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3 delicious recipes starring Southern strawberries

Photo Credit: Ralph Daily

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3 delicious recipes starring Southern strawberries

With spring in full swing, it’s time to take advantage of the beautiful strawberries popping up all over the South. The balance that in-season strawberries adds to salads, along with their famously delicious starring roles in desserts, makes them perfect to highlight in tasty recipes.

While it may be easy to find strawberries year-round in supermarkets these days, they pale in comparison to what comes from Georgia, South Carolina and Florida during the height of the season. Offering more sweetness and lower acidity than their California counterparts, Southern strawberries should be used in a variety of dishes before the weather turns too hot for them to survive. Here are three recommendations straight from our collection of recipes for fun and flavorful ways to use this season's crop.
 

Strawberry-Spinach Salad with Pecans and Blue Cheese
The key in this dish is how the pecans bring sweetness and acidity to the party, especially in contrast to the salty cheese. Your options are numerous when it comes to dressing. The recipe calls for a scant teaspoon of balsamic vinegar (I would increase it to at least one tablespoon, if not more) only if your cheese comes packed in oil. Using a ratio of three parts olive oil to one part vinegar, you could make your own vinaigrette out of balsamic, red wine, sherry, or Champagne vinegar. A creamier dressing, such as buttermilk ranch or green goddess, would also serve to highlight the sweetness of the strawberries. I realize blue cheese can be a polarizing ingredient; if you’re not in the camp, try a creamy feta or goat cheese instead.
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Strawberry Cobbler
Peach, blueberry, and apple cobblers may get most of the attention, but don’t forget about fresh strawberries as potential cobbler fodder. This recipe, courtesy of Southern Kitchen’s Josh Conner, allows for the strawberries to gently break down throughout the cooking process while still retaining some of their structural integrity. Cinnamon and strawberries have a great affinity for one another, so don’t skip out on adding the warming spice to the crust mixture. We like it with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream… or both!
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Strawberry Shortcake
Maybe it has something to do with childhood memories, but strawberry shortcake with a biscuit base must be my favorite dessert of all. The salty, savory biscuit just seems to absorb the juices given off by the macerated strawberries (maceration is simply the process of softening a fruit or vegetable by soaking it in a liquid). In this case, the sugar draws liquid out of the strawberries, making them soften further. Whether you choose buttermilk or cream for your biscuits, they are truly the most integral part of the shortcake. For a stronger and more pure vanilla flavor, switch from vanilla extract to one freshly split whole vanilla bean, scrape the bean's insides and use the paste to coat your strawberries. The intensity of the vanilla bean will complement the strawberries and permeate throughout the entire dish. You are now well on your way to strawberry shortcake nirvana.
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Chef Jeffrey GardnerChef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”

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