I know it may be difficult to believe, but I clearly remember the single best strawberry I've ever tasted.
It was on a trip to the farmers market in Central California one Saturday morning with my friend Michelle. I was pushing my youngest in a stroller at the time, while my two boys, ages 4 and 6, were rambunctiously running about from stall to stall. I remember that being a particularly hard stage for going out in public as a young mother, so I would pick and choose my outings carefully. The farmers market was always worth it, particularly in the heart of California's farmland, where fruits and vegetables were at their absolute freshest.
There were many berry stalls to choose from, each of them offering samples. One stall in particular caught my attention because the strawberries were so impossibly huge and red that day. I could smell the berries from across the way, where I was eyeing massive flower arrangements in soft, springtime shades. I was lured in. I rolled the stroller up to the table, reached for the most beautiful strawberry, and put it to my lips. It was so fragrant, so ripe, and upon taking my first bite, the most concentrated flavor of fresh strawberry burst into my mouth. I probably gasped. I waved for Michelle to come over and try them, declaring them the best strawberries I'd ever tasted, and made sure the boys came over for samples, too.
I purchased a massive flat that day, balancing them gingerly atop the stroller, so as not to smash them. Whenever I spot large boxes of strawberries from Central California growers in our Alaska markets, I always think back to that day. No matter how many strawberries I've tried since then, no berry has ever matched up to that one perfect bite.
I love making fresh salsa when fruits are in season — mango, pineapple, and peach salsa are among my favorites. This time I am making a strawberry salsa with jumbo strawberries I found on sale this week. For fruit salsas, your fruit doesn't need to be too terribly ripe. In fact, berries that are a little on the firmer side are nice because they help the salsa hold up well and maintain its nice texture. Also, because salsa lends itself well to spicy, acidic and savory, you don't have to have as much sweetness in the fruit as you might typically think. The natural sweetness of the fruit will come through and marry well with the other notes.
Perhaps one of the best things about fresh fruit salsas is their vibrant array of colors, bringing a huge dose of brightness to any plate. This salsa would be absolutely delicious on grilled chicken or fish, or served up solo with blue corn chips.
Fresh strawberry and avocado salsa
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 medium red onion, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1/3 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper
To a bowl, add the strawberries, red onion, jalapeño, avocado and cilantro. Drizzle the lime juice over everything and gently fold to combine. Season generously with salt and pepper. Chill for 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.
Give the salsa a quick stir before serving. Serve with grilled chicken or fish or with blue corn chips.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and your inquiry may appear in a future column.