Friday, June 19, 2009

The Natives Are Getting Restless

Back in California, we are lucky to have strawberries year round at our farmers' markets. The are usually ripe throughout, and consistently sweeter than anything you might find at the grocery store. Contrast that with the berries available on Cape Cod, and all over New England for that matter, for a few fleeting weeks in early summer. The poor souls who call these parts home must fight over every little pint and quart basket that gets delivered to farm stands and green markets, knowing that if they miss their chance for "Native Strawberries" they have to wait another whole year to get a taste. Folks swear they are better than strawberries from any other place, but I personally suspected that they were so berry deprived that they were viewing the world through jam-colored lenses. After all, the strawberries I buy nearly every week are pretty darn delicious.

But you know what they say about assuming...I must admit, that the so-called Native Strawberries are hands-down the most delicious berries I have ever tasted, and I have nibbled a lot of them in my lifetime. They are smaller than the kinds I usually buy, and softer too. Deep red throughout and gently perfumed, they are sweet with a subtle tart undertone that rounds out their flavor. I was planning on making jam, or syrup, or pie, or even shortcake, but after I got a taste, I didn't want to cook these delicate beauties, or undermine them by drenching them with cream or even sugar. They are perfect just as they are. And it was pretty difficult to resist eating the entire quart by myself and save enough for dessert.

I decided that crisp and buttery shortbread cookies would make a fine accompaniment to the berries and quickly threw together a batch, using my (slightly modified) grandmother's recipe. Requiring just a few ingredients and one bowl, they are easy to make when you don't want to dirty your mixers (or don't have a mixer to is the case in this summer house). I usually roll mine out to a quarter-inch thickness, then use cookie cutters to cut them into cute shapes (they are a Christmas favorite). But this afternoon, I simply rolled them into a log, refrigerated them, then cut them into quarter-inch disks. It worked like a charm, and they were so good with our fresh berries. They almost looked like little sand dollars, which would make an appropriate Cape Cod name for these most delectable treats.

The season here is almost coming to an end. The nice lady at Setucket Farm Stand told me that they would only be available for 10 more days, unless we get a lot of rain. It poured today, but I hope that I get one more chance to have some native berries this year...

Cape Cod Sand Dollars
makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies

In a large bowl, blend 1 stick (1/2 C) of soft butter with 1/4 C powdered sugar and and 1/2 t pure vanilla extract. With a wooden spoon, stir in 1/2 C flour and a pinch of salt. Stop mixing when the dough has just come together, or you risk overworking it. Wrap with plastic wrap and roll into a log. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 1/4 inch slices and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just golden around the edges, but still pale. Cool on a rack.

Dough can also be rolled out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.


Anonymous said...

this receipe from the cape cod cookbook.

Anonymous said...

and all of your reciepes are great. I enjoy your blog so much