Whether you pick your own or snag a few baskets of strawberries at the farmers market doesn’t matter. What does count is that this time of year in San Francisco, some of the best fruit available is local and, more often than not organic, as opposed to the anemic and bruised fruit you’re likely to find at a supermarket. Making the effort to buy your berries from a local farmer pays off not only in terms of flavor but also in size and quality.
Look for berries that are scarlet red without being too dark or with too much white still showing. They should also be firm and smell fruity. Pick up the basket and try to look inside. If you see mold, skip it. One moldy berry will infect a whole basket quickly. If you get them home and discover a moldy berry inside, discard it and give the rest a thorough washing. Let them dry on a lined baking sheet.
In this recipe the berries are left to their own strengths while introducing complimentary flavors in the garnish and in the custard. The Thai basil adds a subtle anise and lemon flavor that compliments the fruit well, but feel free to use standard basil as well.
1 4-inch round of vodka pie dough
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
1 pinch salt
1 cup roughly chopped Thai basil leaves
Approximately 6 large basil leaves cut into chiffonade
Approximately 2 cups strawberries sliced ¼” thick
½ cup apricot jam
1 tbsp water
1) Preheat oven to 325. Blind bake pastry shell and then set aside. Reduce oven to 300.
2) Bring cream to a boil and add basil leaves. Remove from heat and let steep for 20 minutes. Strain completely. Return cream to pan and bring to a simmer.
3) Whisk eggs, vanilla and sugar together until bright yellow. Place bowl on a folded towel and then slowly drizzle in warm cream, whisking the entire time. Return to low heat and continue stirring gently until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
4) Pour mixture into shell. You may have some left over. Bake for at least 45 minutes or until custard begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
5) Arrange strawberries in rows or rings.
6) Mix jam and water in a small sauce pan and melt. Brush over fruit. Garnish with chiffonade.