Stepping Out

Strawberries are juicy June delights


June means … strawberries. Those luscious berries await during this precious — short-lived — season. So gather up your gang and venture out to one of the many u-pick growers for a day in the berry patch.
The season reaches its peak here as spring transitions into summer, as the fruit grow and ripen throughout May and June.
Everyone can agree that local is always best, so skip those California and Florida supermarket berries and head out to one of the many farms nearby where you can pick your own. Then when you return with your bounty, be sure to whip up some yummy strawberry creations. These fresh gems are always terrific on their own, of course, but when used in a recipe, they’ll jazz up any meal.

Strawberry Shortcake
The quintessential summer treat never goes out of style.

• 3 baskets of fresh strawberries
• 1/2 cup sugar
• Whipping cream
• Vanilla

1. Remove the stems from the strawberries. Slice into thin (1/4- to 1/8-inch slices. Put into a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet the strawberries are to begin with) and mix into the strawberries. Set aside at room temperature to macerate (which means that the sugar will soften the strawberries and help release their juices).
2. After the strawberries have been sitting for 20 minutes or so, take a potato masher and mash them a little. Not too much, just enough to get more juice out of them.
3. Whip the cream, adding a drop or two of vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar.
4. To serve, break up one biscuit per person into big pieces into a bowl. Ladle strawberries over the biscuit (either scratch-made or Bisquick recipe). Add a dollop of whipped cream.

Biscuits from scratch:
• 3 cups all purpose flour
• 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
• 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
• 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
• 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Toss with a fork to combine. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or a fork until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. (Or pulse several times in a food processor.) 2. Combine the cream and vanilla in a liquid measure. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the cream mixture into the well. Mix with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just combined; it should look shaggy and still feel a little dry.
3. Gently knead by hand five or six times to create a loose ball.
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into an 8-inch square, 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat, cover with plastic and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.
5. Heat the oven to 425º F. Remove the dough from refrigerator. Cut the dough into 9 even squares and spread them about 2 inches apart from each other on the baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits are medium golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.
Makes 9 biscuits.

Classic Bisquick biscuits:
• 2 1/3 cups Bisquick baking mix
• 3 tablespoons butter, melted
• 1/2 cup milk
• 3 tablespoons sugar

1. Heat oven to 425° F. Stir baking mix, melted butter, milk, and sugar in a mixing bowl until soft dough forms.
2. Drop by 6 spoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 6 biscuits.

Strawberry Tarts
All the sweet goodness of strawberry shortcake in a small bite.

• 6 2-1/2-inch tart shells
• 1 1/2 quart fresh strawberries
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• Whipped cream

1. Wash and remove caps from the strawberries. Set aside the best half of the berries; combine the remaining berries, whole or cut, sugar and cornstarch in saucepan.
2. Cook, stirring frequently, 5-6 minutes or until the berry mixture is very thick. Stir in the lemon juice. Cook. Select a few of the reserved strawberries for garnish; add the rest, whole or cut, to the cooked mixture.
3. Pour into the baked pastry shells. Garnish with the whipped cream and remaining whole or cut berries.