Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Strawberries Lysander

Last year at this time I was waiting for Lysander, 1 ½ years old, to come and pick peas with me. I waxed eloquent about that baby and those peas in a column called Peas: Paean and Pleasures and when he got here he did what babies always do – he did what came naturally, but certainly not what I had envisioned. Oh, he loved the peas – as little balls. He marveled over them in his tiny pudgy palm, but he couldn’t imagine putting them in his mouth! Instead, he dropped them into the grass, bent over after them and tried to roll them on the ground, and then rolled over on top of them, unsteady on feet and bottom.

Well, Lysander’s been back, and what a difference a year makes! For one thing, the thrice-planted peas are about knee-high to him this year, with no little pea-balls yet and maybe never. Lysander is several inches taller, still loves balls and water – good thing since it rained the entire time he was here – and is beginning to get the concept of a garden.

He sat on the edge of the strawberry bed for ten minutes at a time straining water out of a plastic plant-flat with two left-over tomatoes in soaked peat pots in it. Don’t you just love the messy intensity of early childhood? What can the child be thinking, so patiently? His mother sat beside him, chatting with me, as patient as he. And then, having experienced the mystery of straining rainwater out of a cracked, clumsily oblong, plastic thing, he turned around and a whole new world met his eyes. Strawberries! And what were they doing scattered over the straw, under those green leaves? Let me tell you, we all scrambled then – he into the strawberry bed, his mother after him, me after her.

That night we had strawberry shortcake, which he liked, I think, but perhaps not quite as much as he liked the strawberries from the strawberry bed. This is behavior of which I approve – we’ll make a little forager out of him yet!

Next night it was late when we finished dinner out on the deck, and I realized that we had no dessert. There was a kind of expectant hush in the air – dinner without an exclamation point... But we did have berries left over from the night before, so I divvied them up between several tiny bowls and poured heavy cream over them – a kind of token dessert.

Well, Lysander finished up his mother’s bowl, and then his daddy’s, and then he cried, screamed – it was late; he was tired – “STRAWBERRY! I want STRAWBERRY!”

Lysander, I said, calmly, I think I have one more strawberry. Hold your horses.

I took the flashlight to the strawberry bed and picked two berries left over from his picking ravages earlier in the day.

I have two strawberries, I told him. He knows his numbers. He ate one and held out his hand. I gave him the second and he ate it, holding it by its little green cap. No tears when that was done. And for the boy who can count, who can curb his expectations to the possible, a lagniappe – the cream from my bowl. I held it up, he tipped back his head and drank that little bit of cream mixed with strawberry juice and savored each sip, like a little bird.

“All done,” he said, whisking his hands together.

Until next year, Lysander.

...the sophisticated strawberry...

Stanti Schonbachler of The Victorian Inn at Wallingford was seen sitting on the curb at the Market and seeming to wait a couple of weeks ago. When told this I knew he’d been waiting for the berry man, because he was making this STRAWBERRY & RHUBARB POT PIE WITH GINGER for the What’s Cookin’ Rutland television show on Monday night. He needed those local berries! You can catch Stanti intermittently on Channel 15, or you can download the show at www.pegtv.com Click on video on demand and scroll down to What’s Cookin’. Seating in the audience is available for each third Monday of the month by calling Chaffee Art Center at 775-0356. Brad Burns of the Lakehouse Pub and Grille will be the guest chef for the July 21 show.

This delectable dessert is a little more sophisticated than Lysander’s two strawberries from the patch, but simple enough for him to help make.


1 qt. strawberries cleaned of stems, cut in chunks

4 cups rhubarb peeled and cut in chunks

Simple sugar mix – 1-cup sugar to 1-cup water

2 inches ginger cut in pieces

½ cup cornstarch

Puff Pastry (in the freezer section)

Egg wash- egg with dash of water (or cream) whisked together


In a large pan simmer the simple syrup with the ginger for 15 minutes or until reduced by half. Remove the ginger. Add the rhubarb and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the strawberries and mix. Mix ½ cup of the cornstarch with ¼ cup of cold water. When completely dissolved add some slowly to the strawberry/rhubarb mixture over low heat until it has slightly thickened.

Spoon the fruit into individual ramekins. Let cool slightly.

Lay the puff pastry on a board and cut a circle at least an inch larger all around than the top of the ramekin. Brush the outside edge of the ramekin with the egg wash. Place a circle of pastry on top with the inch overlay and press the sides. Brush all with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sugar if desired.

Place on a baking sheet and bake 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned.

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