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Many of us have delicious memories of strawberries – looking back, the nostalgia of family strawberry-picking is still a vivid memory for me. But fully embodying the superfruit title, California strawberries are more than just delicious. Seriously, these heart-shaped berries are one of the healthiest fresh fruits on earth. Energy-boosting and great for the body and mind, they are packed with nutrients such as potassium, fibre, and vitamin C.

As a Sommelier, there are a couple of other facts about California strawberries that a wine lover like me can’t get over. Like grapes, there are different types of strawberries. And while they are grown worldwide, these berries share a growing region with one of the most notable New World wine regions on the globe – California. For my wine geeks out there, from Monterey down to the South Coast, you will find California strawberries growing alongside this state’s wine regions. In fact, the Golden State’s 300+ strawberry farmers grow 90% of the strawberries grown in the U.S. and are available to Canadians all year-round.

While you might be expecting a list of recipes that will pair sweet wines with strawberry-fueled deserts, I have to tell you that is not the vibe this time around. Getting creative in the kitchen, here are 5 strawberry dishes made for the main course or a perfect aperitivo hour. Paired with wines that will bring out the best in each dish, “mind-blowing” is precisely what is on the menu.

Strawberry and Prosecco Popsicles

Summer is here, and this is an ideal treat to kick off a fun weekend or end the day on a high note. Serving 6 chilled delights, you can play with various strawberry flavour pairings, but in my books, a classic combination is strawberry and mint. A match made to be paired with Blu Giovello Prosecco, these boozy ice pops are sugar-free and easy to make. You will need a popsicle mold for this one.

Ingredients:

  • 10 California strawberries
  • 1 bottle of Blu Giovello Prosecco
  • 2 mint bunches, leaves separated
  • 1 lemon, to be juiced
  • 1 cup of soda water

Directions:

Slice 3 strawberries and set aside. Puree the remaining 7 strawberries with the juice of one lemon. Fill your popsicle mould with the strawberry puree mixture, between 1/4 and 1/3 of the way full. Then place the mold in the freezer until the mixture is slushy. Remove from the freezer and fill the remaining area of the popsicle molds with Blu Giovello Prosecco and just a touch of soda water. Carefully add in the sliced strawberries and picked mint leaves. Freeze until frozen, preferably overnight. Then enjoy when the mood strikes you.


Grilled Strawberry Salad and Rosé

Raise your hand if you have ever made a grilled fruit salad before. When winter weather stops and the BBQ is dusted off in my house, this is one of the first meals I love to make. Grilling fruits brings out different textures and flavours that can be surprising and add a savoury edge to the overall dish. California strawberries are the star of the show in this one, and are accompanied by some other vibrant fruits and topped with a mint and basil vinaigrette. All paired with a bottle of Belle Glos Oeil de Perdrix Blanc de Noir Rosé. This is a dish that serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 12 halves California strawberries
  • 1 sliced mango
  • 1 slices ruby grapefruit
  • 1 sliced white nectarine
  • 1 sliced yellow nectarine
  • 1 zested orange
  • 1 bunch of chopped mint
  • 1 bunch of chopped basil
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ¼ cup of lemon juice 

Directions:

Slice and prepare all your fruits, coating each with just a touch of olive oil so they don’t stick to the grill. Grill each fruit until noticeable grill lines appear, but do not overcook to the point that the fruits become too soft. Arrange the grilled strawberries, mango, ruby grapefruit, and yellow and white nectarines on a large flat serving plate. Prepare the vinaigrette with finely chopped mint and basil, mixed with the remaining olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Drizzle the vinaigrette on the salad, then top with a bit of the orange zest and serve. Best to be eaten outside with a chilled glass of Belle Glos Rosé.

 

Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa Fish Tacos with Cava

Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa Fish Tacos with Cava is a recipe I have made and enjoyed from the California strawberries website. Serving 8, this is a refreshing dish that needs a refreshing wine to pair. The lightness of the tacos, done with cod and the strawberry salsa, is an ideal match for Cava. This pairing of the Champagne-style wine of Spain is a twist on the classic strawberries and champagne match-up. Cava is a bit more savoury and strikes the right chord for this pairing, and one of my favourite Cavas to serve is the Codorniu Brut Clasico, which is easy to get your hands on in wine stores and always delicious.

Ingredients:

For the tacos –

  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 4 tbsp avocado oil, divided
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 pound cod filet
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage

For the Strawberry-Cucumber Salsa –

  • 16 California strawberries, diced and hulled
  • 1 English cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced fine

Directions:

Starting with the tacos, combine the citrus juice, 2 tablespoons oil, garlic, salt and black pepper in a shallow baking dish or zip-top bag. Add in the cod filet and marinate chilled for 30 minutes. After the marinade, grill or sauté the fish in a skillet until flakey and ready to eat. For the salsa, combine ingredients into a bowl and stir well. Prepare your tortilla with a portion of fish and top with a large spoonful of strawberry-cucumber salsa. Garnish with a slice of lime and enjoy with a glass of bubbly Codorniu Cava.

Strawberry-Port Glazed BBQed Chicken with Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is just so versatile. It is called the heartbreak grape by winemakers but is better understood as the different-every-time grape. This is because wines made with Pinot Noir shows a different expression of terroir depending on where it is grown. Lighter in body, this is a wine paired well with light meats, like chicken. Since California strawberries and California Pinot Noir are both note-worthy, why not pair the two? What grows together goes together, after all. This California strawberry and port-glazed BBQed chicken dish perfectly matches the Hahn California Pinot Noir.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 20 California strawberries, diced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1.5 cups Ruby Port wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • 2 tablespoons basil, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 4 boneless chicken thighs

Directions:

In a large skillet, melt the butter, then add the shallots with salt and pepper, cooking until tender. Add in the California strawberries with the sugar and cook on low to medium heat until soft and well combined. Next, mix in the Ruby Port wine with the vinegar and mustard powder, then bring to a boil for 3-4 minutes before reducing the heat to low. Taste and add the basil and lime juice to your preference. Start to grill the chicken on the BBQ until par-cooked, then brush on a good coating of the strawberry and port glaze and close the BBQ lid to finish cooking. Serve with a vegetable side. I went with broccolini and a glass of Hahn Pinot Noir.

Strawberry Kale Salad with Bordeaux

Found on the California Strawberries website, this recipe by Charmer Kitchen is a lovely complement to a larger meal or great all on its own. Paired with a Bordeaux by Chateau de Courteillac, this is a surprising match that brings out a lot of flavours in the dish. A Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend, Cab Franc is a wine with green-note qualities that can pick up on the flavours of the kale. However, with the California strawberries and other ingredients, this salad shows the fruit notes of the wine and together makes a very dynamic pairing.

Ingredients:

For the vinaigrette –

  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 tablespoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the salad –

  • 1 bunch of kale, washed and chopped
  • 10 California strawberries, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup pecans

 Directions:

Starting with the vinaigrette, whisk together the maple syrup, balsamic, mustard, salt, and black pepper in a small mixing bowl. Add the oil and whisk thoroughly to combine. Continue whisking until the dressing is fully emulsified. Add the salad ingredients, kale, strawberries, and pecans, into a large salad bowl. Dress with the vinaigrette and top with the feta cheese. Serve with a glass of Chateau de Courteillac Bordeaux and let the magic of the pairing take over.

Explore the full world of California strawberries, seriously, because there are a million ways to strawberry!

Published on HOLR Magazine.