Door County’s Other Red Fruit – Strawberries

The senses of taste and smell conjure up the most vivid memories, especially when you are talking strawberries.

Growing up in Door County, days getting warmer and warmer, building up to summer, I recall hitting the jackpot in my own backyard – stumbling upon a patch of wild strawberries. They were so tiny, nestled in the grass. I recall forgetting everything else I had been doing up until that moment of discovery. I will never forget that taste and deliciousness warmed by the sun. I Len Villanoremember getting completely lost in the sweetness, the red-stained fingers and the sticky-faced moment.

Fast forward to present day, patches of wild strawberries are still scattered about. The wild variety is best eaten as is, fresh picked and popped directly into your mouth, no frills.

Driving the country roads, the possibility of finding a pick-your-own and/or roadside farm stand is good. I recommend you stop and stock up on this seasonal treat.

Personal challenge:  can you make it home with your quart of berries intact? Fresh berries tend to land in my belly in short order. Plan accordingly and always buy extra.

The season is short for the delectable berries so buy in bulk and process them to enjoy all year long.  Strawberries are versatile and can be dried, frozen or made into preserves.

Recapture your youth, relish in red-stained fingers and the sticky sweetness. Fresh local strawberries scream, “Summer has officially arrived!”

Grilled Citrus Chicken with Strawberry Avocado Salsa

For the chicken:

juice of 1 lemon

juice of 1 orange

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup white wine

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon chili powder


4 chicken breasts (bone-in or the skinless variety, your preference)

Mix the first seven ingredients together, then transfer to a gallon Ziploc bag. Add the chicken to the bag and flip it around so it is covered in the marinade. Leave it in the refrigerator overnight.

Grilling the chicken: Heat the grill to medium high. Place the marinated chicken on the hot grate. Flip often; it will take between 20 and 40 minutes depending on the chicken you choose. The chicken is done when the juices run clear. After you remove the chicken from the grill, squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice on it.

Len Villano

Strawberry Avocado Salsa

2 avocados, cubed

1 pint strawberries, sliced

½ orange, peeled segments

2 green onions, diced

1 jalapeno, diced (optional)

juice of 1 lime

¼ cup cilantro, chopped (no stems – they’re bitter)

¼ teaspoon salt

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Be gentle so the avocado stays chunky. Let sit for a minimum of 15 minutes so flavors meld.

To serve: Place a grilled chicken breast on a plate, place a scoop of salsa on top. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Pairs nicely with a Sauvignon Blanc or pilsner-style beer. Bon appétit!

Strawberries can’t be the topic here without delving into Strawberry Shortcake, an all-American summer dessert, which is the perfect ending to a barbeque, picnic or family reunion (it also makes a great breakfast, shhh).

This dessert can be served in many variations. The “shortcake” can be interpreted as a cake, muffin, piecrust or, my favorite, a biscuit. I prefer to use biscuits because they are more savory than sweet. It gives space for the sweetness in the berries to shine. I have a favorite biscuit recipe in Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, which I adapted here. The sky is the limit; if you have a favorite biscuit recipe use it. If not, use mine.Len Villano

Quick and Easy Cream Biscuits with Lemon and Herbs (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated Cookbook)

2 cups unbleached flour

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ cups of heavy cream

2 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons lemon zest (about half a lemon worth)

¼ cup fresh sorrel (Sorrel is a fresh summery herb with hints of citrus. You can also substitute 2 tablespoons of thyme, rosemary or basil.)

Place oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 450˚F. Line your sheet pan with parchment or a silicone mat.

In a medium bowl mix together all dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder). In a second bowl whisk the cream, honey and lemon zest together. Mix the cream into the dry ingredients using a wooden spoon. Add the herbs.

Lightly flour the counter. Knead the biscuit dough for about 30 seconds. Flatten into a ¾-inch thick circle. Cut into wedges, place on the parchment-lined (or silicone mat) cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Maple Sweetened Whipped Cream

8-ounce container of heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the cream, syrup and vanilla into a chilled metal bowl (I place my empty bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes or more). Use a hand blender, mix until peaks form.

Len VillanoMacerated Fresh Strawberries

2 quarts strawberries

2 tablespoons of Chambord (raspberry liqueur)

3 tablespoons sugar or honey (adjust the amount of

sugar depending on how sweet you would like

your strawberries)

lemon zest

Start with one quart of strawberries, cut into quarters. Sprinkle with sugar and Chambord. Allow to sit for 15-plus minutes. Mash the berries once they begin to soften from the sugar.

Slice the second quart of strawberries and mix with the macerated berries. If necessary, sprinkle with more sugar or honey to adjust the sweetness. Add lemon zest to taste.

To Assemble

Cut each biscuit in half. Place a scoop of strawberries on one half of the biscuit. Add a scoop of whipped cream, then the other half of the biscuit on top. Repeat for each biscuit. Garnish with a fresh strawberry, lemon zest or a sprig of fresh mint.  Makes 6-8 servings.

Photography by Len Villano.