June 25, 2010

Oregon Strawberries

Weeknight dinners are usually simple.

I try to get away with using as few ingredients as possible. Seasoning salmon with a couple pinches of sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil, then roasting it in the oven at 400 degrees while sautéing a veg with a bit more sea salt and garlic on the stovetop usually does it. Dinner can be served 20 minutes after coming home from work. Last night, as I picked out my asparagus at New Seasons market, the produce clerk was stacking little green cardboard boxes filled with ruby-red Hood River strawberries, just delivered by a local farmer. The smell of berries permeated the air, and everyone in the store seemed to gravitate to the produce section.

I adore strawberries. ALL strawberries. Fresh, frozen, sliced, made into jam or jelly, however I can get them, I’ll eat them. Once the first boxes of strawberries, usually from California, hit the shelves in the summer, I can’t help but buy them. But the smell and flavor of freshly picked Oregon seasonal berries is divine, like nothing else in the world. Last night, smelling and seeing them tumbling out of their little flats, I was whisked back in time to summers in junior high when I’d pedaled my bicycle down the winding country roads in Wilsonville early in the morning to pick berries at Wilhelm Farms. I earned about twenty cents a box—and it took me all summer to save up enough for Cherokee Rope sandals and a pair of San Francisco Riding Gear Jeans.

I grabbed up a little box of the juicy berries and tossed it into my basket. For dinner, I lay the perfectly roasted salmon fillet over a bed of sautéed asparagus, and sliced a handful of Hood River strawberries on top. The flavor combination was heavenly. My subtly amazing husband poured us a glass of Pinot Gris to wash it down.

This week, I plan to purchase my weight in Oregon Strawberries. If the weekend schedule allows, I may wind up carting my kids out to Wilsonville to help me forage at a U-pick farm, or we’ll hit a Farmer’s Market, or maybe just go back to New Seasons for more. However we get our hands on them, I plan on blissing out on local strawberries and somehow, add them to every meal. After all, the season is sadly short, and once they are gone, it’s back to the usual imported berries that just don’t have the same deeply strawberry-ish scent and flavor that has the power to make my socks go up and down.

*I tried this recipe last year, adapted from an old Gourmet magazine article, and LOVED it. It’s the ideal blend of spicy and sweet, and is a gorgeous color to boot. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips and it would be perfect for a Fourth of July Barbeque appetizer, or use as a fresh fruit salsa on grilled fish.

Avocado and Strawberry Salsa
• fresh Serrano or jalapeño chili
• 2 firm ripe avocados
• 1 cup finely chopped strawberries
• 1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• ¼- ½ teaspoon sugar (can be omitted if you like)

... and plenty of Corn tortilla chips to serve on the side

To make salsa:

Wearing rubber gloves, remove stems, seeds, and ribs from chili and chop fine. Dice avocados and stir together chili and remaining salsa ingredients. Salsa may be made several hours ahead and chilled, covered.

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