Strawberry Fields Forever

It’s St. Patrick’s Day!  I suppose I should be posting a great blog on Corned Beef and Cabbage or Irish Stew or green beer (blech!).  But the truth is that St. Patrick’s Day isn’t generally celebrated much any more at my house.  Too many years, I’ve slaved in the kitchen only to spend the evening rolling my eyes in irritation as my husband almost literally gagged on dinner.  To say he’s not a fan of the traditional Irish fair would be an understatement.  To say that he’s probably inwardly jumping for joy that I’ll be working tonight and not trying to be festive is hardly an exaggeration.  Me not cooking Irish cuisine saves me a lot of frustration and stress so I just don’t do it.  But I’m jealous of those of you who are.  I love the stuff.  Eat it and think of me, post pictures.  I’ll live vicariously through you.

That being said, I did have a few days off last week.  These days it’s rare for me to have 2 consecutive days off.  My chef has been great at trying to give me days off for Collin’s baseball games but that means I get a day here, a day there.  But last week there were three days in a row and I needed every one of them.  The first, I slept most of the day, the second, I did those things that needed to be done and the third, I had a little time to play.  One of my favorite things to do is go to the grocery store (a good grocery store – not a crappy one) and see 1) what looks good and 2) whats on sale then take it home and create a meal.  Sometimes (as in this past week) I strike gold.  Sometimes, not so much but it’s always fun and I usually learn a something in the process.

So on my third day off, I headed to Publix with no ideas of what I was looking for.  The first thing that caught my eye were strawberries.  When I moved to Florida, I had imagined that oranges would be everywhere.  I had dreamed of oranges trees, farm stands and thought about what I could do with them.  Sadly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Due to some pesky insects and heavy, heavy regulations, every grove I’ve seen has been surround by electric fencing and every orange I’ve seen has been shipped in from California.  But what we DO have are strawberries.  Just 45 minutes west of here is a town called Plant City – the Winter Strawberry Capitol of the World.  These strawberries aren’t your overgrown, nearly tasteless Driskolls.  They’re smaller, tarter and more delicious.  And they’re peaking.  Publix had gorgeous local strawberries on sale as well as Salmon fillets.  I grabbed both, and a little fresh basil and headed home.

My boys had been asking for strawberry shortcake but instead I whipped up a fresh strawberry pie.  If you’d like the details on that, you can check out the blog here:

https://thegourmetgirls.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/berry-good-memories/

It’s an old standard but so delicious and easy.

download-1As for dinner, I knew I’d be short on time, wedging it between Collin’s baseball game and having to pick Ty up from work.  So I did some prep early.  I pulled out the salmon and spotted the bottle of Jack Daniels’ Tennessee Honey sitting on my counter.  If you haven’t tried this stuff, you’re missing out.  We’re not big drinkers and a bottle of liquor will usually last a year or more in my house.  But I have a hard time keeping this whiskey around.  I’ve put it in everything from barbecue sauce to pecan pie.  I’ve mixed it with water and sipped it slowly, I’ve added a bit to coffee.  It’s amazing stuff.  On this night, I decided to make a glaze for my salmon.  I spent a few minutes making the glaze in the afternoon and just left it sitting on the counter.  Then I started to work on the sauce.  This is where those gorgeous strawberries were going to pay off.  I chopped them up in the food processor, added some balsamic vinegar, water, brown sugar and let it reduce.  I then finished it off with a bit of honey and fresh basil.  A little more reducing and the sauce was ready.  I popped it in the fridge and headed out for the game.

When we got home, all that was left to do was season the salmon with salt and pepper, broil it for 5-6 minutes on each side, brush on the glaze, broil another minute or two, warm the sauce and serve.  The result was amazing.  So good, so easy, so full of flavor.  Collin even said he wanted to cook it for his girlfriend.  It was pretty and seemed like a special meal.  Company worthy indeed.  Even my pickier Camden thought it was great.

Not sure when I’ll get another day to play with my food but I hope when I do, it’s turns out as well.  In the meantime, give this a try.  Strawberries should be coming to you soon!

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Tennessee Honey-Glazed Salmon with Strawberry-Balsamic-Basil Sauce*

For the glaze:

3/4 cup Tennessee Honey

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and whisk to combine.  Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to simmer and cook 6-8 minutes or until reduced by about half.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Strawberry-Balsamic-Basil Sauce

2 cups finely chopped strawberries, plus additional sliced strawberries for garnish

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

In a small saucepan, combine finely chopped berries, balsamic vinegar and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and allow to reduce by half.  Stir in honey and fresh basil and simmer another 2-4 minutes.  Keep sauce warm or make it ahead and chill it, rewarming before use.

For the salmon:

Preheat broiler and place salmon on a baking sheet lined with foil or a Silpat.  Season both sides with course salt and freshly ground black pepper and broil 5-6 minutes on each side.  Remove from oven and brush with Tennessee Honey Glaze.  Return to broiler and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.

Spoon Strawberry sauce onto plate and top with glazed salmon, add additional sauce and garnish with fresh strawberries.

*Unless you’re cooking for a crowd, you’ll have both glaze and sauce left over.  It would be wonderful on chicken  (or chicken wings as I’m going to try).  The glaze can be used as a dipping sauce and the strawberry sauce would be excellent over ice cream.  Be creative!

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