With all the hullabaloo of this weekend spread across the Charleston area, it might be easy to overlook another significant spring happening in our own backyard: local strawberries.
I’ve seen u-pick signs for Ambrose Farm along Maybank Highway on the commute to work. I checked the Boone Hall Farms web site and see that its annual Strawberry Festival is coming up April 18-21. And you can find local strawberries at other farms, market stands, soon-to-be-open farmers markets and even a few grocery stores around the Lowcountry.
It’s party time for our berries. So when Sharon Cook of Charleston emailed me this recipe, I thought it’s a perfect time to share it, only with fresh berries instead of frozen.
However, Sharon says other fruits work well, too, particularly peaches or raspberries.
Overnight French Toast
1 loaf Italian bread, cut into eight 1-inch-thick slices
5 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 pound frozen whole strawberries, thawed (or fresh, washed and stemmed)
4 ripe bananas, sliced into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup granulated sugar; set aside 3 tablespoons
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Place bread slices in glass 9x13-inch baking pan. Mix eggs, milk, vanilla and baking powder until well blended. Pour over bread slices in pan; turn slices to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, remove the bread slices and temporarily set aside. In a large mixing bowl, mix strawberries, bananas and all of the sugar except the reserved 3 tablespoons. Place in baking dish and top with bread slices.
Mix the 3 tablespoons sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle over bread slices. Bake at 450 degrees until golden brown. Serve immediately.
If you are passionate about strawberries, it doesn’t get much more flavor-intense than this dessert I spotted in one of the new Southern Living cookbooks, “Feel Good Food” (Oxmoor House, $24.95) with strawberry ice cream, sorbet and fresh berries. The recipe is easy and makes a stunning presentation.
The recipe notes, “Marshmallow creme stirred into this shortcake eliminates the traditional use for raw eggs.”
Strawberry Semifreddo Shortcake
Makes 16 servings
2 (3-ounce) packages soft ladyfingers
2 pints strawberry ice cream, softened
1 pint strawberry sorbet, softened
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme
1 cup heavy cream
Arrange ladyfingers around sides and on bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. (Reserve any remaining ladyfingers for another use.) Spread strawberry ice cream over ladyfingers and freeze for 30 minutes.
Spread softened strawberry sorbet over ice cream. Freeze 30 minutes.
Process strawberries and powdered sugar in a food processor 1 minute or until pureed. Reserve 1/4 cup mixture. Whisk remaining strawberry mixture into marshmallow creme until well blended.
Beat cream at high speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold into marshmallow mixture. Pour over sorbet in pan. Drizzle reserved strawberry mixture over top, and gently swirl with a paring knife. Freeze 4 hours or until firm. Let cake stand at room temperature 15 minutes before serving.
A few recipes offered by readers in answer to recent requests didn’t make it into the column, mostly due to space. So we’re circling back to get them in. One was this “go-to” salad recipe from Jane Charles, a professor of pediatrics at MUSC.
“Fast and easy to make and stays in the fridge for several days. It’s a favorite of ours, especially in the summer, but I use it when I need to take food to someone.”
Jane says she substitutes brown rice or barley for the white rice to make it healthier. She also suggests using a “high end” Italian dressing to add more flavor.
Rice, Black Bean and Feta Salad
Makes 5 servings
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
11/2 cups chopped tomatoes
11/2 cups cooked rice
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup each of chopped celery and green onion
1/2 cup Italian dressing
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
Mix all ingredients. Refrigerate before serving.
Elsie Clees of Charleston writes, “I noticed the recipe for Chicken Divan by Carol Scally of Summerville. It looked delicious and I used to make it that way also, but I started using some shortcuts. I’m sure it’s not as good as Carol’s, but it saved me a lot of time and everyone seems to love it the way I am making it.
“I can put this together in about 15 minutes. While the broccoli is cooking in the microwave, I can do everything else and be ready to layer my dish.”
This casserole can be made up to 2 days in advance and refrigerated before baking when needed. Elsie serves it with rice or on top of rice.
Shortcut Chicken Divan
1 (16-ounce) bag baby broccoli florets, cooked according to directions
1 (9-ounce) box of Perdue Short Cuts chicken or rotisserie chicken cut up in small pieces (see cook’s note)
2 cans condensed cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice or the juice of a small lemon
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 long package Ritz crackers, crushed
1 stick margarine or butter
Cook’s note: Perdue Short Cuts Chicken comes precooked and in small pieces, although Elsie cuts them into smaller pieces.
Place cooked broccoli in bottom of a 13x9-inch dish (not greased). Layer all of the chicken pieces over top.
Combine soup, mayonnaise, lemon juice, shredded cheese and pour over broccoli and chicken. Spread evenly over top.
Combine crushed crackers with 1 stick margarine or butter and spread on top of casserole.
Bake at 350 degrees un- covered for about 45 minutes.
Who’s got the recipe?
Here’s a call to fans of ricotta cheese: Diane Shiver writes, “Some time ago there was mention of cake made with ricotta cheese. I would love to have that recipe or one with ricotta as an ingredient.”
Jane Charles (mentioned above) recalls an article in this paper last year about eating cheaply with beans and grains. “I’ve tried to move our diet that way and am always on the lookout for more recipes. Can you solicit some through your Sunday article?”
A colleague requests recipes of any kind that use honey in a noticeable way.
Looking for a recipe or have one to share? Email email@example.com or call Food and Features Editor Teresa Taylor at 937-4886.
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