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Strawberry shortcake with ... onions?

July 21, 2009|By LYNNE ROSSETTO KASPER / Scripps Howard News Service

Dear Lynne: I stopped at a country store to buy local strawberries. I bought some fresh onions as well. As I checked out, I joked about making a dish of onions and fresh strawberries. Many times since I have wondered if I could actually make that dish. What do you think, Lynne? -- Peggy from Craftsbury, Vt.

Dear Peggy: Absolutely you could do a dish with onions and strawberries. Sweet strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a great match, so why not add onions and do a fresh chutney? This would go with just about anything grilled or roasted.

Cut a medium onion into a 1/4-inch dice, toss it with 4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand 30 minutes or more. Just before serving, fold in an equal quantity of sweet strawberries you've cut into quarters. This wouldn't be bad spooned over a green salad, either.

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Or push the envelope all the way and turn the berries and onion into a sweet like no other. You start with a candied-onion jam, and build from there. Trust me on this one; it is good.

The shortcake is a cross between a coffee cake and a biscuit -- an old Italian recipe. Bake the cake whenever you have time. Just freeze it until about 3 hours before serving.

STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
WITH CANDIED-ONION JAM



Serves 6 to 8

Candied-Onion Jam:

(Makes about 2/3 cup and holds in the refrigerator 2 weeks)

2 to 3 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium to large sweet onions (Vidalia, Maui, Walla-Walla, etc.) cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup red wine
1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste

1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high. Add the onions and salt. Stir a few times, lower heat to medium-low, cover the skillet and cook until the onions are soft and almost melting (15 to 20 minutes).

2. Uncover the pan, turn heat up to medium-high again and saute until the onions start to color. Blend in the wine and stir until it's boiled off. Now stir in the sugar and cook, stirring with a wood spatula until the onions are thick and caramelized. Take care not to let them burn. Turn the jam into a bowl and cool. Have it at room temperature to serve.

Shortcake:

(Freeze up to 3 months)

2 cups cake flour (not self-rising) measured by spooning into measuring cup and leveling off
1/4 teaspoon each baking soda and baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 generous teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons milk

Strawberries:

2 pints ripe strawberries, hulled and halved
3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
Pinch salt

Also:

1-1/2 cups cold heavy cream, whipped with 3 tablespoons sugar

Making the shortcake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large baking sheet. Set a rack in the center of the oven. Put all the dry ingredients (including the lemon zest) in a big bowl. Blend them with your hands or with a fork. Rub the chunks of butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Make a well in the middle, add the beaten eggs and milk and stir them together with a fork. Then gradually work in the dry ingredients, using a tossing motion rather than a stirring one. Thoroughly moisten the dough, but do not beat it. The dough should be lumpy, sticky, and moist.

Flour a work area, and turn the dough onto it. With floured hands, gently pat and nudge the dough into a long rectangle about 1 inch thick. Use spatulas to place it on the baking sheet.

Bake 25 minutes. Lower heat to 250 and bake another 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a rack to cool. Once cool, assemble the shortcake, or wrap the cake well and hold up to 1 day at room temperature, or freeze.

Assemble the shortcake by slicing the cake in half crossways. Spread the onion jam over one piece. Top with half the berries and half the whipped cream.

Place the other cake half over the first, gently pressing it down to firm up the cake. Top it with the rest of the berries and then dollops of the remaining cream. Serve as soon as you can.

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