Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Too Much Of A Good Thing

While I generally like adhering to the "everything in moderation" rule, I have some difficulty sticking to that adage, especially this time of year. After a dismal winter of less than exciting produce, almost everything is back with full force (save for tomatoes and a few other late summer staples), and there are a few items that I just can't go with out purchasing. While I've all but OD'd on asparagus, strawberries seem to still be going strong as far as my craving meter is concerned. I can't pass the farmer's market without picking up a pint, even though I don't have much use for them other than for straight snacking. I don't bake, so I'm not whipping up pies or strawberry shortcake, and I'm not melting them down or making jam. So what else is there to do with these little guys that makes me love them so much? Butter!

Strawberry butter is just as wonderful because of its taste as it is because of how easy it is to make. If you've ever made a compound butter before, than you know that it involves nothing more than giving butter and its flavor companions a quick whip around the food processor to combine. In this case, you'll have to hull the strawberries if they're fresh (and this time of year, why shouldn't they be?), and give them a rough chop to get everything going, but that's about it as far as work is concerned. The rest is done by the food processor, and all that's left to do is scoop it out into a bowl or ramekin. If you're not ready to use it all, don't worry: it freezes just like any other butter from the grocery story. You can even mold it into stick form inside a sheet of cling wrap and let it hibernate until you're ready to use it again.

And what can you use it on? Well, more than you'd think. Pancakes and waffles are an obvious (albeit delicious) choice, but breakfast isn't the only friend to strawberry butter. I happen to enjoy mine on a nice crusty piece of ciabatta bread, with sliced brie or manchego and a little arugula. Throw a few apples in there, maybe some tapenade as well and you've got a mighty fine, full flavored sandwich. Roasting a chicken anytime soon? Throw some under the skin, onto the skin, and toss a few lemons in the cavity. You'll get a crunchy, slightly sweet skin that pairs very well with a pine nut and sultana studded
couscous. And speaking of couscous, toss some strawberry butter in instead of olive oil or plain butter the next time you whip up a batch. You can even toss in some pomegranate seeds or clementine for some salty/sweet fruity goodness. Ultimately, even if you just use it as a topping for pancakes or waffles, it's more than worth the 10 minutes of effort it takes to make. Trust me, before you know, you'll be coming up with 101 wacky uses for it just like I do. A recent favorite is adding in herbs, like basil or even thyme, which goes so well with honey.

I like sweetening mine with honey instead of sugar for several reasons, including that it's one less place I'm using sugar or artificial sweeteners, it helps with caramelizing when I use it for a rub (like on chicken), not to mention that I just like the extra dimension of flavor that it brings to the party. Feel free to leave it out if you're using it for something quite savory. I decided to go French with mine for dinner last night and slathered it on some warm bread with a thick, sticky drizzle of nutella. It was a bit decadent, but also a nice treat after a long day. Here's the recipe for the butter:

Strawberry-Honey Butter

1 1/2 sticks room temperature butter
1 Tbsp honey
1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
pinch of salt

Start with all ingredients at room temperature and combine in a food processor. Pulse until combined. I like mine heavy on the strawberries, but if you want yours heavier on the butter, add another half a stick. Enjoy!


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