Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Previous Posts


Site search




Nothing compares to the rich, profound flavor and fragrance of perfectly ripe strawberries. And since June’s full moon, which occurs tonight, is commonly called the Strawberry Moon, you can guess what’s been on the menu chez Lear. A couple of days ago, I greedily overbought at not one, but several farm stands, and a good thing, too.

7:30 a.m. I started at breakfast, with a bowl of warm, comforting polentina from the recently published Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes for Living Well, by grain goddess Maria Speck and available at a bookstore near you. I followed her advice to soak the polenta in boiling water overnight, and sure enough, it took just 15 minutes to pull things together this morning. It may have been 50 degrees and pelting rain outside, but the fistful of juicy strawberries I sliced still tasted like the hot sun. I decided not to go back to bed, after all.

Polentina, by the way, is a creamier version of polenta that’s typically served in the morning. “On lazy Sundays, I go all the way and top my bowl with a dollop of softly whipped cream,” writes Speck. How could that be bad?

Breakfast Polentina with Strawberries, Poppy Seeds, and Lime

From Simply Ancient Grains: Fresh and Flavorful Whole Grain Recipes for Living Well (Ten Speed Press), by Maria Speck

Serves 4

1 cup (5.5 ounces) polenta or stone-ground cornmeal, preferably medium grind

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1½ cups boiling water

1½ cups whole or low-fat milk (1 cup for cornmeal), or more as needed

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey, or more as needed

Pinch of fine sea salt

1½ cups (6 ounces) quartered fresh strawberries, preferably organic

½ to 1 teaspoon lime juice

1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, preferably organic

1. Start the polentina the night before: Add the polenta and the poppy seeds to a large heavy saucepan and whisk in the boiling water. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight (or chill, covered, for up to 2 days).

2. The next morning, finish the polentina: Add the milk, 2 tablespoons of the honey, and the salt to the saucepan with the polenta and whisk well to loosen, breaking up any clumps. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally. Cook, whisking continuously and adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle bubble until the mixture thickens, about 2 minutes (beware of splatters!).

3. Decrease the heat to low to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon every couple of minutes and scraping the bottom until the polenta becomes creamy and thick (cornmeal remains a little softer), 10 to 12 minutes. The polenta granules will swell and become tender, and the polenta should retain an appealing toothsomeness.

4. Meanwhile, add the strawberries to a small bowl and stir in the 2 teaspoons honey and the lime juice, tasting and adding more of either to adjust. Set aside to macerate, stirring once or twice, while the cornmeal simmers.

5. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime zest, and add a bit more milk if you like a looser polentina. Taste for sweetness and adjust with honey as needed. Spoon into four breakfast bowls, top with the strawberries, arranging them like flower petals in the center of the bowl. Or, if you like more fruit, just pile them on. Serve at once.

Fine Points
Be sure to use weight measures as volume can vary widely, especially when using cornmeal.
Adding hot milk in step two will further speed up your breakfast.
Fresh strawberries are a nice contrast on top, but sliced bananas or blueberries work well too.
If you have leftover cooked wheat berries or farro, add ½ cup with the zest for a nice chew.


6:30 p.m. Good friends are in the neighborhood unexpectedly and call, wondering if they could take us to dinner. Nonsense. Much more fun to sit around our table and share a roast chicken, don’t you think? Roast potatoes and broccoli rabe sautéed with garlic and red chile flakes will round out the meal nicely, and no trouble at all—it was what we were planning, anyway.

But company for supper means not just dessert, but a dessert course. And in strawberry season, that is reason alone for splurging on a fancy bottle of aged balsamic vinegar. Truth be told, our bottle of aceto balsamico tradizionale—the real deal, aged in different wooden barrels until thickened to an almost syrupy liquid—was a bit dusty (I’ve been hoarding it), but it was high time to seize the moment. A drizzling of good balsamic enhances the sweetness of the berries, and it also brings forth their tartness. It’s a beautiful balancing act, and the first bite tends to reduce people to silence. The following recipe, from the Italian cooking authority Faith Willinger, is staggeringly simple.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

From The Gourmet Cookbook (Houghton Mifflin)

Serves 4

2½ pints (about 2 pounds) of the ripest, most fragrant strawberries you can find, hulled and halved lengthwise, or quartered if large

2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar (preferably aceto balsamico tradizionale)

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Unsweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche, for serving

1. Toss the strawberries with the vinegar, sugar, and pepper in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, for 30 minutes.

2. Toss strawberries again and serve with whipped cream or crème fraîche.


11 p.m. Oh, my goodness, there are still plenty of strawberries left. I told you I overbought. Tomorrow, I’ll make ice cream. The title of the recipe below, by my former Gourmet colleague Andrea Albin, is no exaggeration. This ice cream tastes like summer.

Perfect No-Cook Strawberry Ice Cream

1 pound strawberries, trimmed, halved if large

¾ cup sugar

¾ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 cups heavy cream

Equipment: an ice cream maker

1. Coarsely mash strawberries with sugar, lemon juice, and salt using a potato masher in a large bowl. Let stand, stirring and mashing occasionally, 10 minutes.

2. Transfer half of the strawberry mixture to a blender and purée with cream until smooth. Return strawberry cream to bowl with remaining strawberries and chill, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours.

3. Freeze mixture in ice cream maker. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up (that is, if you can wait that long). Ice cream keeps 1 week.


Comment from Lindsey @ a honey blossom
Time July 5, 2015 at 6:55 pm

Wow! The breakfast polenta sounds amazing. What a great way to spice up my usual morning cooked grains!

Write a comment