Strawberries! (Weekly Harvest)

June has arrived and our paniers have restarted, refreshed after almost a month of vacation. This week marked the first real spring basket I have seen thus far – asparagus (more white, bah!), lettuces, artichokes and strawberries. There were also potatoes, but at least they were fingerlings and not russets – it seems we have even come full circle with the year-round (apparently) potato cycle…

Artichokes always strike me as communal food – something to be eaten around a table with friends, sharing a common dish of garlic butter and tearing the leaves off, one by one, as we all push the inevitably political conversation forward (despite well-meaning warnings to the contrary). At least that seemed to be the perfect place for them this evening… I invited a few friends over to enjoy the vegetable bounty now that spring had finally sprung. The overarching themes were vegetarian, election year drama and bringing friends together (still have a California visitor – hi Arne! – therefore good to introduce good CA friends to good Paris friends). Food was enjoyed and much wine consumed. We did well…

As an entrée, the five of us shared three artichokes. I steam, rather than boil them – as described in last year’s tutorial. This time around we dipped the leaves in garlic butter, an easy stand-by to prepare and a crowd favorite. With four Californians sitting around the table (and one Brit, who had been previously well-versed in artichoke etiquette), the globes disappeared in no time. We divided the hearts judiciously amongst ourselves and feasted, dipping them in the remaining salty, garlicky goodness.

We followed this indulgent appetizer with a green salad and potato and cheese gratin. Decidedly simple in preparation and nature, both of these dishes count on the inherent quality of the ingredients used. This was clearly the case as we scraped the last tender, spring potato from the dutch oven and swiped the last sprig of arugula from the salad bowl.

The source of our reserved excitement was, of course, strawberry shortcake. The smaller, riper French strawberries are known far and wide for their sweetness and fleeting season. With friends joining for dinner and not being especially patient when it comes to cooking desserts, I decided to stick with what I know: strawberry shortcake. With the berries were in hand, I went ahead and baked a whole wheat variation of my stand-by buttermilk drop biscuit (thanks, Cooks Illustrated). After they cooled, we topped them with strawberries macerated in vanilla sugar and a spoonful of crème fraiche.

(token photo of my window box herb garden for Margaret)

I am very lucky to have found friends in all corners of the globe who are intelligent, funny and welcoming. I look forward to the days when my friends in Paris will have the chance to co-mingle with those friends from CA and/or Boston. For now, I will satisfy myself (and, hopefully, them as well) with panier-inspired dinners and stimulating conversation… and look forward to see how can top this dinner next week…

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4 responses to “Strawberries! (Weekly Harvest)

  1. Yayyyy! Your herbs look great! I’m convinced that everybody should have at least a small window box of herbs or flowers – my job is now to convince everyone of this 🙂

    • PS – This weekend’s baking will include a simple recipe for fruit cobbler(-ish), which may be appealing for some of your paniers later in the summer.

      • researchingparis

        My basil took a dive, but I am considering trying again with the small pot next to the box that had a thriving plant last summer… The oregano is *out of control* – any ideas of what to do with that? Besides a vat of spaghetti sauce once the summer tomatoes show up? So much fun, dueling blogs (and am slowly, once again, climbing on the wagon…)

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