During the nanosecond that New Englanders call the “locally grown strawberry season,” I like to devour them a container at a time by simply popping them in my mouth, au naturel. In the unlikely event that I get my fill and leave some to make a dessert, simplicity is the goal. Our recipes this week include a freshly churned sorbet that’s almost more berry-y than the berries themselves, tartines with sweetened ricotta that I liken to a strawberry shortcake’s warm, open-faced Italian cousin, and an easier-than-pie Old World brown betty that replaces the typically heavy streusel with a light, lean bread-crumb topping.
Makes about 1 quart
Note: You’ll need an ice cream maker for this recipe.
3 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and quartered
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons framboise, kirsch, or vodka, optional
In a large bowl, toss the berries, sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt to coat and set aside, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is syrupy and partially dissolved, at least 30 minutes. Scrape the berry mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a glass or ceramic bowl and strain the puree, working it through the strainer with a flexible spatula until only seeds and a tiny bit of pulp remain (you should have about 3½ cups smooth puree). Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and spirits, if using, and stir to combine well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or until the mixture reaches 35 to 40 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Taste and adjust the seasoning with sugar or lemon juice if necessary.
Following the manufacturer’s directions for your ice cream maker, churn the mixture until frozen (place a metal bowl in the freezer while the sorbet churns). Scoop the frozen sorbet into the chilled bowl, cover, and put in the freezer until the sorbet is firm, about 3 hours. Allow the sorbet to rest at room temperature for a few minutes to soften slightly and then serve at once.
SWEET STRAWBERRY AND RICOTTA TARTINE
Make sure your brioche slices are ¾ to 1 inch thick, and keep an eye on them as they toast, because they can burn easily. I used Trader Joe’s Sliced French Brioche to develop this recipe.
If you appreciate a faint savory note in your sweets, try mixing about ¼ cup room-temperature fresh goat cheese into the ricotta mixture.
3 cups rinsed, hulled, sliced fresh strawberries (about 1 pound)
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons finely grated orange zest
1½ cups (about 12 ounces) whole-milk ricotta
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy, cognac, or dark or amber rum, optional
6 thick, roughly 4-inch-wide slices brioche or challah, toasted until browned
2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted lightly and cooled
In a bowl, gently stir the strawberries, 1½ tablespoons sugar, and a tiny pinch of salt to mix and set aside, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is syrupy and mostly dissolved, at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a second bowl, mix the remaining sugar and the cinnamon; set aside 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar. Add the orange zest to the bowl and stir until the sugar is moist and fragrant. Add the ricotta, ½ teaspoon vanilla, a tiny pinch of salt, and spirits, if using, and beat until uniform.
Set a strainer over a bowl and drain the strawberries; if you like, reserve the liquid for another use. Place the berries in the emptied bowl, add the remaining ¼ teaspoon vanilla, and stir gently to mix.
Set an oven rack about 6 inches beneath the heating element and turn on the broiler. Place the brioche slices on a broiler-safe baking sheet and spread about ¼ cup of the ricotta mixture on each slice, all the way to the edges. Top with a generous ‚ cup of strawberries, shingling them to the edges. Sprinkle with the reserved cinnamon sugar and broil until warmed through and edges are lightly browned, about 4 minutes (remove from broiler if the crusts begin to burn). Transfer the slices to plates, sprinkle each with a portion of the toasted almonds, and serve at once.
TIP: TO HULL AND BACK
STRAWBERRY BROWN BETTY
Brown betty may sound old-fashioned, but the merits of fruit baked under lightly buttered and sweetened bread crumbs are undeniable: It’s a simple, quick, and delicious dessert. I added almonds for flavor and a little crunch.
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
4 pints fresh strawberries, rinsed, hulled, and small berries left whole, medium and large berries halved, and very large berries quartered
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1¼ cups panko bread crumbs
½ cup slivered almonds, toasted until light golden brown, cooled, and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoon butter, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or vanilla ice cream, for serving
With the rack in the lower-middle position, heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, add the granulated sugar and orange zest, and stir until moist and fragrant. Add the strawberries, vanilla, and a pinch of salt and toss to coat berries. Add the cornstarch and toss gently to incorporate. Scrape the berry mixture into a wide, shallow 1½-quart gratin dish and spread evenly.
In the empty bowl, toss the bread crumbs, almonds, butter, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt and mix well. Spread the crumb mixture in an even layer over the berries and gently pat it down. Bake until the topping is well browned and crisp, and the berries have softened, about 14 minutes, rotating the dish 180 degrees halfway through. Cool the betty on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature with whipped cream, Greek yogurt, or ice cream.
Adam Ried appears regularly on “America’s Test Kitchen.’’ Send comments to email@example.com.