Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What to Do With Strawberries

May! The strawberries at the grocery store are turning from pink plastic to vaguely edible! Now, I will note that no strawberry I've ever had from the grocery store can compare with the second crop strawberries I had from a market in France in June 1988. Those were an entirely different fruit altogether. But I'm stuck with grocery store strawberries, so there you go.

I was at Sam's Club on Sunday and bought a large box of strawberries. I've not had a lot of luck with Sam's produce and here again, two days later, about 1/3 of the strawberries had gone bad. Sam's Club. Feh.

Anyway, having blown off the commute today in order to grade at home, I had a little time to cook. After pondering various shortcake possibilities, I decided to make lemon pound cake to go with the strawberries. I've got about 30 different pound cake recipes, but decided I'd give one from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book a go. I always have mixed feelings about America's Test Kitchen--sometimes the recipes seem awfully fussy for what is being made. I will also admit that Christopher Kimball strikes me as a bit arrogant and annoying (for those of you not familiar with him, he runs America's Test Kitchen). All that aside, however, they do have some good recipes, plus you have to give them props for running two good cooking magazines (Cook's Illustrated and Cook's Country) without accepting any advertising. That takes determination.

So, for dinner, I grilled asparagus and tossed with a little olive oil and balsamic...

 grilled some lamb chops,

and made some mashed potatoes (Yukon Golds with butter and sour cream).

Kids were suspicious of the lamb chops, but ended up liking them. We don't eat a lot of lamb, but it's one of my husband's favorites. Son, as usual, physically recoiled from the asparagus. He's at that stage where fruits and vegetables are anathema. Actually, come to think of it, he's been at that age for about 11 years.

Finally, time for dessert! Sliced up the good strawberries, added a little superfine sugar and lemon juice. Whipped some heavy cream with vanilla and sugar. Then sliced up the pound cake! Yum...

For those who are interested, here's the pound cake recipe. A little unusual in the assembly, but quite simple.

from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) cake flour (I weighed it out)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used 1 tsp almond extract instead--what the heck)
2 T grated fresh lemon zest
2 tsp fresh lemon juice (I just squeezed a whole lemon in there--close enough)
16 T (2 sticks, 1 cup) unsalted butter, melted and hot (I used salted, because that's what I had, although frankly I usually used salted, but I like things a little salty--you can always reduce the added salt)

Directions (abbreviated by me)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a loaf pan (8 1/2" by 4 1/2"). Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowls. Process the lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, extract, and eggs together in a food processor or blender. (I used a blender, because who wants to haul out the Cuisinart for a pound cake?) Gradually pour melted butter in through the feed tube and process until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a large bowl. Sift (well, sift if you want to, I didn't) about 1/3 of the flour mixture over the liquid, and whisk in. Repeat until all the flour mixture is incorporated. Pour into loaf pan, and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes, until done. Let the cake cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Let it cool for a while before you try and slice it!

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