More of Those Early Berries

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Yesiree we do have a confusing and early spring. In fact, the past 12 months have been the warmest since the US started keeping records. I use Clagett Farm in Upper Marlboro as my mid-Atlantic Farm barometer. Last weekend-May 5, they had ripe strawberries for their CSA shareholders. Way early since the norm is during the“strawberry moon” which is the full moon of June as I learned from Michael Heller, farmer/educator/coauthor at Clagett Farm.

Here are more recipes to celebrate your berry finest.

Berry Blush Sangria

Serves 4-6

This sangria recipe will make our early spring berries sing! Made with a dry light Pinot Grigio, NOT blush wine, the drink is crisp and refreshing with the addition of fresh citrus. Unlike most sangria, where the recipe is designed to disguise cheapo wine, this is quite the opposite. It was designed to showcase wine and berries without making the drink cloyingly (headachy) sweet.

  • 8 ounces fresh strawberries
  • 4 ounces fresh blueberries
  • 4 ounces fresh blackberries
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle Pinot Grigio
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup seltzer water
  • 1 cup of white grape juice

Clean the strawberries. Leave the berries whole.

Skewer or layer the fruit in a large pitcher and let sit for about 10 minutes.

Add the seltzer first and then the remaining liquids. Stir well and lest rest for about 30 minutes to infuse. If the sangria lasts for any amount of time, you will see it begin to blush a rosy color. Serve.

Strawberry-Ricotta “Pop Tarts”

Makes 8

These flaky much-loved turnovers are served from Knead Patisserie at the back of Mission Street Food in San Francisco and highlighted in the San Francisco Chronicle. I tweaked the recipe a bit to add more of that luxurious filling. The fruit filling changes with the season. The flavor of the jam is important, so use a high quality brand and add seasonal fresh fruit to it. Of course, homemade jam will make the recipe even better. These are rich, so can easily be shared.

Cream cheese tart dough

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting work surface
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam
  • 1/2 cup
  • Confectioners sugar, for dusting
  • Extra jam and fresh strawberries

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or with a heavy-duty hand-held electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter, ricotta and vanilla for about 2-3 minutes on medium speed. Slowly add the 2 cups flour and salt. Mix only as much as needed to incorporate.

Remove the dough from the mixer and pat into a square. Wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

When ready to assemble, cut the dough in half. Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Working with one portion at a time (and keeping the other portion covered with plastic wrap), roll the dough out into a 13- by 9-inch rectangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Trim the edges, then cut the dough into 4 rectangles, about 4- by 6 inches each. Spread each rectangle with 1 tablespoon jam and 1 tablespoon ricotta.

Working from the top, fold the dough over the filling, about 3/4 of the way down the rectangle. Fold the bottom lip up and press over the top piece to seal. Press the exposed edges with a fork to seal tightly. At this point, you can cover and refrigerate or freeze the tarts overnight, or bake immediately.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dust the tops of the tarts with sugar, then arrange the tarts on a parchment- or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake about 20-25 minutes, until very light golden brown.

Serve warm with strawberries mixed with extra jam on the side.


Pressed-Crust Strawberry Tart

Serves 12

This dessert, inspired by Good Housekeeping  is a cinch with a pressed crust (which folks adore anyway)-no need for a rolling pin. The gelatin is another salvation as it keeps the tart firm.

  • 1 1/4 cup (from about 12 crackers) graham cracker crumbs
  • 5 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 package (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) powdered gelatin
  • 1/3 cup strawberry jelly
  • 2 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray 9-in. tart pan (with removable bottom) with nonstick baking spray.

In large bowl, combine crumbs, butter, brown sugar, and salt; stir until well blended. Press mixture evenly into bottom and up side of prepared pan. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until set. Cool completely on wire rack.

Meanwhile, slice half of strawberries lengthwise; set aside. Chop remaining strawberries; transfer to 2-quart saucepan with 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Cook on medium 3 to 5 minutes or until strawberries are soft, stirring often. Transfer to blender; puree until smooth. Cool completely.

In small bowl, sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon gelatin over remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice; let stand 1 minute. In 1-quart saucepan, heat jelly on medium 2 minutes or until melted, stirring often. Add gelatin mixture to jelly, stirring to dissolve gelatin. Cool slightly and transfer to small resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate.

In another small bowl, sprinkle remaining 2 teaspoons gelatin over water. Let stand 3 minutes. In 1-quart saucepan, stir milk and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar until sugar dissolves. Heat on medium 1 minute or until steaming. Stir in gelatin mixture until dissolved. Remove from heat. Refrigerate milk mixture just until cool, about 40 minutes (do not allow to set).

In large bowl, whisk cooled milk mixture, yogurt, and vanilla until smooth. Transfer 1-1/4 cups to small bowl; set aside (do not refrigerate). Stir strawberry puree into remaining yogurt mixture. Pour into crust. Refrigerate 1 hour or until just beginning to set. Spread plain yogurt mixture in even layer on top.

With scissors, snip small hole in corner of plastic bag with jelly. Pipe straight lines, 1 inch apart, across surface of tart. Drag tip of paring knife through yogurt and jelly to create decorative pattern. Place sliced strawberries around edge of tart, overlapping slightly. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 6 hours or until set.