It might be a little behind the curve this year, but despite winter’s best effort to stick around, spring has finally sprung. May has always been the start of South Jersey’s fresh produce season in my mind. There’s the first best vegetable of the year – asparagus – and it’s the month the strawberries become plentiful and flavorful and wonderful. I never even liked strawberries until I came to South Jersey. But often overlooked by produce enthusiasts, May is also when the bees begin full active duty making honey. That delectable harvest is not a mere sweetener. Oh no. Recent studies have shown honey is such a good antioxidant, both topically and internally, it may form the basis of new anti-bacterial treatments. Who knew the ancient sweetness would have cutting-edge uses? To celebrate May and Strawberries and Honey, here are three sweet and easy recipes, beginning with an unexpected and totally entertaining garden party idea:
STRAWBERRY-HONEY RAW BAR Have fresh fun with strawberries and assorted dips Fresh whole medium to large strawberries, hulled and washed Honey in assorted flavors fondue sets dipping bowls and long toothpicks or other dipping handles
1/2 – 1 C each glazed walnuts, hulled pistachios, almond slivers, other nuts chocolate and/or colored jimmies, flaked coconut, powdered/ground cinnamon and/or nutmeg in a container with holes for shaking hot fudge fondue white chocolate fondue peanut butter fondue cheese fondue butter cream frosting, softened with a bit of milk or water
Chop or crush the nuts.
Place strawberries in a large bowl and honey in separate bowls for each flavor. Fill small bowls with dipping items so that fruit can be dipped in one type or all types.
To serve, coat a strawberry in honey and then dip into selected nuts or other flavors. Or bypass the honey and coat with fondue and then other dips. Provide plenty of napkins and moist towelettes. NOTE: Any firm, fresh fruit can be used with or in place of strawberries, such as apple or pear slices, large chunks of cantaloupe or pineapple.
STRAWBERRY HONEY BARS Fresh fruit adds extra flavor and moistness.
6 Tbls unsalted butter
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
3 Tbls sugar
1/4 C honey
1 1/2 C old fashioned oats
1/2 C all purpose flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 C strawberry jam
1 pint fresh strawberries, washed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Lightly grease an 8×8-inch pan. Hull and slice (or cut to medium chunks) the fresh strawberries. Place them in a bowl and lightly toss with 1 tablespoon sugar. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and remaining sugar. Add the egg and honey, mixing until blended. Stir in the oats, flours, baking soda, and salt. Batter will be slightly sticky. Using floured hands, press 3/4 of the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. Spread strawberry jam evenly over the top. Add cut strawberries evenly across the jam. Crumble the remaining 1/4 of the batter on top. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly in pan before serving.
HONEY-LIME STRAWBERRIES AND WHIPPED CREAM Very refreshing in hot weather, especially served over sorbet.
2 lbs. fresh strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1/4 C plus 3 Tbls honey
2 Tbls freshly-squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest, plus more for garnish
Scant 1/4 tsp ground cardamom OR equal parts ground nutmeg and cinnamon OR equal parts ground cloves and cinnamon OR just nutmeg OR just cinnamon
1 C heavy cream 2 pints lemon sorbet (optional)
Put the strawberries in a large heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 C plus 2 tablespoons of the honey with the lime juice and heat just to a boil. Stir in the 1/2 tsp of lime zest and the cardamom or ground spices. Pour the syrup over the strawberries, stirring to coat. Let stand, stirring once or twice, until the berries are juicy and slightly softened, 25 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in another bowl, whip the heavy cream with the remaining 1 tablespoon of honey until soft peaks form. Scoop the lemon sorbet, if using, into dessert dishes or glasses and top with the strawberries and their juices. Spoon the whipped cream on top and garnish with lime zest. Or, spoon marinated strawberries into sundae glasses, layering with the whipped cream. Serve right away. Makes 4-6 desserts.