Living in coastal Carlsbad, CA we are blessed with sweet, juicy, locally grown strawberries nearly all year around. My favorite organic stand at the local Farmer's Market provides a smaller, sweeter variety than the fields down the street, and I find that my family devours the 3 baskets I purchase on Saturdays usually by Tuesday... Luckily I have another market I can go to on Wednesday!
One of my favorite Girl Scout meetings from many years ago was a trip to a local field for a lesson in strawberry agriculture followed up by an afternoon of old fashioned berry picking! The girls and their siblings ran through the field in search of that perfect berry, comparing their treasures as they went and sampling the fruits from their overflowing baskets. Most went home with red, juicy lips and fingers along with a few stains on their shirts and Brownie vests in addition to their baskets of berries.
Julia and her berry treasures!
Today, strawberries are still a family favorite. I frequently catch my kids reaching into the fridge to grab a handful of the juicy berries for a quick snack, and over the years we have collected a number of recipes for strawberry treats, fruit and savory salads, muffins and breads, and also our favorite Vanilla Strawberry Sauce. I've long since lost the original copy of this recipe (posted by Grace on the Cooking Light Bulletin Board), but I'm certain it's been around for at least 7 or 8 years. Originally the sauce was meant to be used over a Strawberry Shortcake, but we quickly found that our favorite use was over creamy, homemade vanilla ice cream. With the feedback that I've been receiving from my prior post, Vanilla Bean Cheesecake, I wanted to post this recipe as I'm certain it would make a lovely complement to the cake.
The sauce is best made at least a few hours ahead of time and chilled to allow the juices and flavors to meld. Being a Grand Marnier fan, I tend to use the full 3 Tbs + in my sauce, but I have a girlfriend who likes her sauce with a bit less - so you can experiment to find your desired result. Do make sure to get a good "mash" of that first cup of strawberries to get a release of those berry juices into the sauce (this is one of those recipes that even the strawberries that have gone a bit soft work well!).
I have also found that different varieties of Vanilla provide different results... so far we have two favorites, a very inexpensive vanilla extract a friend brought me from Mexico and a very expensive Tahitian Vanilla that I ordered years ago online from Tahiti! That being said, any vanilla will work wonders with these fresh ingredients and is sure to provide a heavenly topping to your ice cream, cheese cake, short cake or what ever you decide to use it for!
Vanilla Strawberry SauceGrace - CLBB
3-1/2 cups quartered, ripe strawberries, divided
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
"some" Grand Marnier (1-3 Tbs or so, depending on your taste....!)
Combine 1 cup of the quartered strawberries, sugar, orange juice, vanilla, and lemon juice in a bowl. Give it a good mash with a potato masher to get your desired consistency. Add the remaining 2-1/2 cups strawberry quarters and Grand Marnier, mixing to combine. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.