According to growers statewide, 2012’s strawberry season is boating a bumper crop of the red berries. The hot weather and abundant rainfall of the past two months has meant there are more strawberries than usual — and Maine strawberries, renowned for their uniquely mild flavor and delicate texture, are a seasonal delight now easily available to everyone.
In honor of the sweet treat, the Bangor Daily News ran a Strawberry Recipe contest during the month of June, inviting readers to submit their favorite recipes for a chance to win a gift certificate to Thistles Restaurant in Bangor and a selection of cookbooks. The winner — chosen by hungry BDN staffers — was Linda Trenholm, for her Fresh Strawberry Blonde Mini Cheesecakes, which combine two of the best things in life: cheesecake and Maine strawberries.
Trenholm uses the golden variety of Oreos to make a cookie crust for her mini cheesecakes and bakes them in a muffin tin for single serving portions.
“This is an adaptation of a popular recipe that uses regular crushed up Oreos as a cookie crust, as well as mixed up in the batter, but I always thought that was too sweet,” said Trenholm, of Holden, who writes a blog for the Bangor Daily News called Stop Thinking And Cook. “I love those blonde Oreos, so I figured use those as a base for a mini cheesecake and make a basic mascarpone batter, topped with fresh strawberries. I think it’s a lot better as a mini cake, and the strawberries make all the difference.”
Strawberries pair beautifully in lots of dessert settings, from classics like strawberry shortcake and strawberry pie to chocolate-dipped strawberries. Sometimes, though, it’s also nice to let the flavor stand on its own, like with a sorbet. Sorbets are deceptively simple to make, and don’t require an ice cream maker, though they do require an afternoon of low-fuss preparation and waiting around for things to freeze. It’s an elegant and easy way to capitalize on all that flavor.
Alternately, strawberries of course can work in a savory setting — and one of the easiest ways to serve them is in a simple salsa, to serve with grilled fish or chicken, or as a dipping sauce or topping for a Tex-Mex bruschetta. Though our contest is over, you’re welcome to log onto bangordailynews.com and submit your additional strawberry recipes to our What’s For Supper section.
Fresh Strawberry Blonde Mini Cheesecakes
- 8 ounces cream cheese, I use 1/3 less fat, neufchatel cheese.
- 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup plain greek yogurt
- 3 eggs
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice with 1 tsp. lemon zest (about 1/2 large lemon)
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- pinch of salt
- About 18 golden (blonde) creme sandwich cookies
- About 3 cups strawberries, divided.
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- ½ cup water, divided
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners. Place a cookie in the bottom of each cup. Beat together the mascarpone, cream cheese, lemon juice and lemon zest. Gradually add in the ½ cup sugar. Lightly beat together the eggs and add in a slow stream, beating to combine. Add the greek yogurt, vanilla, a pinch of salt and combine. Fill each cup about 2/3 full, right on top of the oreo cookie. Bake for about 25 minutes or until cheesecake is set — should be springy to the touch. Cool completely in pans on wire rack. Remove carefully and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight, before topping.
Wash and hull the strawberries. Set aside 16 small, good-looking strawberries. If you do not have that many small berries, cut 16 thick strawberry slices (sized to fit on top of the cheesecakes). Halve and thinly slice the remaining strawberries, put them in a medium sized pot, and add the 1/3 cup sugar. Mash the strawberries and sugar together and let set for at least 15 minutes. Add ¼ cup water to the berries. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Combine ¼ water and 2 Tbs. cornstarch, stir until smooth and add in a stream, whisking, into the hot strawberry mixture. Cook and stir, gently boiling, for 1 to 2 minutes. Strawberry mixture should be thick and translucent. Cool to room temperature before topping the chilled cheesecakes.
Top each cake (still in paper liner) with about a heaping teaspoon of strawberry glaze. Put a small whole berry (washed, hulled and dried) in the center (or a thick slice) of the cheesecake and push it down lightly into the topping. Top with a little additional glaze, swirling it around the berry. Refrigerate until set. Remove paper liners and serve.
Makes about 2½ cups
- ½ medium red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
- ½ red bell pepper, julienned
- ½ yellow bell pepper, julienned
- ½ green bell pepper, julienned
- ¼ cup finely shredded cilantro
- ½ pint (1 cup) fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Place red onions, jalapeno pepper, bell peppers, cilantro, strawberries, orange juice, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 4 hours. Fifteen minutes before serving, remove the salsa from the refrigerator, so it loses some of its chill. Serve with tortilla chips, with grilled fish or chicken, or on a sliced baguette, with queso fresco or goat cheese, toasted.
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ sugar
- 2 ½ cups fresh strawberries
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Cointreau (optional)
Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan, over low heat, and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved (about 3-5 minutes). Boil the mixture for one minute then remove from heat. Pour the sugar syrup into a heatproof container, and place in the refrigerator until completely chilled (about an hour or so). Meanwhile, put the strawberries in a food processor and process until the strawberries are pureed. Transfer to a large bowl, add the lemon juice and liqueur (if using), and refrigerate until the mixture is thoroughly chilled.
Once the syrup and pureed strawberries are completely chilled, combine the simple syrup with the pureed strawberries. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream machine and process. If you do not have an ice cream machine, pour the mixture into a 8 or 9 inch stainless steel pan (sorbets will freeze faster in stainless steel), cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer. When the sorbet is completely frozen (3 to 4 hours), remove from freezer and let stand at room temperature until partially thawed. Transfer the partially thawed sorbet to the food processor, and process to break up the large ice crystals that have formed on it. Place the sorbet back into the pan and re-freeze for at least three hours, and up to several days.