Simple Pleasures: Strawberries Two Ways
Spring and summer in the mountains of western North Carolina are filled with non-stop activity, from hiking and biking adventures to backyard barbecues & family reunions. Rain or shine, the siren song of the outdoors is simply irresistible. What about when you want to slow down a little and savor the simple pleasures of the season? Nothing packs all the flavor and brightness of a sunny afternoon quite like juicy berries fresh from the vine. One bite immediately takes me back to my childhood, trotting along behind my grandmother as she picked berries and I held the bucket. Today I’m sharing two favorite family recipes featuring local strawberries, one sweet and the other savory. Hope these inspire new family memories in your kitchen!
Growing up, we spent every single summer and many weekends with my grandparents at Fontana Lake. My grandmother loved to cook almost as much as she loved to garden. We made jars & jars of freezer jam, jellies, marinades infused with garden fresh herbs and even sweet dumplings cooked in a boiling berry stew for Sunday afternoon dessert.
In our kitchen, my husband and I love honoring both our food cultures and family traditions by infusing each signature dish with farm fresh ingredients. Local strawberries are in season in our neck of the woods throughout the month of May and readily available at farmers markets, roadside stands, U-pick farms, tailgates and on-farm markets.
To inspire your own traditions for savoring the simple pleasures of spring and summer, here is a sweet recipe from my grandmother’s kitchen, infused with a twist of unexpected ingredients, that embodies the very essence of the season using local strawberries fresh from the vine!
Lemon Pound Cake with fresh Strawberries & Thyme
Note: This dish is best enjoyed out on the porch or under your favorite tree as the afternoon heat gives way to twilight—at least that is the memory from my childhood that makes this tradition one worth enjoying season after season!
1 (8 oz) container of sour cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
6 large farm fresh eggs, at room temperature
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Heavy whipping cream, whipped for garnish & chilled until ready to serve
2 pints fresh strawberries
1-3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional, can substitute any orange-flavored liqueur or orange juice)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon thyme, chopped (optional)
*Can garnish with fresh strawberries alone, sweetened with sugar if needed*
**Substitute aged Balsamic vinegar for the Grand Marnier for another variation**
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Stir together sour cream & 1/2 teaspoon baking soda; set mixture aside
- Beat 3 cups sugar & 1 cup butter (softened) at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy (2-3 minutes)
- Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition
- In a mixing bowl, sift together flour & salt
- Add flour to egg mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture
- Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition
- Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and lemon zest
- Pour batter into greased and floured bundt pan
- Bake at 325 degrees for appox 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Careful not to overbake
- Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack. Can be served warm or at room temperature
- Clean and wash farm fresh strawberries. Slice and place in a pretty serving bowl. Stir in lemon thyme and liqueur
- Cover and let stand at room temperature for an hour or so until the herb and liqueur infuses the natural juice from the berries
Serve a slice of cake with a large spoonful of berries (be sure to get plenty of liquid), garnished with whipped cream and a sprig of thyme.
Mixed Spring Greens with Strawberries & Balsamic-Green Onion Vinaigrette
A delicious savory salad that you’ll come back to time after time by substituting other seasonal ingredients!
Mixed spring salad greens or arugula
Fresh strawberries, washed and cut in half
Local goat cheese & toasted pecans (optional as a garnish)
1 green onion, roughly chopped (about 3 inch piece, with white and green parts)
1/4 cup aged Balsamic vinegar
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & Pepper
- Combine vinaigrette ingredients. Blend until smooth using an immersion blender or food processor. Taste for acidity and adjust to your liking
- Wash salad greens, pat dry and toss in a large bowl
- Add strawberries to top
- Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to coat. Salt and Pepper to taste
- Garnish the top with local goat cheese and toasted pecans
*Substitute other local in-season ingredients for the strawberries—such as blueberries, blackberries, red raspberries, apples, or roasted beets—to make this healthy and delicious salad throughout the growing season.*
(Featured Photo from Buy Haywood // Cake snapped with my Nikon 5100 right before serving)