May is National Strawberry Month, and its kickoff coincides with the peak springtime growing season. Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s strawberries come from California, where growers will harvest close to 40,000 acres this year alone — and each acre averages an astonishing 43,000 pounds of fresh fruit. That bounty delights people like Executive Chef CJ Jacobson of Girasol in Los Angeles (www.girasolrestaurant.com). Influenced by a stint at Noma (the two-Michelin-starred Copenhagen restaurant famous for using foraged local ingredients), Jacobson takes a creative approach to cooking with strawberries. In addition to traditional shortcake dishes and desserts, he favors berries in savory recipes. Jacobson serves the scarlet fruit with peas and pecorino cheese, for example, and this season he’ll plate green strawberries with halibut, turnips, morel mushrooms and more.
“It’s the psychology of strawberries. They don’t always have to be sweet,” says Jacobson, who sometimes boosts the acidity of berries with a splash of lemon juice.
Whether paired with vegetables or dusted with sugar, strawberries remain a smart snack. One serving contains beneficial nutrients, fiber and more vitamin C than an orange. And those health benefits make these ripe red berries even sweeter.
This May, celebrate National Strawberry Month (or Mother’s Day) with one of Girasol chef CJ Jacobson’s favorite desserts.
Buttermilk Doughnuts with Crème Fraîche Ice Cream, Strawberries and Sorrel
6 ounces butter
4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk
Combine the wet and dry ingredients separately, then mix. Allow the dough to rest for two hours. Roll into 1-inch balls. Fry in vegetable oil at 350 F until golden brown and expanded. Dust with sugar.
3 sorrel leaves
1 cup ice cream, scooped and formed into 1-inch balls
To plate, arrange the strawberries on a small platter. Arrange the doughnut balls around the berries and then arrange the ice cream balls. Garnish with sorrel leaves.