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Strawberries make sweet and savory dessert or appetizer

  • CHICAGO TRIBUNE

    Enhance Father’s Day with a special treat by spreading ricotta on toast, then covering it with a strawberry sauce.

My father loves dessert. My mother baked spice cakes, brownies, pies and cookies daily so he’d have a homemade treat after dinner and in his brown bag lunch. His first words after surgery? Chocolate ice cream, please. All this means that for his birthday and Father’s Day, we pull out the sweet stops.

Fortunately for this cook, Father’s Day falls at the height of strawberry season.

This recipe is a not-too-sweet dish that doesn’t have to be saved for dessert. Make it an appetizer course if you like. Your father will thank you.

Strawberry Ricotta Toast

  • 1/2 loaf multigrain sourdough bread, sliced 3/4-inch thick (about 1/2 pound)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste
  • 1 carton (15 ounces) whole-milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons very thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • Grains of paradise spice or black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup honey and thyme strawberry sauce (recipe follows)

Heat broiler. Cut each bread slice on an angle into thirds, making triangular pieces. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush both sides of each bread piece with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt.

Broil 4 inches from the heat source, until bread is nicely toasted with crusty edges, about 2 minutes. Turn each bread piece over, and return to the broiler until toasted, about 2 more minutes. Don’t walk away while the bread is in the broiler — it burns easily.

Put the ricotta into a shallow bowl. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Scatter mint over the oil, and sprinkle with grains of paradise or pepper. Put strawberry sauce into another bowl. Set toast pieces around the bowls of ricotta and strawberry sauce. Have guests spread some of the ricotta onto the warm toast and top with the strawberries. Serves 6 as an appetizer.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 295 calories, 13 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 36 mg cholesterol, 33 g carbohydrate, 13 g sugar, 12 g protein, 449 mg sodium.

Honey and Thyme Strawberry Sauce

  • 2 quarts halved small strawberries (quartered if large), about 6 cups (2 pounds)
  • 2 thin strips orange peel (orange only, no white pith)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme

Put strawberries, orange peel, sugar, wine, honey, lemon juice and salt into a large 4-quart saucepan. (Use a deep pot to prevent boil-overs.) Put cardamom, bay leaves, coriander seeds, ginger and thyme into a tea ball infuser (or wrap in a double thickness of cheesecloth and tie closed). Add to the pan, tucking it under the strawberries.

Heat to a simmer over medium heat, being sure to submerge the tea ball. Let simmer on medium-low, stirring often, until strawberries soften and juices thicken slightly, about 25 minutes.

Cool completely. Remove the orange peel and the tea ball. Refrigerate the sauce in a tightly covered container overnight or up to 2 weeks. Makes about 3 cups.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 20 calories, 5 g carbohydrate, 5 g sugar, 6 mg sodium; no fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, protein or fiber.

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