Maybe it’s the color, the heartlike shape, or our frost-season longing for spring, but strawberries are a Valentine’s tradition, and there’s no going back, no matter how many locavores exhort us to eat the calendar. But instead of acting as if the strawberries we’re dipping in bittersweet chocolate are ripe and sweet, we should at least acknowledge the hard truth: February strawberries are inevitably tart, firm, and white-shouldered. That’s what inspired CHOW photographer Chris Rochelle when he came up with this cold-season trio, in which he simmers the berries or otherwise takes advantage of their lemony tang. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, say hello to our new February crush, the rugged, off-ripe strawberry. –John Birdsall
Finely chop 1/2 a yellow onion and sauté it over medium-low heat in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add half of a 24-ounce can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes and 1 pint of strawberries, hulled and sliced (this makes enough for three pizzas). Simmer until the strawberries cook down and the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Make a margherita pizza in the usual way, spreading the strawberry-tomato sauce on the dough instead of puréed tomatoes. Sprinkle with crushed red chile before serving.
BLOODY STRAWBERRY G&T
Make a gin and tonic in the usual way, omitting the lime but squeezing half a blood orange into the glass. Slice a strawberry thinly and drop the slices into the glass before topping up with tonic. Garnish with a strawberry slice.
WINTER STRAWBERRY MERINGUES
These individual crisp-chewy meringues are served with strawberry–blood orange compote. Begin by making the pavlova from this CHOW recipe, but instead of spreading the meringue mixture into a single round, make 6 individual free-form rounds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake and cool according to the recipe. For the compote, hull and slice 1 pint of strawberries and remove the peel and pith (make sure no white remains) from 2 blood oranges, then coarsely chop the oranges. In a sauté pan over medium heat, simmer the strawberries and blood oranges with 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of kosher salt. Cook until jammy, about 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature and spoon over the meringues.
What are your favorite ways to use winter strawberries? Let us know in the discussion below!
Photos and styling by Chris Rochelle / CHOW.com