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Strawberries

March 20, 1986|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

Up at the crack of dawn, dressed in layers of clothing to insulate them from sun or cold, cortadores --strawberry pickers at berry farms in Oxnard and other places in California--gather their clippers to bring the world their bright red berry harvest. Bending down toward low-growing patches, the pickers add more color to the sea of green beds dotted with red and green fruit and pretty little white blossoms.

The much-awaited spring fruit came early this year, to the delight of strawberry fans. The day after Christmas, berry workers in some farms were already gathering the Douglas and Chandlers. These are the early berry varieties that are large, sweet and firm. Warm, perfect December weather accounted for the faster growth in the fields of Oxnard, Orange and San Diego counties and other strawberry farms in California.

Although the rains have definitely adversely affected the volume of production and quality of the berries, growers are confident there will be a steady supply of the fruit, according to Jan DeLyser, executive vice president of the Fresh Produce Council.

"Growers don't seem to think they're in trouble," she said. "They are pleasantly pleased with the amount they have produced to continue the supply."

FOR THE RECORD - Corrected Strawberry Cheesecake Recipe
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 27, 1986 Home Edition Food Part 8 Page 34 Column 1 Food Desk 8 inches; 262 words Type of Material: Recipe; Correction
The Sour Cream Topping was omitted from Barbi's Strawberry Cheesecake recipe printed in the March 20 Food Section. The complete recipe follows. BARBI'S STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers
3 tablespoons butter, melted
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
5 eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
Sour Cream Topping
2 to 2 1/2 quarts whole strawberries
Strawberry Topping
Lightly butter 10-inch spring form pan. Combine walnuts, cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar and wafer crumbs with melted butter. Press into pan and place in 350-degree oven 3 to 5 minutes.
Beat cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, then add eggs, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat well. Pour over crust and bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes, until top is firm and light golden color. Remove from oven. Let stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes. Spoon Sour Cream Topping over cooled cake. Return cake to 350 degree oven 5 minutes. Cool at room temperature and refrigerate several hours or until chilled.
Remove cake from pan. Arrange whole strawberries, pointed side up on top of cake. Spoon Strawberry Topping over berries. Chill until serving time. Makes about 12 servings. Sour Cream Topping
2 cups sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Strawberry Topping
1 (12-ounce) jar seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup triple sec
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Place jam in saucepan over low heat. Combine cornstarch with cold water in measuring cup to make 1/4 cup liquid. Stir until lump-free. Mix with jam. Add triple sec and lemon juice while stirring constantly over low heat, until mixture is clear and thickened. Cool in refrigerator about 15 minutes, stirring frequently.

Vince Mastraco, marketing director of the California Strawberry Advisory Board, added, "At this point the fields may have slowed down but we're taking an optimistic outlook because the plants are healthy and they have a way of recovering after a few days."

Perfect berries start from tender loving care in the fields. Pickers get a good start in the morning when it's cool so the berries are firm when picked, not soft from the warmth of the sun. The fruit is carefully selected for proper ripeness because once it's clipped off its plant, it doesn't continue to ripen or sweeten. To protect them from bruising and rotting, the delicate berries are grown on raised beds covered with polyethylene sheets.

Strawberries, one of America's most loved fruits, symbolize luscious taste and beauty. What plain dessert ever failed to brighten up when strawberries were added? According to the strawberry advisory board, consumer surveys showed that the top five ways of eating fresh strawberries are: whole or sliced and sweetened; whole or sliced as a snack; strawberry shortcake; strawberries with cream, and strawberries in salads.

Judging from the more than 100 entries submitted for the California Strawberry Festival contest this April, consumers are being innovative with strawberries. Contest finalists from all over the nation, which are being judged today in the Channel Islands include interesting recipes like strawberry creme brulees, dessert couscous, ravioli, barbecue sauce, zabaglione sauce, fruited curry salad and many others that made it to the top 20 selection. (See related story on Page 10 for more details.)

To highlight the festival, some of the harbor restaurants are making some of their favorite strawberry creations. Included here are just a few of their recipes. One of these is Barbi's Cheesecake, which is being presented by the Whale's Tail. It is truly decadent with its luscious topping of glazed berries spiked with triple sec. Barbi Kurisu, who started as a waitress at the Whale's Tail, contributed the recipe to the restaurant, where it is now regularly served as dessert. The success of this creation grew into Kurisu's own cheesecake bakery, which carries 30 different flavored cheesecakes, the star of which is still strawberry.

Strawberries, prepared French-style with a little tangy vinaigrette, are finding a home in green salads. Cooking instructor Judith Pacht shared one of her favorite uses of berries in the form of Green Salad With Strawberries and Goat Cheese. It turned out to be not just a tasty surprise but beautiful as well.

In trying to come up with more delectable surprises, we also offer a few recipes developed in The Times' Test Kitchen: Donna's Duck With Strawberry Sauce, a wonderful combination enhanced with rosemary and Strawberry Cobbler, a winning old-fashioned treat. BARBI'S STRAWBERRY CHEESECAKE

1 cup coarsely ground walnuts

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups sugar

2 cups finely crushed vanilla wafers

3 tablespoons butter, melted

4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature

5 eggs

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

Sour Cream Topping

2 to 2 1/2 quarts strawberries

Strawberry Topping

Lightly butter 10-inch spring form pan. Combine walnuts, cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar and wafer crumbs with melted butter. Press into pan and place in 350-degree oven 3 to 5 minutes.

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Slowly add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, then add eggs, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat well. Pour over crust and bake at 350 degrees 45 to 50 minutes, until top is firm and light golden color. Remove from oven. Let stand at room temperature 15 to 20 minutes.

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