Spring strawberries

{Sweet, tart, juicy, fragrant}


In the top farmers’ markets in southern California (arguably Santa Monica and Hollywood), the best berries seem to arrive just when we are tired of apples and pears (although supermarket shelves boast some good ones brought in from the Pacific Northwest and other places). We are at the tail end of the citrus season and just when we cannot abide another tangerine, clementine, honey tangerine or tangelo (as if that were ever the case!), what seem like mountains of succulent, deep red-fleshed strawberries overflow the outdoor markets in Southern California, brought mainly from coastal Ventura County towns such as Oxnard, Ventura and Camarillo (Gaviota, Seascape and Chandler varieties at one market, Camarosas and Albions at others). Juicy, traditional strawberry flavor and tender flesh mark the varieties that are prominent now at the farmers’ markets, perfect for use in shortcakes, for a syrup poured over pancakes, ice cream or made into jams, of course,  but nothing comes close to pairing the berries with a light-as-air crisp meringue and that’s what I like to do at this moment. The contrast between crunchy and creamy with some tart citrus curd to balance the sweetness quotient of the dessert seems perfect for this time of year.

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