until you can. Makes a huge difference.

Big flavor from just a few ingredients,
just make sure your ingredients are top-notch.

Brown Sugar Roasted Strawberries with Vanilla

2 lb. ripe local strawberries, stemmed, and halved if larger than 1"
4 tsp. vanilla bean paste
3/4 cup granular brown sugar (coconut, turbinado, or raw sugar)
pinch of sea salt

1. In a medium bowl, mix the vanilla bean paste, the brown sugar, and the salt until evenly mixed. Add the berries and stir gently until the berries are covered with the sugar mixture. Let the berry mixture stand for 5-10 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Spray a rimmed baking sheet lightly with cooking oil spray and set aside.

3. Spread the strawberries evenly in the prepared pan, including all the juices, and roast for 10 minutes. Stir gently and return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes until the tops of the berries are just beginning to caramelize. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Gorgeous, huh?
4. Carefully, spoon the berries into a heatproof jar, and pour the juices over top. If the juice is a bit too runny, you can reduce it over medium heat in a saucepan until it's as thick as you like before pouring over the jarred berries.

Makes about 3 cups, with juice.

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