Strawberries, cucumbers, cherries, and carrots are in season. Although these products are available year-round in grocery stores across the country, their best selves can be found at farmers markets in spring and early summer.
Speaking of being your best self, I haven’t posted in some time because we had a baby in December. The trials and tribulations of new parenthood are well-documented, so I see no need to expand upon them in this forum. Suffice to say, recreational drinking has taken a backseat to unconditional love and so on and so forth. We haven’t been drinking much beyond our family standards: gin and tonic for me, old-fashioned for Robert, red wine for everybody. This is, of course, when we have time to sit down…which wasn’t terribly often…until recently.
Our son, while still incredibly interested in us and what we do, is also increasingly interested in the world around him. We have time to do things again. Like, go to the farmers market and pick up strawberries. Like, make specialty cocktails for our Saturday night dinner. Like, sit down for five seconds to drink and eat! It’s amazing.
Last weekend, we went to the farmers market at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. It’s a pretty small enterprise as these things go, but you can find what you want. We picked out two cartons of strawberries by looking for smaller berries with a rich, glossy red color and shiny green leaves.
I cleaned the strawberries as soon as we got home. I snuck a few into my belly, by way of my mouth. Because, quality control, am I right? At that moment, I realized that I’d never actually eaten a strawberry before. It was so juicy. So sweet. It actually tasted a color. It tasted red.
In comparison, grocery store strawberries are…styrofoam, basically. Do you think the styrofoam people are sad that if you want to say something is terrible you compare it to styrofoam? I would be. If I worked at The Dow Chemical Company*, I would say, “Hey, guys. Styrofoam isn’t so bad. It insulates pipes? Florists use it? There are other things, probably? I can see now that I’m losing you. Jazz hands.”
I cut the strawberries and divided them into bowls by size: a bowl of large strawberries for strawberry BBQ sauce and a bowl of small strawberries for a spring cocktail.
I am not exaggerating when I say that strawberry BBQ sauce is one of the greatest things I’ve ever made. I was inspired by a recipe I found for Roasted Strawberry BBQ Sauce but made several modifications, as follows.
[Caitlin’s] Strawberry BBQ Sauce
4 cups of large strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and cut in half
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Heinz® Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons of chipotle spice rub, any brand (I used this)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 bunch cilantro
Roast the strawberries on a baking pan lined with foil folded up on the sides to capture the juices in a preheated 425F oven until they smell delicious and get soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and add strawberries, with their cooking juices, to a medium saucepan. Add all of the ingredients except the cilantro and the sea salt to the saucepan and bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the sauce to cool. Pour it into a blender. Add the cilantro. Puree to a silky smooth consistency and season to taste with sea salt.
We used the sauce for short ribs, and subsequently, for shaved beef sandwiches. I’m pretty sure it would go with anything. Beef, pork, chicken. Spoon to mouth. In a bath. You could use it to re-create that scene in Flashdance where the character played by Jennifer Beals dances around and splashes water all over herself except YOU are Jennifer Beals and the water is delicious BBQ sauce.
Before shoving our faces full of short ribs, we enjoyed a lovely spring cocktail, inspiration courtesy of The PDT Cocktail Book. The original recipe calls for blanco tequila. I substituted Mezcal Añejo because I like smoky cocktails. Robert, who doesn’t share my affinity, enjoyed this recipe as well. To further accommodate for the strength of the Mezcal Añejo as compared to a lighter blanco tequila, I opted to serve the cocktail over ice rather than straight up as the original recipe dictated.
[Modified] Fresa Verde
8 strawberries (sliced)
2 ounces pomegranate molasses (can be found at most grocery stores, typically in the international aisle)
4 slices green bell pepper
5 ounces Mezcal Añejo
Juice of three limes
Extra strawberry slices (for garnish)
Add the strawberries, bell pepper, and pomegranate molasses to a shaker and muddle until the strawberries have broken down and released their juices. Add the Mezcal Añejo and lime juice, then fill shaker 2/3 full with ice and shake vigorously until the outside of the shaker begins to frost. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass over ice and garnish with extra strawberry slices. Makes two cocktails.
At first sip, I thought the cocktail was not sweet enough. At last sip, I was glad it wasn’t sweet. I would not change one thing about the modified recipe.
*Styrofoam is a trademarked brand owned and manufactured by The Dow Chemical Company.