Monday, May 21, 2012

Strawberry Daze

  This past weekend, my hometown had a strawberry festival.  Succulent, ripe rubies are in abundance in May around here, although with the mild winter, the berries have weighed down the vines earlier than usual.  Recently I blended up this recipe from Southern Living's Big Book of BBQ - Strawberry Tea Slush.  Cool strawberries hit the tongue, and background notes of tea and lemonade round out this slightly tart slush.  I believe this is what summertime tastes like.  Here's the beauty of this recipe, though; it uses frozen strawberries that can be found in your freezer section year-round.  Keep in mind this has just a little over of an hour of chill time before blending.

Strawberry Tea Slush
Yields 6 cups

2 cups water
4 tea bags, regular size
1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries
6 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate
1 cup ice cubes
1/4 cup powdered sugar (can add more to taste if you prefer a sweeter drink)

  Start by steeping the tea.  In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  Take the pot off the heat and add in the tea bags.  Cover and let the tea steep for 5 minutes.  Remove the tea bags and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

  Add the chilled tea, frozen strawberries, lemonade concentrate, ice and powdered sugar to a blender and process until the mixture is slushy and smooth.  Serve right away and enjoy!

Note: Resist the urge to squeeze those tea bags when removing them.  Squeezing releases very bitter liquid into the tea.

  Now that you are sippin' on strawberry goodness, want something to nibble on?  One of my dear friends brought in this amazing salsa made with not tomatoes, but strawberries to work.  Heavenly!  This is another treat from Southern Living, found in the March 2012 issue.  She didn't have the avocado, but it was still fantastic.  The magazine suggests serving this with grilled or pan-fried meats, seafood or poultry aplenty, but it was very tasty on plain ol' tortilla chips.  Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

Strawberry Salsa
Yields about 2 1/2 cups

1/2 cup red pepper jelly
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 cups fresh chopped strawberries
1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 small avocado

  In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the jelly, fresh herbs, lime zest and juice, and red pepper.  Gently fold in the strawberries and dried cranberries.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Right before serving, dice the avocado and add to the chilled salsa mixture.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Weighty Matters, Part II: Consider the Scale

  There are many makes and models to choose from when shopping for a scale.  The most common types on store shelves are spring scales and digital scales.  My money is on the digital variety.  Spring scales are easy to use, but some of the spring type may have difficulty registering small amounts of ounces or see more wear and tear on parts versus the digital scale.  Spring scales may be cheaper, but consider the features available on digital scales.  Today's digital scales can have handy functions like metric-customary conversions, fraction-decimal conversions, or even some models may have the specific feature of measuring liquids based on a liquid's unique density.  While each cook will need to decide what is important for them, I ultimately look to three major factors - tare functionality, sizeable maximum weight, and accuracy,
  The tare function is a great feature that extremely useful.  Taring sets the scale back to 0.  This aspect will allow you to ignore the heft of mixing bowls or weigh individual ingredients as you add them in. 
  Another consideration when choosing a scale would be the scale's maximum weighing capacity.  With a large enough max load, you don't have to weigh ingredients before adding them to a bowl; you could put the work bowl on the scale and weigh as you go.  Think about the size of your work bowls - the scale will bear them along with the recipe elements.
  Accuracy.  There's no point in owning a scale if it doesn't work properly.  This is why I like digital scales - accurate and I don't have to adjust anything.  I'm a klutz, so I avoided a manual scale I could blunder with.  Also check to make sure you can read the output.  Tools are to help, not make things more difficult.