You know warmer weather is on the way when strawberry season arrives. It's not here just yet, but if you can wait, buy the berries locally; they taste so much better! The trick is to not procrastinate because local strawberry season lasts just a matter of week.
That said, I received a stack of the latest cookbooks from Eckert's Orchard in Belleville. It's simply called "The Eckert Family Spring Cookbook." You can pick up a copy for $12 at the Eckert's Country Store, restaurant and Garden Center.
Or, you can send me your favorite strawberry/rhubarb/strawberry-rhubarb recipe and I'll select some to use in an upcoming story, and reward a few readers with a free copy of the cookbook. Make sure when you send me your recipe you include your name, what town you live in and a way to reach you. You can email me at the address below or use snail mail (but don't wait too long).
Here is a recipe from the Eckert's cookbook.
Fresh Strawberry Yogurt Cake
2 1/2 cups flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
8 ounces plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
12 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
1 cup powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (10- to 15-cup pan).
Sift together 2 1/4 cups flour, baking soda and salt.
Mix in zest and set aside.
With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in eggs one at a time, then mix in 1 tablespoon juice.
Alternate beating in the flour/zest mixture and the yogurt, mixing just until incorporated.
Toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Gently fold them into the batter.
Pour into pan. Place in oven and reduce temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool at lest 20 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Once the cake is cooled, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons lemon juice and powdered sugar. Drizzle over top of cake. Makes 12 to 14 servings.
Warm bacon dressing is the classic choice for spinach. Local strawberries and rhubarb will be available soon, but not for long, so pick them up when you buy spinach. Cook the chopped strawberries and rhubarb in bacon drippings to soften and add great flavor. Then puree the mixture and, while its still warm, pour over your washed and dried leaves. This recipe is from Newsday.
SPINACH SALAD WITH WARM STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB DRESSING
10 cups young, tender spinach leaves, washed and dried
6 strips bacon
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup strawberries, stemmed and chopped
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 ounces crumbled feta or goat cheese (optional)
1. Place spinach in a large bowl. Heat bacon in a skillet over medium-high until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool before crumbling.
2. Add shallot to skillet with bacon fat and cook until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add strawberries, rhubarb, water and sugar, and bring to a boil. Stir in vinegar, lower heat and simmer until fruit is soft and falling apart, about five minutes. Puree in a blender or food processor and season with salt and pepper.
3. Toss about 1/2 cup of the warm dressing with spinach. Divide among serving plates and sprinkle with bacon and cheese, if desired. Serve immediately with extra dressing on the side. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Here's how to reach me: Phone, 239-2664; e-mail, email@example.com; or write, Suzanne Boyle, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427.
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