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Sweet and Savory Strawberries

Mike Licht/flickr

This is one of the nicest times of the year to visit your market.  Strolling up and down the aisles your eye will be caught by the crown jewels of the season:  our fresh Maryland strawberries. My first instincts are for strawberries and ice cream with shortcake, but Chef Jerry Pellegrino tells me, we don't have to go for sweet dessert dishes all the time.  Strawberries can go savory too.

First of all, we should be aware that the best Maryland strawberries are usually on the smaller side.  The big golf ball sized berries may look impressive, but that patch of white under the stem tells you that they will not be as tasty as you'd expect.  Look for the smaller berries, about the size of a finger tip, deep red all over, and with a gorgeous aroma.  In fact, buying by smell is nearly foolproof.

In preparing salads one rule of thumb applies:  you can use strawberries wherever you would use tomatoes.  It works!  And speaking of salads, here is a lovely vinaigrette featuring strawberries.

Strawberry Vinaigrette

8 ounces strawberries, tops removed and cut into quarters

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Blend strawberries, honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil, salt, and black pepper together in a blender until smooth. Store in a closed jar in the fridge.

To take the point one step further, here's Jerry's strawberry based BBQ sauce, a condiment ordinarily dominated by tomatoes.

Strawberry BBQ Sauce

4 cups sliced fresh strawberries

½ cup chili sauce

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Zest and juice from one lemon

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons light brown sugar

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Process strawberries, chili sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, minced garlic, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne pepper in a food processor until smooth, 15 to 20 seconds.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.