It takes sunshine to fully develop the sweetness in strawberries, so while we’ve had strawberries at the farmers’ markets since January, April is when the season really kicks in. Buy juicy berries from growers like Kawano Farms, Carlsbad Strawberry Farms and Rodney Farms. Then dip them in chocolate. Mash them with brown sugar and Cointreau, and pour over ice cream or waffles. Slice, and enjoy a bowl with thick, aged balsamic vinegar. Make freezer jam or pie. Add them to ceviche or make a fruit salsa. Look for unbruised, vibrantly red berries with a heady fragrance.
Rockstar Preserves: Jammin’ with Attitude
Tell me a burger wouldn’t be better with a horseradish kick from Bloody Mary ketchup. Or that French toast wouldn’t improve topped with mint mojito curd. I dare you. Susie Bridgeman-Sutton learned the art of preserving as a child from her Native American grandmother. Her newly launched Rockstar Preserves, at the Little Italy and North Park farmers’ markets and online (rockstarpreserves.com), features an eclectic mix of spreads, chutneys and sauces. The unusual flavor combinations sing with freshness from local produce and clever combinations of spices and herbs.
In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite
I’ve long been a fan of Melissa Clark’s New York Times column, A Good Appetite. Clark doesn’t just publish recipes — she tells stories. So I was tickled when her new book, In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite: 150 Recipes and Stories About the Food You Love ($27.50, Hyperion), was published. Like any good home cook, Clark simply can’t follow a recipe to the letter and must riff on it. We enjoy the benefits of the recipe’s evolution, through both storytelling and the end result. I’ve made several, to great success (the garlic-and-thyme roasted chicken with crispy drippings croutons is life-changing for chicken lovers), and felt like I was sharing kitchen secrets with a cool friend.
Bulgaria native Bob Vitchev grew up eating his grandmother’s butter spreads. But it wasn’t until his encounter with a Belgium chef who extolled the virtues of butter that Vitchev launched a family business around it. Now you can find Bonelli products — garlic butter, anchovy spread, basil butter and more — at several farmers’ markets plus shops like Whole Foods, Harvest Ranch and Major Market, as well as online (bonellillc.com). I love the butters but also swoon over his traditional Bulgarian sausages. Vitchev’s pork-and-beef sudjuck, with overtones of summer savory, is addictive and makes a perfect appetizer — if you’ll let others try it.