I could not get out of bed fast enough on Saturday – it was strawberry day! And maybe I was a little too excited, because it was only the first day of the u-pick season, and there were frustrating turns of events. It all worked out in the end but the berry farm we meant to go to, Krause Berry Farms? Apparently that’s where everyone goes because they have pie and there were more cars parked there than I’d seen in a long time and three people told us we probably wouldn’t get any berries because all the ripe ones were gone. But just across the street, there was a berry farm and almost no cars, and lots and lots of berries. You win, other berry farm.
Grace, Corinne, and I set out among the rows to pluck berries, only mildly irritated that we’d have been wiser to wait a week, and collected as many berries as we could.
I ended up buying some, because we got whole buckets but decided to quit there because the day had not met our expectations of magic and grandeur, which actually happens less than you’d think. It’s possible that we’re easily pleased.
And then we went home, because some of us had jams and ice creams to make.
But before that, I desperately wanted a salad. Caprese-inspired, I wanted a heap of strawberries and burrata and basil and pepper and oil, and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Use burrata cheese if you can find it, or if you’ve got the time and inclination to make it. If not, use the freshest softest mozzarella you can find. This is another case where I don’t have a recipe for you, but a list of ingredients, and you can play with it until it’s to your liking, or until you have enough to serve everyone who’s eating with you.
- Fresh, local strawberries (room temperature)
- Burrata or fresh mozzarella
- Basil, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Balsamic vinegar (a splash)
- Salt, if needed, and to taste
Chop everything choppable. Assemble on a plate. Sprinkle with pepper, and drizzle oil and vinegar to taste. Serve.
I love using fruit in savoury applications, because it’s not as desserty as you’d think. Strawberries can substitute nicely for sweet summer tomatoes, especially since they mimic the meaty texture of tomatoes, and because they’re as tart as they are sweet and play so nicely with the creamy cheese and citrusy basil. Try this dish with peaches, or nectarines, or plums later in the season. I promise, it will not be weird, and you will love it forever. I wouldn’t raise and then dash your expectations of magic and grandeur on purpose.