It’s Maine strawberry season! Our family can never have enough of the luscious, red-ripe strawberry that leads the parade of summer fruits. Strawberries in sugar over piping-hot biscuits with Jersey whipped cream, sweet, icy-cold strawberry popsicles, succulent berries tossed with fresh greens, goat cheese and nuts, and mouthwatering strawberry jam on toast or English muffins.
A member of the Rose family, the strawberry plant has grown wild for centuries in both Europe and the Americas. While the Romans valued the fruit for its therapeutic powers for everything from loose teeth to gastritis, we Mainers just love the taste of the fruit.
Strawberries are a good crop for the home gardener, and several varieties can be successfully cultivated here in Maine. Our favorites include Cavendish, Sparkle and Brunswick. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s bulletin, https://extension.umaine.edu/publications/2184e/, is packed with valuable information for both the grower and consumer.
Strawberry picking is a wonderful family activity for all ages, particularly those with short legs. Many Maine farms have you-pick strawberry operations, including Daisy Chain Farm in Belfast, Goranson Farm in Dresden, and Stevenson’s Farm in Wayne.
Fresh Strawberry Tart is a show-stopping type of dessert, made with a gluten-free crust. Adapted from a recipe for strawberry cream pie, this preparation uses a crust of ground nuts and oat flour, strengthened with an egg white. Pressed for time? This tart can also be made with a prebaked pie shell, or a cookie crumb base.
Fresh, juicy, ripe strawberries really shine when sitting on a base of soft cream cheese and then smothered with a ruby-red strawberry fruit sauce. The purist may enjoy as is, or try the finishing touch of mounds of softly whipped cream. One mouthful and you’ll be in strawberry heaven!
Fresh Strawberry Tart
- 1 cup nuts hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans
- ½ cup oat flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 egg white
- 1 quart fresh strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup water
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 ounces soft cheese cream cheese, goat cheese, farm cheese at room temperature
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup or sugar
- Assemble ingredients and tools. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
To prepare the crust:
- Butter a 9-inch pie plate or a tart pan.
- Place nuts in the bowl of a food processor.
- Finely chop the nuts.
- Add the oat flour, sugar, butter and egg white.
- Pulse until well combined.
- Pat the mixture into the pie plate or tart shell. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven to cool on a rack.
- Spread the soft cheese in the bottom of the baked pie or tart shell.
To prepare the strawberry filling:
- Hull and wash the strawberries. Pick the berries over carefully, setting aside the prettiest ones for the pie shell.
- Arrange half the fresh berries on top of the cheese in the baked shell, cutting them in half if needed.
- Combine the remaining berries with 1-cup sugar in a medium saucepan. Mash the berries and place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Whisk together the cornstarch and water.
- Gradually stir the cornstarch mixture into the boiling strawberries. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture until thickened and the color has changed from opaque to clear red. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Pour the mixture over the berries in the tart shell. Chill for several hours.
- In a small bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Sweeten the whipped cream with a bit of maple syrup or sugar. Spread the whipped cream over the chilled tart. Cut and serve with a piece of fresh mint for garnish.