Sweet Strawberry Treats

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By Janeen A. SarlinStrawberries are here!

Look for bright-colored berries without blemishes. Roll the berries out of the box into a paper towel-lined container, keeping them in a single layer, then cover and store in a cool place or refrigerate.

For a quick snack that’s about 77 calories, spread a multi-grain flaxseed cracker with 1 teaspoon of almond butter and top it with a sliced strawberry. It’s perfect with a cup of tea or glass of lemonade.

I first tasted Strawberries With Almond-Orange Meringue Cookies at a small sweets shop in Aix, which is in Provence, France. I know you’ll fall in love with them as I did.

The easy-to-make Lemon Cornmeal Cake works well as a dessert or can be a breakfast treat. Serving berries between two slices of the cake and topping it with whipped cream gives a new twist to strawberry shortcake.

Bon sweet appétit!

Strawberries With Almond-Orange Meringue Cookies(Makes 20 cookies)For the cookies:4 egg whites

Pinch sea salt

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1¼ cups granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted

1/2 cup finely chopped candied orange peelFor the strawberries:5 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters

1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons powdered sugarTo prepare cookies:Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat egg whites until they are foamy.

Add salt and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form.

Add sugar gradually, 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy.

Mix in vanilla and almond extracts.

Fold in almonds and orange peel.

Drop the batter by tablespoons at 3-inch intervals onto the prepared sheet.

Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake until light brown, about 35 to 40 minutes.

Gently remove the cookies from the paper and transfer them to a cooling rack.

Set the rack back into the oven for another 10 minutes to dry.

Remove the rack with cookies and let cool to room temperature.

Place strawberries in a bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk orange juice and vanilla together and pour it over the berries.

Spoon the berries into shallow dishes and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serve two or three cookies with each dish of berries.Lemon Cornmeal Cake(Makes 1 large loaf cake)3/4 cup sour cream

2 slices lemon zest

1/2 stick, plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

5 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Pinch salt

1¼ cups all purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

Grated zest of one lemon

1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced (or dry thyme)

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 quart strawberries, washed, hulled and halved

Sugar, to taste

Yogurt cheese, crème fraiche or whipped cream, for toppingTo prepare the cake:One day ahead, using a vegetable peeler, cut off two slices of zest from a lemon and push them into the sour cream.

Refrigerate overnight to impart the essence of lemon into the cream.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour a 9½-by-51/3-by-3-inch loaf pan.

Tap out excess flour and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time and continue beating until incorporated.

Stir in lemon and vanilla extracts.

Remove lemon peel from the sour cream and mix the sour cream into the batter.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and cornmeal.

On low speed, add flour mixture and then add thyme and lemon zest to the batter.

Mix well, then pour the batter into prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.

Cool the cake in the pan set on a rack.

Unmold the cake by running a knife around the edge and invert the pan.

If baked ahead, wrap cake in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator or freezer for 1 to 2 weeks.

Toss the sliced strawberries together with sugar to taste.

Cut the cake into half-inch-thick slices, place them under the broiler and toast until light brown on the edges, about 2 minutes.

Place a slice of cake on a dessert plate, spoon strawberries on the cake, place another slice of cake on top and finish with a dollop of whipped cream, yogurt cheese or crème fraiche.

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