“It’s been a bad year for strawberries”, the man behind the counter sullenly says to me.
I nod my head in agreement. Early as we are into the Summer, it’s been hard to find them big and ripe and juicy, if I can find them at all. Even my favorite farmstand – the one [where the man works] that never lets me down – is severely lacking in the strawberry department. A late frost in April seems to have stunted most of the berry crops in our area. Growers are only allowing picking for a couple of weeks, as opposed to the usual month-ish long season, and prices for the most part are at a premium. This is our debt to Mother Nature, I suppose.
The two plants in my garden didn’t fare well either. I became prematurely excited when they started producing, tiny as the berries were, they were maturing – until a few nighttime critters (chipmunks, I believe) had at them. Next year, you can rest assured that I’ll be putting more plants in, and some preventative fencing around them too!
The moral of this story then is that when I have been fortunate enough to come across strawberries (my most favorite of all of my favorite fruits), I’ve been snatching them up and putting them in everything. The berries that are less sweet have been roasted and pulsed into smoothies like this one. Or mixed with rhubarb and baked into a crumble, eventually drowned in a puddle of Jones Family Farm gelato. The squished, wrinkled, etc. are seeped in hot water until they turn white are made into tea, drank hot or iced. As for the few that are just right, they’re popped down plain or mixed into this warm salad.
- For the Vinaigrette:
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or water)
- For the Salad:
- 2 cups cooked farro
- 1 cup chopped strawberries
- 1 cup green peas (preferably fresh)
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1 tablespoon hazelnuts, chopped and toasted
- 2-3 sprigs fresh mint, torn
- Pinch of salt & freshly ground pepper
- To make the vinaigrette: Place the butter in a pan set over medium heat; as an aside this process will be easier if you use a light-colored pan so that you can actually see the butter browning. Melt the butter and keep an eye on it as it cooks. It will pop as the water cooks out, and begin to brown after about 2-3 minutes. Stir the butter once the brown bits start to form on the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the stove and let it sit for another minute or so, so that the residual heat continues to brown the butter. The butter should smell nutty and be flecked with brown bits, but not burned.
- Once browned, pour the butter into a food processor and add the vinegar. Pulse. Slowly stream in the olive oil (or water) and pulse a few more times. Set aside.
- To make the salad: Place the farro, strawberries, and peas in a large mixing bowl. Gently toss with most of the vinaigrette (about ¾ of it). Serve with the feta, hazelnuts, and mint sprinkled over the top. Finish with the remaining vinaigrette, and salt & pepper to taste.