Food

What to cook in June: Spring's bounty of sorrel, radishes, garlic scapes and strawberries is finally here

From sorrel sauce to berry cordials to a new kind of pesto, here’s how to make the most of it.

From sorrel sauce to berry cordials to a new kind of pesto, here’s how to make the most of it

It's June, and if you're not standing in the middle of a farmers market right now double fisting bags of fresh strawberries, you are missing out. Unless, maybe, you're already growing your own. Either way, make the most of those little red gems by baking this shortcake, this mousse cake, or shaking up this mojito. You owe it to the season.

It couldn't get any easier to eat local this month, and it doesn't stop at strawberries. Seek out new radish varieties, lemony sorrel, and curly garlic scapes. Don't be shy if you've never cooked with them before. Ask the farmer selling them for ideas, they'll probably be more than happy to share a recipe or two, and there are no shortages of resources online. Like right here! As usual, we've got some ideas for you. Try one, try all, while you can get the freshest produce at markets and your grocery store. Welcome, spring bounty!

Sorrel

Sorrel is actually a perennial herb related to rhubarb. It grows quite easily here in Canada, beside all pf those other small-space edibles. Resembling spinach, it should be prepped in the same way, with a good wash and removal of its tougher stems.

Tart and acidic, its sour flavour cuts through the richness of cream and livens up things like potatoes, eggs, and lentils. But don't stop there. Here are some more ways of cooking with it:

Drizzle sorrel sauce over fish. Hit up your fishmonger for some in-season halibut or wild salmon and smother it in a creamy puree of sorrel, cream, and lemon juice. Look up a recipe online and make it ahead of time to spoon over your fish once it's cooked. Use leftover sauce on steamed vegetables or roasted pork.

Make it the star of a soup. Sauté a bit of onion until translucent, add the sorrel, and submerge it in chicken stock. Simmer everything until the sorrel is cooked, which will take about as long as tossing a baguette in the oven to reheat it. Puree the soup, or only part of it if texture is your thing, and add a good pour of cream at the end.

Wilt sorrel with freshy fried, buttered mushrooms. Cook any kind of mushrooms (button or cremini are great here) in a generous pat of butter. Add a few smashed cloves of garlic and a couple sprigs of thyme when you're cooking the mushrooms, if you've got them on hand.  Keep the cover off so most of the moisture evaporates, and toss in the sorrel when there's just a bit of liquid left, to help steam the sorrel.

Radishes

Celebrate radishes for their peppery bite and pretty flesh. Just don't leave leftovers in a container too long. They get stinky!

Dip whole, raw radishes in salted butter and enjoy.. Breakfast radishes with their elongated bodies work well for this. Also the drab-on-the-outside watermelon radish — worth seeking out for its hot-pink flesh. And never throw out radish greens. Use them in soup or cook them along with the root if you're sautéing or baking everything. Here are some more ways of using this colourful root.

Sauté whole radishes for an unexpected side dish. Halve them if they're big and cook in butter mixed with oil (so the butter doesn't burn). Finish the dish with a sprinkling of flaky salt.

Toss them raw into grain salads. Slice them paper thin or cut them into quarters depending on the size of your other vegetables. They pair well with early-summer vegetables like peas and fava beans, or green beans as the season gets going. Throw in handfuls of fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, tarragon, which can stand up to their biting personality.

Make radish gazpacho... it's a thing! Look up a recipe online and serve it on a hot day. If the recipe you find suggests pureeing the mixture, avoid processing until it's totally smooth, since a little texture adds character.

Garlic scapes

Love garlic? Pick up a bundle of curly garlic scapes this month. Also known as green garlic, these curvaceous stalks deliver a sweeter, milder garlic flavour that's great for adding a double dose of garlic to everything. Garlic scapes are best early in the season, so don't wait. Grab the most tender-looking ones you can find, remove the flower bud if they've got one, and get cooking with them. Here's how:

Make garlic scape pesto. Swap in scapes where you'd usually use basil leaves, and leave out the garlic cloves. Smear the pesto on fish or toss with pasta or potatoes. Freeze what you don't use in an ice cube tray and you'll have some to pull out a small amount on busy evenings.

Simmer up a big batch of double garlic soup. Seek out a recipe online and if it's too hot for soup, take a hint from the Parisians and serve cold like a summer vichyssoise.

Grind garlic scapes up into a vinegary sauce. To do this, use a mini food processor or roughly chop them and mash them to a paste with a mortar and pestle, adding coarse salt to help with the grinding process. Once smooth, add sugar and a few glugs of aged sherry vinegar, along with two thirds that amount of water. Serve the sauce alongside grilled meats, pulled pork, or use it as a flavour enhancer in your dressings.

Strawberries

You'll probably notice that strawberries are a little less expensive this season and they're also probably less blemished and more flavourful since they've been ripened by the sun and not the greenhouse. Don't miss out!

If a recipe instructs you to hull the strawberries, this just means that you remove the conical heart in the centre, attached to the stem. It tends to be flavourless and tough. You can get fancy and do this by pushing a metal straw up from the bottom of the strawberry and popping the green-leafed cap off too. Or, in a less spectacular way, simply run a paring knife in a circle and dig it out.

Here are some ways of showcasing this season's strawberry harvest.

Bake strawberry bread. Look up a recipe online, or crush fresh strawberries with your potato masher and swap the bits into your favourite fruit-filled loaf. Slather each piece with cream cheese and serve for breakfast or dessert.

Add fresh strawberries to your salads. Pair them with goat cheese on a bed of farm-fresh mixed greens and drizzle with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette. Add toasted or candied nuts, and you may not need dessert.

Turn any bruised or overripe strawberries into a refreshing cordial. Look up a recipe online and keep this concentrated fruit syrup on hand to serve with soda water over ice. For a summer-ready cocktail, swap the soda or mix it too along with prosecco, white rum, or gin.

If you like these ideas but want more specifics, start with any of the more concrete recipes below.

Strawberry Rhubarb Tarts

Strawberry Rhubarb Custard Tart

Strawberry Kiwi Mojito

(The Great Canadian Baking Show)

Strawberry Mousse Cake

(The Great Canadian Baking Show)

Strawberry Garden Pie

Oven-Baked Chicken with Chard and Red Radishes


Jessica Brooks is a digital producer and pro-trained cook and baker. Follow her food stories on Instagram @brooks_cooks.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.