Conscious Cook: Berry, berry good chutney
“Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.” — Dr. William Butler
Strawberries are in season and now is the time to truly savor their spectacular sweetness. The intoxicating fragrance and sensational flavor of fresh, local strawberries are one of the highlights of early summer crops.
Not only are strawberries beautiful to behold, they are a mighty source of life enhancing nutrients. The entire body can benefit from consuming strawberries as they are an excellent source of vitamin C, as well as a provider of dietary fiber, iodine, potassium, folate, riboflavin, vitamins B5 and B6, omega 3-fatty acids, vitamin K, magnesium and copper. Eating more strawberries may have a positive effect on protecting the body from free radical damage, strengthening bones, maintaining normal blood sugar levels and giving skin and hair a gorgeous glow.
Low calorie, luscious, local, strawberries are an incredibly versatile ingredient. Whether simmered down and made into syrup or jam, frozen into popsicles, blended into smoothies, spooned over yogurt or cereal, added to tea breads, cakes, waffles, crepes, pancakes or muffins, or simply savored one by one, strawberries add such delight to recipes. Some cooks celebrate strawberry season by serving just strawberry shortcake for dinner, complete with flaky biscuits and plenty of freshly whipped cream. What a joyous tradition!
Not only do strawberries lend themselves perfectly to any sweet preparation, they are just as well suited for savory dishes. Strawberry salsa, with a kick of jalapeno or habanero pepper, plenty of lime juice and cilantro is superb with grilled pork or fish. Or spark up summer salads with strawberries. Try fresh baby lettuces, mixed with new peas, sliced strawberries, a bit of goat cheese and a scattering of toasted nuts. Drizzle with lemon juice and a nut oil and experience a plateful of perfection. Strawberry rhubarb chutney served with grilled sourdough bread and fresh ricotta would make a stellar hors d’oeuvre for any June celebration.
Whether you head to a pick-your-own farm this June, or purchase strawberries from a farmers’ market or the supermarket, be aware that they are highly perishable. Look for berries that are brightly colored, with glossy, green tops and no sign of mold. They should have a sublime scent. Bring your berries home and store them, unwashed, on a paper towel lined tray in the refrigerator, and use within two to three days. Just before preparing the berries, wash gently and thoroughly, and remove the stem and top. Crushed berries can be frozen and used later for sauces, sorbets, or soup. Whole berries can be frozen too, but will not keep their firmness.
Enjoy native, natural, strawberries this June as you prepare a berry, berry good delicious life!
Berry Berry Good Strawberry Rhubarb Chutney
1 cup rhubarb, washed, trimmed and cut in ½ inch pieces
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup water
4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine or sherry vinegar
pinch of red chili flakes
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and cook for approximately 10 minutes or until rhubarb is very tender. Let cool a bit, then serve with grilled salmon, grilled chicken or pork or spread fresh ricotta cheese onto thick slices of grilled bread and top with a dollop of chutney.
Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook,” writes about preparing a delicious life and presents healthy food workshops throughout New England. She is a professional cook, food writer, organic gardener, certified holistic health professional and a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition.