Chef's Corner: Sweet Summer Bounty

It’s officially eat-outdoors season – summer is here! Available now are crisp, juicy watermelon, fresh ears of corn, flats of colorful berries and tart rhubarb. Finally, after the long flavorless winter season, we have fruity-sweet locally grown beefsteak tomatoes just waiting to be thickly sliced to adorn a smoky backyard-grilled hamburger or gently layered with creamy fresh mozzarella, tangy balsamic vinegar, the finest olive oil and summertime’s sweet, tender basil. I love the bounty of summertime fare that is just begging you to fire up the grill and enjoy the extended daytime sun followed by the gentle evening 
breezes that inspire a great outdoor meal. 
 
Another sure sign of summer is when handwritten signs begin to appear along local roads alerting that a farm stand is just ahead ready to sell its bounty of Oregon’s luscious local strawberries. When I was a young girl, strawberries were only available during the summer months. A strawberry in January was simply unheard of before growers began shipping them from California. To consider their long transport time, California growers need to make sure the berries remain sturdy by being under-ripe to survive the long trip north. Even though they may resemble strawberries on the outside, those California imposters are a sad substitute for our sweet, juicy, once-a-year Oregon strawberries.
 
I grew up east of Portland in Troutdale in the days before there were countless strip malls, outlet stores and the Max line. In the ’70s Troutdale was a rural suburb surrounded by nurseries, farms and berry fields. During summer vacation my friends and I would get up early in the morning and head to the nearby fields where we would be hired to fill buckets of berries for a few cents a pound. These strawberries were deep red and ridiculously sweet. Impossible to resist, many wound up in our mouths and never made it into our buckets. Tender and perishable, these berries rarely traveled far from the farms from which they were picked and usually spent less than a day waiting to be swooped up from a local market or roadside stand. 
 
Here’s a great way to enjoy Oregon’s signature summertime gift of fresh strawberries: Creamy rich strawberry ice cream is churned with bits of buttermilk shortcake and topped with fresh berries marinated in sweetened balsamic vinegar. Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a perfect pairing, and tender chunks of buttery, sweet biscuit mixed into the softly frozen ice cream create an upscale twist on strawberry shortcake .
 
RECIPE
Fresh Oregon Strawberry Shortcake Ice Cream with Sweet Balsamic Vinegar Strawberry Topping
2 pints fresh Oregon strawberries
 
For the ice cream base:
2 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk
 
For the syrup:
¹/³ cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
 
For the shortcake:
2 cups self-rising flour
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for dusting the top of the shortcake
¼ cup cold unsalted butter cut into pats, or shortening
¾ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
Make the syrup:
Place balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to  a boil and reduce heat to medium high. Watch carefully until mixture reduces to thin syrup. Pour over one pint of cleaned and sliced strawberries. Set aside to macerate.
 
Make the shortcake:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place flour and sugar in a bowl. Work in the butter or shortening  just until crumbs are the size of large peas. add vanilla to buttermilk and mix. add buttermilk to bowl and stir until the mixture just holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl. add a bit more flour if too wet. Scoop the dough onto a well-floured surface and gently fold it over on itself several times, using more flour if needed. roll or pat dough into a 5 by 8½ inch rectangle. Cut biscuits with round cutter or into triangles like a scone. Place on ungreased baking sheet and bake for 10-14 minutes. When finished baking and slightly cooled, place two biscuits in freezer to harden a bit while you make the ice cream base. (the rest you can save in an airtight container and have with your coffee the next morning!)
 
Make the ice cream base:
Whisk the eggs and sugar in the bowl of a stand-up mixer until light and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. heat the milk and cream until almost boiling in a medium-size pan. When milk is hot, add about ½ cup of it to the egg-sugar mixture to temper. add egg mixture to hot cream and stir gently for 3-4 minutes more until mixture begins to thicken. remove from heat and place in a bowl. Put bowl in the freezer to chill for about an hour. Finely chop the second pint of strawberries and add a bit of sugar if needed (probably won’t). When the i
ce 
cream base has thoroughly chilled, add it to the ice cream machine along with chopped berries and churn until soft frozen. remove shortcake from freezer and break or cut into large chunks. add to semi-frozen ice cream and churn until just blended. Put ice cream in freezer to continue to harden. Serve ice cream in bowls topped with macerated berries.
 
 
Lisa glickman is a private chef and teacher who lives in Bend. She has made tv appearances on COtv in Central Oregon and appeared on the Cooking Channel’s “The Perfect Three.” She can be reached at lisa@lisaglickman.com.

 

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