Can a Strawberry Be Savory?

A big shout-out to the strawberry, who's back in town and making Washington area farm markets a little more gorgeous.

Strawberry glory.

A member of the rose family, the strawberry is unlike her other berry brethren, as she's the only one that keeps her seeds in full view, on the skin. Of all the berry options to come our way this summer, the strawberry is fairly low on my list (I'm much more excited about the impending arrival of blueberries, which I can eat by the pint.), but now that I've read in Dana Jacobi's new book, "The Essential Best Foods Cookbook," that one cup of strawberries contains 140 percent of the RDA for vitamin C, I'm reconsidering my position.

That stunning shade of red isn't just for show, by the way. In those come-hither pigments are powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins which protect us from our brain going down the drain as we creak on in years.

Even if I find her too sweet, I think I can find a way to love her. Perhaps a savory twist is in order. After all, I much prefer
apple pie
, when it's seasoned with rosemary and pine nuts, and I'm a sucker for pineapple chunks mingling with chilis, peanuts and cilantro. Pears with blue cheese, melon and prosciutto -- I can do this!

To get the savory strawberry party started, I rang up my pal Bill Addison, the one person on the planet who understands my savory fruit fixation.

"Arugula," he said, an idea which immediately took me back to the dreamy strawberry-spinach salad I had this winter in Costa Rica (recipe below the jump). Yes, peppery arugula -- but what else? We decided on pecans and goat cheese, promising salad companions that would offer both fat and tang, crunch and creaminess.

We hung up, and I got to thinking, I like pineapple on my pizza; what if I did it up with strawberries instead? And would I add red sauce, too? A bit of online searching brought me to this curious recipe for spaghetti with strawberries, with pureed berries incorporated into the marinara sauce. Too weird? Or weird enough to be the best new thing that's happened to pasta?

And think how stunning a bowl of strawberry-topped risotto would be! Garnished with basil, lots of black pepper and a smidge of mascarpone instead of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I on a inspired roll or am I delusional? Weigh in and set me straight or keep the savory thread going. I eagerly await your ideas and recipe suggestions!

P.S.: For those of you more interested the strawberry as a sweet, check out my laundry list of ideas from last year's blog space.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad
from Chef Luis Protti at Pura Vida Spa in Costa Rica

1/4 cup vegetable oil (he recommends something neutral, like Canola)
1/8 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon each sesame seeds and poppy seeds
Salt to taste
1 bunch spinach, cleaned, dried, stemmed and chopped
2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced (alternatively 1-2 mangoes, peeled and diced)

Pour oil into a small mixing bowl, then whisk in vinegar and sugar until blended. Add paprika and seeds, then salt to taste. In a large serving bowl, pour vinaigrette over spinach and fruit and toss to completely coat. Serve immediately.

By Kim ODonnel |  May 14, 2008; 10:15 AM ET Spring Produce
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Kim, I know maybe you don't want to hear about Indian food or Indian recipes, but just wanted to share that my mom makes chutney (thick, spicy, and nutty kind from South India) with green strawberries. It's awesome with wheat thins! I bet if it was thinned out, it would be an awesome dressing to your salad too.

Posted by: lifelong | May 14, 2008 10:57 AM

Strawbery Spinach Salad

1 lb washed baby spinach
1 pint strawberries, hulled and halved
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp. feta cheese
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or glazed walnuts

Toss lightly and drizzle with Brianna's Blush Wine Vinegarette.

Behold the strawberries!

I've mixed this up and used different kinds of greens, nuts, and also sliced red pears, and it is always a hit.

Posted by: fan from austin, tx | May 14, 2008 11:13 AM

Lifelong, of course I want to hear about your Mom's green strawberry chutney! Send the details, please. Is there a season for this in India -- and what part of the country would you find such a treat?

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | May 14, 2008 11:17 AM

One of my favorite summer salads:

4 cups hulled strawberries, quartered (1 pound)
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 medium cucumbers, peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Combine the strawberries, basil, vinegar and sugar in a large bowl, and gently toss to coat. Cover and chill for about an hour.

Combine cucumbers and lemon juice; toss to coat. Add cucumber mixture, salt, and pepper to strawberry mixture; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately.

Posted by: arlington VA | May 14, 2008 11:25 AM

My two cents:

Marigold Kitchen, just off the Capitol square in Madison, WI, serves the best salad with stawberries... or at least they did when I worked there. Marigold uses locally sourced, seasonal produce, so these salads were available only for a few weeks, but they were outstanding ... as I recall, it was arugula, some other spring greens with a little bite to them, feta, a few pecans, maybe some chicken... If recollection serves, the dressing had a bit of pureed fruit in it as well. It has been too many years since I had one, but the memory is lovely. The place made locally produced, seasonal food into art... and they were incredibly friendly as they worked a very fast lunch business. I miss it. Thanks, Kim, for this great idea and recope.

Second cent:
In a bit of dictionary serendipity, I came across the word for the strawberry seed just yesterday: achene. Perhaps a reader who is a botanist can help explain, as it seems from the dictionary illustration that the word describes each little seed, but the description is this, "a small, dry, hard, one-seeded indehiscent fruit," (indehiscent meaning that it doesn't open and drop off). Maybe this is only of interest to the narrow readership who join me in being are both word geeks and food geeks -- but still I am curious.

Looking forward to the arrival here in the Midwest of these lovely reds, perhaps even a few on my own potted plants... sometime in early June if we are quite lucky.

Thanks for the ideas!

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 11:42 AM

About strawberry seeds as achenes... (Sometimes I am really amazed at what I learn about food from Alton Brown. And, this is what I remember off the top of my head.) What we think of as strawberries are actually a sort of swollen stem with hundreds of fruits on them. So, the "seeds" are actually the fruit or achene and the body of the strawberry is just a stem. You're welcome!

Posted by: Sweetie | May 14, 2008 12:21 PM

Oh my gosh how can you not be excited about strawberries - so incredibly tasty!

Posted by: Arlington | May 14, 2008 12:36 PM

Here's a great strawberry salad

1 pint strawberries -hulled & sliced

1 bag baby spinach

1/2 c sliced almonds

1/2 small red onion -thinly sliced

2 tbsps. poppy seeds (optional)

Mix above ingredients-just before serving pour on dressing

mix together

1/2 c oil (olive or canola)
1/4 c vinegar
1/4 c sugar (or to taste)
The ingredients sound weird but really are great together.

Posted by: jester | May 14, 2008 1:28 PM

I am salivating at these strawberry salad recipes. We won't have berries here for a few more weeks, but if I can get them home from the farmer's market without eating them all as-is, I'll definitely be trying a few of these lovely combinations.

Posted by: Centre of Nowhere | May 14, 2008 1:51 PM

One of my favorite easy meals (that we happen to be having this week): my husband and I bake an herbed (gluten-free, egg-free) pizza crust and, once it's out of the oven, top it with a tossed strawberry/greens/balsamic vinegar salad. We used to include blue cheese, but I can't eat that now. Anyway, the herby bread topped with the tangy/salty/sweet salad is great.

Posted by: Sally Parrott Ashbrook | May 14, 2008 1:55 PM

In an old strawberry growers' brochure I found a recipe for strawberry salsa (specifically grilled salmon with...) that I come back to whenever the strawberries appear. I don't have it with me, but the basic players are:

Pint or two of diced berries
1 green onion, diced
1 English cucumber, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional, not in original recipe)
Rice wine (or other) vinegar, to moisten
Handful of chopped cilantro leaves

Mix together all but the strawberries and chill; add berries just before serving. This makes a nice cool, summery topping for grilled fish or chicken. Maybe this could be turned into a salad by adding a touch of oil w/ the vinegar and serving on a bed of spinach?

Posted by: M.L. | May 14, 2008 2:26 PM

My comment is not regarding this strawberry article, but in general for the Food Section of which I am a great fan. I would like to know why it is that when I go to "Print Recipe" the picture of the food disappears, and I get some dumb ad in place of the food picture. I find it most annoying to say the least! Yet if I print the article as shown there is so much waste of paper and ink.

Posted by: Sarah Hunel | May 14, 2008 3:00 PM

Last weekend I put strawberries to the savory test as well. A super simple, super good salad of sliced strawberries, mozzarella balls and arugula. Dash pepper on top and drizzle balsamic vinegar and a little olive oil. Easy and delightful!

Posted by: another suggestion | May 14, 2008 3:20 PM


reading this just inspired me to make a strawberry and mint sauce to marinade some chicken in!!! i'd garnish it with mint leaves and thins slices of strawberries or have a goat cheese and 'berry salad on the side!

I'll share a recipe after I make it sometime in the coming week!

Posted by: FlaNboyantEats | May 14, 2008 3:32 PM

Who doesn't like fresh strawberry jam? Mixing it with rhubarb cuts the sweet somewhat - same idea with strawberry rhubarb pie.

I've also been to a bar that makes mojitos with muddled strawberries - great light strawberry flavor and just cut down on the simple syrup for a summery drink.

Posted by: Meredith | May 14, 2008 3:40 PM

This may be impossible to find here in DC, but Abita Brewing Co. makes a strawberry lager that is excellent. It's available right now, according to their website. It sells out quickly.

Posted by: Heather | May 14, 2008 6:04 PM

Kim - Would strawberry dessert with no added sugar qualify as a savory with you? I first had strawberries with black pepper in a Montreal restaurant. Simple dessert - slice or halve truly ripe berries, top with heavy cream (liquid or whipped), then dust with freshly ground black pepper. Not a lot; just enough to bring out the flavor in fruit (as some people do with melons). Since then, I've made variations with other (quasi or real) peppers, e,g. Szechuan and long pepper (from Bali) and other creams (sour, creme fraiche). All are good.

Posted by: monticello | May 14, 2008 7:23 PM

Nothing beats a buttery strawberry crepe, but that's not savory, it's delicious.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 8:22 PM

I'm imagining some sort of strawberry loaf. I'm not sure what it is, but it does have a lot of strawberries.... And they seem to be morticed like natural stone wall. A strawberry wall caulked with chocolate confining the marzipan dog.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 14, 2008 8:32 PM

Ooh, one more spinach strawberry salad to add to the mix:

Sliced strawberries
Chopped Pecans
Dressed with white wine vinegar, olive oil, pinch of dry mustard, minced scallions, poppy seeds.

Delish and gorgeous on the plate. But I'm loving the idea of strawberries and arugula...

Posted by: Betsy | May 14, 2008 9:50 PM

A second strawberry salsa:

about 2 pints of strawberries
a small-ish red onion
1 or 2 jalepenos
lots of cilantro
juice of a lime or 2

Dice the fruit and vegetables small, mix with lime juice, and serve with blue corn tortilla chips (or whatever else you think would go, but that was my vehicle of choice).

Posted by: Anonymous | May 15, 2008 2:50 AM

To Sarah, Please have your email address deleted asap. Unscrupulous people will use your email address to send you so much spam you'll have to quit using your email address. You should keep it as private as your ss number. Btw, I fully agree with you about the waste of paper & ink.

Posted by: To Sarah | May 15, 2008 7:18 AM

hmmm, strawberries and arugula; I'll have to try that. And I love the idea of the Strawberry Salsa from ML. Very creative ideas for enjoying the perfectly sweet strawberry

Posted by: Seduction Meals | May 15, 2008 8:15 AM

I've never tried this, but now I'm feeling a little inspired: strawberry risotto. I've heard about this every now and again for as long as I remember, but never had it. I'm assuming that original recipes probably were made with the wild strawberries that I used to pick as a kid in Lombardy (very perfumed, but not as sweet), but market strawberries should work. I see that there are a lot of recipes if you google "strawberry risotto", so maybe I'll give it a try after I've made a sorbetto.

Posted by: Arlington, VA S | May 15, 2008 9:30 AM

I would love the chutney recipe as well lifelong, hope you write in again!

Posted by: chutney lover | May 15, 2008 9:50 AM

Sounds good, and I am very intrigued by the idea of strawberry on pizza! I like apple and pear and pineapple on pizza, so why not strawberry? Thanks to arlington, VA poster for that strawberry/cucumber salad - I MUST try that!

I love strawberries, any way I can get them. My parents made a strawberry dessert once that is okay for diabetics by using basalmic vinegar. Oh my God, was it good! The nice thing about it was that it was sweet enough to satisfy a dessert craving without being TOO sweet. The vinegar gave it a nice tang. I don't have a recipe, but I'm sure a google search could dig up something similar.

Posted by: DC Cubefarm | May 15, 2008 12:12 PM

one of my favorite un-sweet desserts growing up, not being a cakes/cookies person, was hulled, sliced strawberries lightly dressed with a combination of balsamic vinegar, orange juice, black pepper, and a tiny bit of sugar. reducing the sauce a bit and letting the vinegar get syrupy is even better...

Posted by: DCDreamer | May 15, 2008 1:28 PM

This really needs to end. Strawberries belong on ice cream. I'll make an exception for strawberries with shortcake and whipped cream, but please, quit being unnatural.

Posted by: Republican | May 15, 2008 1:30 PM

It's not the strawberry's where they are from. The best and most flavorful strawberry (caneberries, too) come from here in the Willamette Valley. So good the ice cream makers won't use anything else. These are heavenly eaten right off the vine. Do not buy a California berry...they are like those awful roses from South America that are perfect and indestructable but have no smell.

Posted by: sthalsey | May 15, 2008 1:32 PM

My favorite 'savory' ways to serve strawberries:

1) sliced, hulled with finely chopped sprigs of mint leaves

2) with fine balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top as a salad course or dessert

3) tossed with finely grated orange zest


Posted by: susie-q | May 15, 2008 4:38 PM

If they smell sweet and delicious they will be good, even if they're from California!

Posted by: Dave | May 15, 2008 7:21 PM

One of my favorite wine bars serves a bruschetta topped with strawberries, marscapone cheese, a balsamic glaze/reduction (?) and cracked black pepper. Delicious! I've tried to replicate it at home, but can't get the balsamic quite right.

Posted by: Erika | May 20, 2008 3:51 PM

A chef friend took farmers market (washed)strawberries, drizzled fig vinegar (you could substitute balsamic, aged balsamic would be even better), and then took the pepper grinder and did a few turns over the berries! Sounded weird to me but not after tasting it--sublime!!!

Posted by: Fran | May 21, 2008 12:21 PM

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