Food Column: Strawberry Way inspires festival


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When your church borders a street called Strawberry Way, it's gotta have a strawberry festival, right?

Smithfield United Church of Christ holds its annual fest tomorrow from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., in the narrow alley alongside the building at 620 Smithfield St., Downtown.

Church members set up tables in the alleyway and decorate with balloons and festive flags. This year's musical entertainment is being provided by the jazz ensemble from Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts high school.

Smithfield Cafe, across the street, trundles over sausage, pierogies and other savories for lunch, and church members whip up the dessert.

The specialty is Strawberry Shortcakes with Berry-Caramel Sauce (see recipe online), but strawberry sundaes are available, too. Alecia Clark, the church council member chairing this year's festival, introduced the unique sauce last year. The church prepares about 300 shortcakes ahead of time.

The church usually doesn't make much money -- maybe a few hundred bucks, after expenses, which is donated to the church's missions programs. The purpose, Ms. Clark said, is really just "to raise awareness that we're there."

For information: smithfieldchurch.org.

More berries

Speaking of strawberry festivals, here's a few more coming up in the region:

Triple B Farms Strawberry Festival: Hayrides to the pick-your-own strawberry patch, strawberry pancake breakfast, strawberry smoothies, children's activities, tube slides, bounce house, playground and more. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 2 and 3, at Triple B Farms in Forward. 724-258-3557 or triplebfarms.org.

Shadyside Presbyterian Church Strawberry Festival: Cake, ice cream, berries, hot dogs, chips, pasta salad and tossed salad, plus a bake sale, games, children's activities, balloons and music. Activities are free; proceeds from food sales will benefit the Sojourner House MOMS program providing assistance for addicted women and their children in East Liberty. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. June 8 on the lawn of Shadyside Presbyterian (activities move indoors if it rains). 412-682-4300 or shadysidepres.org.

Trax Farms Strawberry Festival: Food, children's activities and pick-your-own strawberries. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 8-10 at Trax Farms near Finleyville. traxfarms.com.

Grove City Strawberry Days: The food at this community festival runs from the usual sandwiches, hot dogs and strawberry shortcakes to some more original offerings -- waffles with strawberries, chocolate-covered strawberries, lemon shakes and a seeming obsession with all things deep-fried, including pretzels, Oreos, and, yes, strawberries. Other activities include vendors, artisans, music, a talent show and children's activities. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. June 8-9 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 in Grove City Memorial Park, Mercer County. gcdays.com.

Celebs

Here are some celebrity chef demos at Giant Eagle Market District stores:

Paul Qui of Top Chef fame demonstrates Asian cooking, 11 a.m. Saturday, June 2, at the Pine store and 4 p.m. Saturday in Robinson.

Sunny Anderson of Food Network and Pittsburgh Steeler Charlie Batch will tag-team a "Man Can Cook" demo for Father's Day weekend at noon June 16 in Pine.

Admission is free, but space is limited. Register ahead at marketdistrict.com.

Food U

Two local college courses focus on food and drink:

Geography of Wine: This course pretty much hits all the basics -- wine tasting, wine history, the role of wine in society, and the composition, character and products of individual wine regions. The three-credit course meets from 1 to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, June 4-July 6, at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania's Leonard Hall, Indiana, Pa. Information: 724-357-2250.

Food, Farm and Field: This summer sustainability course from July 8-21 allows students not only to study food but also to live on Chatham University's Eden Hall Campus, a 388-acre plot in Richland. The program involves classroom learning, group discussions, field trips, and hands-on farm and kitchen work, plus such recreational opportunities as swimming, hiking, yoga, writing, video and photography. Instructors include faculty in sustainability, food studies, film and digital media, agroecology and creative writing, plus local farmers, chefs and food suppliers. The three-credit course costs $2,400, including lodging and meals. To register: apply.chatham.edu/ccps. Information: chatham.edu/sse or 412-365-1498.

'Shrooms

Mushroom walks: Join the Western Pennsylvania Mushroom Club's forays. Walks start at 10 a.m. unless noted. Meet up with the walkers Saturday, June 2, at the North Park swimming pool parking lot; June 9 at Camp Guyasuta in Sharpsburg; June 16 at Harrison Hills Park in Harrison as well as (at 9 a.m.) at Buttermilk Falls Natural Area in New Florence, Indiana County; and June 23 at Deer Lakes Park in West Deer. Information: wpamushroomclub.org.



Berry-Caramel Sauce

PG tested

This is Smithfield United Church of Christ's signature shortcake sauce at the annual Strawberry Festival. Use any recipe for biscuit shortcakes; top with sliced fresh strawberries, this sauce and whipped cream. We used the Bisquick recipe but took Alecia Clark's suggestion of adding 2 extra tablespoons of sugar to the dough. We also sprinkled a little turbinado sugar on top before baking.

-- Rebecca Sodergren

  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 vanilla bean
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries

Pour the cream into a small heavy saucepan. Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the cream. Place over medium-high heat and bring to just under a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low to keep the cream warm.

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, water, salt and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then cook, without stirring, until the mixture is amber colored, 5 to 8 minutes.

Slowly add the cream to the sugar syrup and whisk until smooth. Add the lemon juice.

Remove from heat and let stand about 10 minutes. Cut the butter into 1-inch chunks and add them to the caramel one at a time, whisking constantly after each addition.

Once butter is mixed in, add the sliced strawberries. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the berries have exuded their juices and the caramel has reduced a bit, about 10 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and let stand until warm.

-- Adapted from "Tartine" by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson (Chronicle, 2006)

recipes - foodcolumn

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com.


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