Strawberry Asparagus Salad and a Challenge!
Joy Johnson, Master Gardener
It’s July and some of your vegetables and fruit are ripe for picking – yay! Two of these early products are asparagus and strawberries. And, luckily, they go together in a delicious salad. Read Joy Johnson’s article for an easy recipe. And, keep reading for a more difficult recipe for Strawberry Cucumber bread. If you’re up for the challenge, you will be rewarded with a delicious treat!
Did you know that asparagus and strawberries go well together in two ways? One way is to do companion plantings with groups of asparagus inter-mixed with strawberry plants. Because the asparagus grows tall and starts sprouting out of the ground ahead of the strawberry plants, you can grow them together and harvest them at nearly the same time.
The second way is to eat them together. Their flavors are complimentary and make a fresh summer salad. Here is a very simple recipe that pulls together in no time. You can jazz it up by adding sliced almonds, poppy seeds, goat cheese or crumbled feta or blue cheese. I didn’t have those ingredients on hand, so I’m keeping it simple tonight!
Strawberry Asparagus Salad
2 cups asparagus, cut in pieces and blanched
2 cups strawberries, sliced
¼ cup lemon juice
2 TBSP vegetable oil.
2 TBSP honey
Toss the asparagus and strawberries together in a bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and mix well.
Pour dressing over salad and toss.
Chill before serving.
Strawberry Cucumber Bread – If You Like a Challenge!
This colorful bread can be served at breakfast or as a dessert or in the middle of the day with a cup of tea or coffee. I came across this recipe when I googled “spring breads”. It has two of my favorite foods in it: strawberries and cucumbers, which I thought was an interesting combination for a quick bread. It was very challenging to make!
First, I had to clarify butter. I didn’t start with a small enough pan, so when I had to scrape off the butter foam without dipping my spoon into the clear layer underneath, that wasn’t going to work. So, I dumped it into a smaller pan, which completely negated the instruction to not stir it or disturb the layers in any way. I gently scraped off the foam after waiting an extra hour with the pan over really low heat, and I figured it would re-layer itself if I waited long enough.
Then I was supposed to separate the clarified butter from the water, which I could do by pouring it off. Hmm, it all looked the same to me. So, I went back to my computer to get some work done (that I get paid for) and left the pot on very low heat for another hour. When I came back into the kitchen, there was the butter - thick and smooth, but definitely not clear. I scooped it out of the pot so I could measure it and discovered about a teaspoon of water underneath. I did pour that off. I used this butter in the recipe, but I can’t say if it met the definition of ‘clarified’.
The next challenge was the baking. It flowed over my bread pan and all over the oven floor. I scraped the bottom rack and the bottom of the oven clean as soon as I discovered it, so it wouldn’t start on fire, which was after about an hour of baking. The bread should have been done at that point. But it wasn’t even close with the hot batter still running over the side of the pan. So, I covered it with a tent of foil in an effort to get the inside baked and not brown the outside any further. I checked it every 15 minutes. It still wasn’t done and was still volcano-ing onto the oven floor. It ended up in the oven for an extra 40 minutes (at least, I went out to rake the lawn!) and then I gave up and took it out.
I put it in the microwave for 2 ½ minutes on high to get the inside cooked. The next challenge was getting it out of the bread pan. I let it cool on a cooling rack until it was just warm. I had greased and floured the pan before filling it. I gently went around the edge with a butter knife, sawing through the dark parts where the batter had flowed over the pan. Tipped it over - no movement. I went around the pan with the knife again, twice, then turned it on one side and worked on that side, turned it over to the other side and worked on that side. It finally came free in one piece!
Of course, I sliced it and ate a piece right away. It was delicious, especially when I hit a pocket of the strawberry preserves, but I’m not sure it was worth all the effort!
Strawberry Cucumber Bread (from Bon Appetite Magazine) modified slightly by me
½ cup strawberry preserves
1 T cornstarch
1T fresh lemon juice
½ c sort of clarified butter, room temp
1 c sugar
2 large eggs
1t vanilla extract
¼ t almond extract
2c all -purpose flour
1 t baking powder
½ t baking soda
½ t salt
2 cups grated and well drained cucumber
½ c chopped walnuts
½ c sliced fresh strawberries, divided
In a small saucepan, cook strawberry preserves, cornstarch, and lemon juice over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with baking spray and sprinkle with flour.
In a bowl, beat clarified butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in extracts.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until combined. Stir in cucumber, walnuts, and ¼ cup (42.5 grams) sliced strawberries. Spoon half of batter into prepared pan; top with strawberry preserve mixture. Add remaining batter, and top with remaining ¼ cup (42.5 grams) strawberry slices.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Wrap and store at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Photo Credit: Joy Johnson (1,2,3,4)