Stepping Out

Berries by the basketful

Strawberry picking season yields tasty treats

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Welcome summer’s arrival in the strawberry patch. Those succulent berries are ripe for the picking and always make for an enjoyable family outing.

Savor the luscious flavor of local berries by picking your own from one of the many farms nearby. Of course, be sure to call before you head out, as fields get crowded quickly and can be picked out.

Then when you return home, prepare some enticing treats with those fresh gems. Find inspiration with these recipes.

Strawberry-Ricotta Puffs

2 sheets puff pastry

1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon, heavy cream

1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon water

1 container fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced

1/2 cup part-skim or whole milk ricotta cheese

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 400 F.

Cut both puff pastry sheets into nine squares. Make slit in corner of each square toward middle of pastry. Fold corners to other corners to create pinwheel shape. Brush pastry with 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Combine 1/4 cup granulated sugar and ground cinnamon then sprinkle on each puff pastry.

Bake 12-15 minutes until pastry is golden brown and raised.

In medium saucepan on medium to high heat, pour in remaining granulated sugar and water. Once sugar is dissolved, pour in fresh strawberries. Bring mixture to boil then simmer 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until strawberries are broken apart and semi-thick sauce is created. Let chill in refrigerator 2 hours. To chill faster, put in freezer 45 minutes.

In medium bowl, using mixer, whip heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside. In separate medium bowl, combine ricotta cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Mix until fluffy. Return whipped cream to ricotta mixture and whip 1-2 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy.

Spoon ricotta cream into center of each puff pastry pinwheel. Spoon strawberry compote in middle of ricotta mixture.

Strawberry Arugula Salad

5 ounces arugula

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

pound strawberries, thinly sliced

3/4 cup red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 small onion)

4 ounces crumbled goat cheese or feta, or 1 ripe avocado, diced

1/2 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds

1/2 cup halved and thinly sliced radish (about 3 medium)

1 medium jalapeño, very thinly sliced (omit if sensitive to spice)

Balsamic vinaigrette:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

1 clove garlic, pressed or minced

Pinch of fine sea salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Assemble the salad: On a large serving platter or in a large serving bowl, layer the ingredients as listed.

Prepare the vinaigrette: In a liquid measuring cup or small bowl, combine all of the ingredients and whisk until fully blended. Taste, and add more salt or pepper if needed. The dressing should be nice and tangy, but you can add more maple syrup for balance if desired.

When ready to serve, drizzle vinaigrette on top of salad, and toss to combine. Serve promptly. (If you’re planning to have leftovers, store the salad and dressing separately and toss before serving.) Stored separately, leftovers will keep well for three to four days.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

1 cup coconut milk (or almond milk or your preferred milk)

1 cup strawberries

(tops removed)

1 banana

1 cup frozen pineapple chunks

Combine all of your ingredients in your blender in the order that they are listed (liquid on the bottom and frozen on top). Blend until smooth.

Very Strawberry Smoothie

1 pint (2 cups) fresh strawberries

1 cup milk, soy milk, or any milk of your choice

2 containers (6 ounces each) strawberry low-fat yogurt

Place the strawberries in a strainer and rinse under cold running water. Gently pat dry with paper towels. Reserve 4 strawberries for the garnish. Cut out the hull, or “cap,” from the remaining strawberries with the point of a paring knife.

In a blender or food processor, place the strawberries, milk and yogurt.

Cover; blend on high speed about 30 seconds or until smooth. Pour into glasses. Garnish each with a strawberry.