Strawberries, Strawberries, Strawberries

Smoky Strawberry Streusel

I want to give a big thank you for the BDN for the opportunity to allow me to show you what The Yankee Chef is all about. Although I currently write a food column for a number of New England newspapers, The BDN is my home. I would like to take just a moment and tell you what separates me from other chefs you see on television. I try to use New England ingredients, keep the cost at a minimum and I can give you Michelin-like dishes using easier techniques with obtainable ingredients. So without me gabbing away, let me give you a couple of ideas on the theme.

This week, I am going to give you dessert recipes, although sound complicated, that are so easy to prepare and highlight what we in Maine enjoy so much, our native fruit.

Smoky Strawberry Streusel

Yes, I know everyone has had some type of streusel before, but very few have used strawberries in their streusels, let alone prepare it the way I am going to tell you. It is remarkably delicious and strawberry season is coming to a close, so jump on this recipe.

2 qts. strawberries, hulled, halved

1/4 c. flour

1/2 c. sugar

2 T. lemon juice

1/2 t. cinnamon

Streusel Topping:

1/2 c. flour

1/2 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 t. cinnamon

3 T. chopped walnuts

6 T. cold butter or margarine, cut into pieces

Get out an 8 x 8-inch casserole, baking pan or glass ovenware. Mix strawberries and 1/4 c. flour* in large bowl. Add sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon; mix well. Spoon into prepared dish.

For streusel, mix together flour, sugars, cinnamon and salt. Add butter and blend with your hands until you have a moist mixture with some small pieces of butter still in tact. Sprinkle over strawberries.

Make your own smoke pouch for your grill simply by putting 1 or 2 cups of wood chips(that have been soaked in apple juice for an hour) in a large piece of foil and crimp tightly. Poke a couple of holes in the top and set either directly onto your coals or on the burner in a propane grill. When the pouch starts smoking, place the dessert onto the rack(keeping the pouch in place), close the lid and bake/smoke for 30 to 35 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Cool at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with real vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, if desired. You can also bake this in your oven for the same amount of time at 350-degrees F. Now remember, you will see a lot of smoke so don’t be alarmed. The taste of this dessert tinged with the flavor of the smoke will make it all worth while.

* A suggestion. I use the same amount instant tapioca that I grind in a blender until it is like powder. Not only does it thicken this dish as well but you will never get that off-flour taste sometimes noticed.

Semifreddo

‘Yanked’ Blueberry-Strawberry Semifreddo

When I use the word “Yanked”, that means I am pulling a complicated recipe from the culinary world and revamping it for the home cook or chef. After I have altered its’ preparation in a simpler form, I then give it to you, the reader, to prepare hopefully over and over again. Semifreddo means “half cold or half frozen” and includes ice cream cakes and custards. It is typically made by folding whipped cream into a thicker ingredient base, such as custard and freezing the mixture. The resulting dessert is reminiscent of a mousse and much lighter than ice cream, although it tastes every bit as delicious. Its light texture makes it very easy to cut and serve and it literally melts on your tongue as you eat it. The name may sound quite fancy, but in truth, making semifreddo is quite simple. The most difficult of making semifreddo is waiting for it to freeze, which typically takes from several hours to overnight in your freezer.

1/2 c. milk

3 egg yolks

1/4 c. sugar

1 1/2 c. fresh blueberries

1 c. sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 t. cayenne pepper, optional

1 t. real vanilla extract(or 2 t. imitation)

2 c. mascarpone cheese

2 oz. any chocolate, chopped fine

Place milk in small saucepan and heat over medium heat until scalding. In bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Pour milk gradually into egg mixture, whisking constantly until thickened. Let cool. Meanwhile, puree fresh blueberries, fresh strawberries and cayenne pepper with vanilla extract in a blender; set aside.

Using electric mixer, slowly beat mascarpone until creamy and smooth. Slowly beat in egg mixture until combined and lightened. Fold in fresh blueberry puree, fresh strawberry puree and chocolate. Pour into small loaf pan lined with plastic wrap and freeze for about 4 hours or until firm.

When ready to serve, either turn out onto serving platter and remove wrap; garnish with fresh slices of strawberries and whole blueberries or scoop semifreddo into serving containers and garnish accordingly.