Spring can bring a longing for fresh, seasonal fruit, especially with strawberry season just around the bend.
Late spring and early summer mark the traditional strawberry season, but in today's marketplace most grocers offer different varieties year-round.
And while there are some delicious off-season strawberries, they often are less sweet and have a tougher texture than the fresh-picked spring and summer berries we long for.
Making the most of off-season berries is a matter of selecting the best and knowing how to use them. Avoid pale or slightly green berries, which is an indication that they are under-ripe. And when possible, smell the berries to see if they have a sweet, ripe aroma.
Store fresh strawberries in an airtight container in your refrigerator and don't rinse until you are ready to eat them. They lose their flavor quickly, so it is best to eat them within three days of purchase.
If you end up with strawberries that have underwhelming flavor, there are tricks for perking them up. Toss 2 cups of hulled and halved strawberries with 3 tablespoons of sugar and let stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
If you like, just before serving you can add a few tablespoons of white wine, orange liqueur or even balsamic vinegar.
The sweetened berries can be refrigerated in an airtight container for a day or two, but they will get soft.
This recipe for sauteed strawberries with cinnamon and fresh lime warms the berries just enough to enhance the flavors and draw out their juices.The combination of brown sugar and the pectin in the strawberries creates a gorgeous glossy sauce. Serve over a scoop of lower-fat vanilla ice cream or with a dollop of plain or vanilla low-fat yogurt.
SAUTEED STRAWBERRIES WITH CINNAMON AND FRESH LIME
Start to finish: 10 minutes
2 tablespoons brown sugar, lumps broken up
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled and halved or quartered depending on size (about 2 cups)
In a medium skillet over medium-low heat, stir together the brown sugar, butter, lime juice and cinnamon. Cook until bubbling. Add the strawberries and toss for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 77 calories; 3 g fat (2 g saturated); 8 mg cholesterol; 13 g carbohydrate; 1 g protein; 2 g fiber; 29 mg sodium.
They also could be served over angel food cake, which has less than 100 calories and no fat per slice.