Recipe by Joanne Bruno
Very excited to introduce our latest contributor here on MarcusSamuelsson.com, Joanne Bruno! Bruno is a food writer and second year MD/PhD student in the Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional program. Her food blog, Eats Well With Others, provides insight into the often ridiculous and always delicious thoughts, ramblings, experiences, and food that she encounters along the way to getting two degrees.
The strawberries have been following me. I realize this seems like a very paranoid thing to say. The kind of thing that I should go to therapy for. Probably has something to do with my mother and her hugging me too much rather than not enough. I’ll look into it. But no, really. They are. I walk down the streets of NYC every day. And there they are, being sold by a fruit vendor on every corner. Their scent permeates my walks to the gym, my walks to the grocery store, my walks to nowhere that are really just an excuse for me to not study for the medical boards for at least twenty minutes of my day. And my dreams. Oh, yes. They’ve gotten into my subconscious as well. I’m telling you. They’re sneaky. I’ve managed to resist up until now. Because, well. Would you let a carton of creepster strawberries into your apartment? Yeah, no. I didn’t think so. But then I walked into Whole Foods after a morning of dallying at the Union Square Farmer’s Market and was confronted with a huge display of them. Organic. On sale. Looming. Seductive. The brightest red imaginable and without even a speck of white near their tops to be seen, which is how you know they are good and ripe and ready.
(A trick of the trade – unlike tomatoes, strawberries don’t ripen after they are picked so choose a carton with the least amount of white possible because what you buy is what you’re gonna get!)
There’s self control and then there’s self control. Apparently I have neither. Because I bought just about as many cartons as I could manage to carry back to my apartment (plus five). Polished off a carton of them within an hour. Changed my relationship status on Facebook to “taken” because, really, who needs a man when you have 32 cartons of strawberries stuffed into your fridge? (I’m not saying that’s how many I have…it’s just. You know. A suggestion.) Came to about an hour later with strawberry juice dripping down my cheeks. Realized that I had to do something about this mess that I had just gotten myself into. Remembered a recipe for a strawberry salad that I had seen in last month’s issue of Bon Appetit. And got to it! While the original recipe from Bon Appetit was merely a hunk of cheese served with some strawberries and basil (not that there’s anything wrong with that), I thought it would be nice to turn it into a main dish salad. So I bulked it up with some asparagus, white beans, and spinach, swapped out burrata for goat cheese (which is not only less expensive but has that addictively tangy flavor that we all know and love) and then doused it all in a homemade balsamic syrup. Revelatory.And did I mention that it’s jam-packed with calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C? That’s right. You show those strawberries who’s boss.
Adapted from Bon Appetit April 2011
1 cup dried white beans, soaked overnight or 1 (14 oz) can white beans
1 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
1 bunch asparagus, ends cut off and chopped into two-inch pieces
8 oz soft goat cheese or chevre
1 lb fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly
8 cups spinach, either chopped regular spinach or baby spinach
1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves
Fine sea salt
Photos: Joanne Bruno
1. If using dried white beans, drain them from the water you've soaked them in overnight. Put them in a pot. Cover them with water with about a 2-inch overhang. Salt the water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and simmer until tender, 30-60 minutes depending on the beans. If using canned beans, then drain the beans and rinse them.
2. While the beans are cooking, put 1 cup balsamic vinegar (I used aged balsamic vinegar of Modena) in a small non-reactive pan. Bring to a simmer and reduce until syrupy, about 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
3. When the white beans are pretty much done cooking, drop your asparagus into the white bean water and cook for 1-2 minutes. Alternatively, you can bring a second pot of water to a boil and cook them for 1-2 minutes. Drain both the white beans and the asparagus.
4. In a large bowl, toss the strawberries, spinach, basil, asparagus, and white beans. Separate into four dishes and top each dish with about 2 oz goat cheese, broken into chunks, a drizzle of balsamic syrup and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Serve as lunch or as a light dinner.