Blame It On the Vinaigrette Salad

You will need:
Spinach leaves
Bell pepper (I prefer yellow, red, or orange; check what is in the best shape in the produce dept.)
Celery (optional)
Mushrooms (optional)
Tart green apple (such as Granny Smith)
Green onion
Pomegranate seeds in season OR dried cranberries (cherry or orange flavors work well)
Crumbled feta cheese (vitally important to keep the salad from being too bitter)
Walnuts
Raspberry -Walnut Vinaigrette


Chop


Cut


Slice


Add


Seed


Needs walnuts


Alternate variety with cranberries.

Archaeology: Remains of five Archbishops of Canterbury found

Builders renovating the Garden Museum, housed at the deconsecrated church of St Mary-at-Lambeth, found a hidden crypt containing 30 lead coffins.

Site manager Karl Patten said: “We discovered numerous coffins – and one of them had a gold crown on top of it”.

The remains date back to the 1660s.

Mr Patten, from the building contractors Rooff, said his team were exposing the ground, lifting the flagstones in the church, when they uncovered an entry to what looked like a tomb.

read more at the BBC

Strawberry Shortcake and Belgian Waffles

You will need:
Strawberries
Small, sharp knife
Lemon juice or orange juice
Granulated sugar
Plastic lidded container

Wash your strawberries and hull them (remove the stem area.) Very fresh strawberries will, of course, need little removed.

Add your juice.

Sprinkle sugar on top; this not only draws the juice to make the strawberries syrupy but enables the mix to last a few days longer in the fridge.

Put the lid on your container and shake and then pop in the fridge.

So first, you’ve got your strawberry shortcake to make. (You can also use angel cake or pound cake.)

You will need:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp baking powder
1/2 tsp grated orange peel
3 tblsp unsalted butter cut into pieces
3/4 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 450º and grease a baking sheet. Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl, then mix in the orange peel. Use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture until coarse crumbs form. Stir in the milk until a soft dough forms. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut out biscuits with a cutter or the rim of a glass. Re-roll the trimmings to cut out more biscuits. Bake on the prepared sheet for 12 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool slightly, then split horizontally and fill with strawberry mix and whipped cream.

One note about that whipped cream:
Do not use Cool Whip.
Do not use Cool Whip.
Do not use Cool Whip.

There is no earthly reason why a person who owns a hand mixer or a blender or even a food processor should be buying Cool Whip. Freshly whipped cream is so far superior and not even really expensive when you realize that 1/3 cup of whipping cream gives a generous amount of whipped cream for two people. Besides, then you not only leave out the preservatives, but there’s other benefits, as I will point out in a moment when we do the Belgian Waffles with Strawberries.

You will need:
Belgian Waffle Mix
Whatever the mix requires
A waffle iron
Whipping cream

Prep your waffle iron according to manufacturer’s directions and make up some waffle mix. If you have a toaster or toaster oven, I’d suggest making extras to stick in the fridge. They’re better (and cheaper) than Eggos but they won’t reheat well in a microwave. Start making them up.

Now, for the whipping cream. If you’re using a hand mixer or hand blender, make sure you have a bowl with tall sides. Whip the cream until it is well and truly whipped, then keep going. You’ll start getting some yellow undertones. The idea here is to whip this cream halfway to butter or maybe a little further. Every so often, clean your beaters with a spoon and stir the cream, since there will be less whipped areas around the rim.

Yes, you too can make butter. Isn’t that cool?

Anyway, serve your fresh hot waffles with a generous serving of strawberry mix and very whipped cream on top. I would suggest a tall glass of juice on the side and maybe some bacon as well.

Chocolate Strawberries and Lazy Fondue

One of the pure joys of strawberry season is to have chocolate-dipped strawberries. They’re not as hard as you might think, though you do have to prepare them sufficiently in advance so as to let them cool to room temperature.

You will need:
Washed, firm strawberries (as fresh as possible without exploding into juice when you handle them)
Chocolate of your choice (do NOT get melting chocolate, which just tastes waxy)
A double-boiler
Waxed paper

You put some water in the bottom pan of the double boiler, heat it to boiling, and turn off the burner. Put your chocolate in the top pan and let it just melt (stirring helps.) Add some cool chocolate to help bring down the temperature and stir it in. Exposing the chocolate to air is called “conching” and helps to give it a good taste and texture— but since you’re using prepared chocolate, and proper conching takes days, don’t worry about it. 🙂 Then you dip the strawberries (using a spoon helps to coat them):

Place the dipped strawberries on waxed paper and let cool completely. If you put them in the fridge, you increase the chance of “bloom”, which is the mottled surface that sometimes appears on melted and re-hardened chocolate. While unattractive, bloom is not in the least dangerous and can be gotten rid of by re-melting and mixing the chocolate. In fact, I used chocolate bars with bloom for coating these strawberries, and as you can see, they look great.

(Incidentally, that lighter chocolate of the somewhat unfortunate color is Symphony bars, extremely milk chocolate. It’s what I had on hand. Dark chocolate is best for strawberries as the bitterness is a perfect foil for the sweet berries.)

If you are having trouble making the chocolate melt smoothly, I have been told that margarine (not butter!) can help the chocolate melt properly. I have never had trouble making the chocolate melt.

I have also been told that you can melt chocolate in the microwave. (Which makes sense, because melted chocolate bars were how they discovered the cooking applications of microwaves.) Be extremely careful if you try this, as chocolate gets very hot very fast, and do no longer than 30 second bursts, if that.

Now on to the lazy person’s chocolate fondue. It’s simple; you go on a picnic, you take your chocolate bars, unwrap them, place them in a sturdy container (not, I repeat, NOT one-use plastic containers)… and then you leave them in the car with the windows rolled up.

On an overcast summer’s day where the temperature is in the 70s or more, a closed car in the sun can get over 160º in half an hour. And, of course, everyone knows how melted candy bars get in your pocket on a warm day, so why not take advantage of this fact? When it comes time for dessert, simply get the pot-o-melted-choc out of the car and dip your fruit and your cake in the melted chocolate. You could even do a reverse S’more and dip marshmallows in melted chocolate and sandwich them between graham crackers.

Dang. Now I want S’mores.

Strawberry Tart, Tarts, and Pie

strawberries

The best strawberries are always the local ones. Strawberries are very delicate and even the trip to the store is enough to necessitate the picking and packing of not-quite-ripe berries. Your best bet is to find a little family strawberry stand at the side of a semi-rural road, especially one that is attached to a piece of land where they grow the berries.

Of course, there is a downside to these very fresh berries: You have to process them immediately. And by “immediately” I don’t mean the next day; you can end up with moldy strawberries in a depressingly short time. However, it’s not so bad, because there are things you can do to keep your strawberry wonders intact. One is to use this marvelously versatile filling recipe in any manner you please.

You will need:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
2 cups fresh strawberries (1 pint)
1/2 cup water (with caution; see instructions below)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

The first thing you do is to “hull” the strawberries, which means to remove the stem area. Storebought strawberries will often need the entire white top cut off but utterly fresh strawberries just need a tiny bit. I have a tendency to do a generous two cups because, well, strawberries are tasty.
a pint is two cups

In a handled saucepan, combine the sugar and cornstarch, and mix well. Add the two cups of berries and mash them.
mash them up well

Hmm. That seems really liquid (very fresh strawberries), so instead of the 1/2 cup water I will take the 1/2 cup measure, put the lemon juice in it, throw in some orange juice for fun, and barely top it off with water (scant 1/2 cup instead of full 1/2 cup.) Then you bring it to a simmer and stir until thickened, a half hour or more, while stirring so the strawberries don’t stick to the pan and burn. Heck, get a book and read with one hand while stirring with the other.

stewed strawberries
Once the strawberries are stewed, stick in a lidded container and cool completely. This can last for week or two in the fridge due to its strong sugar concentration.

If you’d like to make this into a tart, you will need:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tbsp plain yogurt
About 18 pretty strawberries, halved

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and stir in the yogurt and oil until the dough forms a ball. Flatten slightly; wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400º F and grease a 9-inch tart pan. Roll the dough between two sheets of waxed paper into an 11-inch circle; press into tart pan. Pierce it with a fork and bake until golden, about 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Spread the berry mixture into the crust and arrange halved berries on top. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.

Or you can do the same thing with a frozen pie crust; prepare the crust according to the single-crust pie directions.

Perhaps you’d like to have little tartlets instead. Buy some puff pastry; carefully thaw one sheet and cut into squares. Spoon a big dollop of strawberry filling into the center; fold the pastry over and seal.

If you like, you can brush the tops with egg white and sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake according to package directions for 12-15 minutes.

Serve immediately or wrap up in aluminum foil for a packed lunch.

What else can you do with the filling? Try spooning it over French Vanilla ice cream. Mmm.