Carpe Diem

Before fruits and vegetables were grown for sturdiness and transportability, they were grown for their unique flavor and the immediacy of their consumption.  With the summer season growing near, it is hard not to notice our inability to procure a decent strawberry.  What should be ruby nubbins of cherubic delight have morphed into mealy, tough, white-fleshed orbs with barely a passing resemblance to their original state.  And this should make us very sad.  For how many of us have really tasted the true essence of a strawberry – rich, redolent and bursting with summer flavor?  As I lament the difficulty in obtaining this sensory pleasure, I still hold fast to the hope that we will once again be able to savor the sweet juiciness of this marvelous fruit.  In the meantime, I offer two suggestions.  The first, to buy locally grown strawberries from your farmer’s market.  The other, to drown your sorrows over this unfortunate scenario with a drink recipe from Andrew McDowell, proprietor of Crown & Sceptre Hotel in Adelaide, Australia. 

CARPE DIEM

 10                strawberries, hulled and halved

2 T.             vanilla sugar

90 ml           clear apple juice

30 ml           lime juice

150 ml          Martin Miller’s Gin

8                  basil leaves, torn

 To taste:         Champagne or sparkling wine, chilled

To serve:         basil leaves and cucumber slices

Process strawberries, sugar and juices in a blender until smooth. Pour into a large glass pitcher.  Add gin and basil and stir.  Pour into tall glasses filled with ice cubes and sliced strawberries.  Top with Champagne or sparkling wine and serve over ice in tall glasses.  Garnish with a basil leaf and a slice of cucumber and serve.

 Note:     To make vanilla sugar, place one whole vanilla bean in 1 cup sugar and keep in closed glass jar for one week.  To intensify the flavor, remove the vanilla bean from the glass jar and cut down the length of the bean, opening up the bean with your knife and scraping out the seeds inside.  In a blender add the sugar, the vanilla bean seeds, and the rest of the bean (which has been cut into 1” pieces) and pulse on the “grind” setting.  The sugar will turn gray in color and be perfumed intensely with vanilla.  Sift the sugar to remove the vanilla bean fragments.  Use the sugar as called for in the recipe.

Vanilla sugar is also available from Penzey’s.

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2 Responses to Carpe Diem

  1. Karen Lynch-Schirra says:

    Your blog about strawberries was so timely! Not long ago, I purchased some at the grocer’s. Hormone-induced, huge berries that were positively tasteless! Yesterday, I purchased more strawberries. This time, they were “realistically” sized and had a somewhat pleasant taste. Now, if only my strawberry plants would take. . .

    The recipe for the drink sounds delicious!

  2. Jodi Golub says:

    Ellen you’ve set the bar high. Your posts take my hunger up a notch. We rush around so much in our daily lives we forget to satisfy more that the tastes and immediate need for food. You remind us that it is an experience to be felt and appreciated. I’m going to try to slow down and appreciate it all. Keep writing – it all sound so good.

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