Spring is my favorite season. Farmers markets come back after winter hiatus and “real” fruits and vegetables begin to show up in grocery stores. Even the biggest chain groceries put herbs outside their doors. Whether it is a lazy weekend or a warm evening, I begin to think about relaxing on the porch with a drink. For me, this Fresh Strawberry Thyme Bellini is a new and delicious way to celebrate Spring.
It is my turn to host Progressive Eats. Given the timing, I knew that the theme would have to involve the explosion of tastes and colors this season provides. I call it “Spring Has Sprung- Dishes that highlight ingredients and flavors associated with Spring.”
For my own contribution, I’ve gone outside my comfort zone to do a cocktail. As you may know, I’m not much of a cocktail maven. For my own drinking pleasure, I mostly stick to wine and beer. However, in the past few years, I’ve learned to enjoy making – and drinking – mixed drinks or cocktails. My repertoire is not vast – mostly shrubs, Moscow mules, and drinks with Prosecco and Campari. But the mad scientist in me delights in finding new techniques and interesting ways to pair flavors with different types of alcohol.
If you’re like me, you do not buy fresh strawberries in the winter. I consider that to be heresy. They often look right, all red and luscious. But when you bend down to smell them, you get nothing. No aroma at all. Worse yet, they don’t squish when you bite into them. No luscious red juices flow out of them. But now that Spring is here, the strawberries start to entice me. In my area (the mid-Atlantic), the best strawberries are available right now, from mid-May through June.
Farmers market strawberries are, of course, the best. (While I can dream of homegrown berries, they are not an option for me, or most people.) But even in grocery stores, you can get berries that have the smell and taste of the real thing.
I always remember my brother telling my mom when he was little that if you sucked a slice of orange with your eyes closed, it tasted just like orange juice. Later, he would develop what we called the “Baskin Robbins test” for ice cream. He pointed out that if you sampled different Baskin Robbins’ flavors with your eyes closed, you could not tell them apart. The ice cream just tasted cold. When it comes to strawberries, I take my brother’s test to the fruit stand. Closing my eyes, I smell them. If the berries don’t impart an aroma that transports me, then what is the point to eating them?
The good news about fresh herbs is that they always have amazing aroma and taste. Although I prefer growing my own, buying them at farmers markets or in the grocery provides the same satisfaction when you crush a few thyme or mint leaves between your fingers.
We live in the city, so our herb “garden” is a set of pots on our deck. I would dearly love a much bigger garden, with vegetables as well as herbs. But we don’t have the space and I’m not much of a gardener. So, I content myself with thyme, basil and an assortment of whatever other herbs I decide to grow in a given year.
While you might not think about how strawberries and thyme go together, one sip of a Fresh Strawberry Thyme Bellini and you’ll be a convert. I promise you. The recipe is simple – and begins with strawberry and thyme simple syrup.
Speaking of thyme:
Tips for Measuring Fresh Thyme
- How big is a sprig? – When a recipe calls for a certain number of sprigs of fresh thyme, there is no way to know how much thyme the recipe means you to add. How big is a sprig? Is it the longest sprig on the thyme plant or the shortest one? It’s like how big is a clove of garlic. Some cloves are big and some are small. Or do you simply go for the middle ground in terms of size?
- Sprigs vs. fresh thyme leaves – It’s relatively easy to measure fresh thyme when the recipe calls for leaves only, because you can use a measuring spoon. And there is a commonly accepted ratio of dried thyme to fresh leaves. If you want to use fresh when the recipe calls for dried thyme leaves, just multiply by 3. For a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, you would use 3 teaspoons (or 1 tablespoon) of fresh thyme leaves. Recipes that call for sprigs do not typically convert a number of sprigs into tablespoons because the sprigs are unwieldy.
- Weighing sprigs – In this recipe, I weighed the sprigs and described the result in ounces and grams. But honestly, I usually just eyeball how much to use, and then taste to see if I’ve added enough. Keep in mind that you can always add more, but you can’t subtract a flavor if you’ve added too much at the beginning of the process.
This simple syrup has just 4 ingredients: strawberries, superfine or bar sugar, water, and sprigs of fresh thyme. You simmer them together for no more than 15 minutes, let them rest, and then strain and chill the syrup.
My version is an adaptation of one from Imbibe Magazine. I like my drinks less sweet and wanted to highlight the herb. Therefore, I used a bit less sugar and a bit more fresh thyme than the Imbibe version. Feel free to adjust the proportions to achieve the result that suits your tastebuds.
Once you’ve made the simple syrup,
the only other steps are to puree the rest of the strawberries
and then to strain the puree to eliminate those pesky “seeds” on the outside, which are called achenes and are not really seeds at all.
The only pieces of equipment you need beyond the obvious (cutting board, knife, a pot and measuring cups) are a blender and a strainer. I used my immersion blender, which works fine for crushing strawberries. As to the strainer, the mesh on mine is actually too fine for this purpose. That meant it took me longer to push the puree through than it would if you use a strainer with slightly larger mesh. Alas, that’s what I get for buying the cheap one at the grocery store.
Putting the cocktail together just means pouring the pureed strawberries, simple syrup and Prosecco or other sparkling white wine together.
While a traditional Bellini is made with peaches, this one uses strawberries and thyme for the flavoring and puree. I looked at the proportions from this Jamie Oliver traditional Bellini, but used them only for the ratio of simple syrup to fruit puree.
By the way, if you want to make this into a mocktail, just substitute either sparkling apple cider or soda water for the sparkling wine.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. This month’s theme is Spring Has Sprung- Dishes that highlight ingredients and flavors associated with spring, and our host is Laura who blogs at Mother Would Know
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats it’s a virtual party. A theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out. Come along and see all of the delicious spring inspired dishes!
Spring Has Sprung- Dishes that highlight ingredients and flavors associated with spring
- Fresh Strawberry Thyme Bellini – Mother Would Know
- Vegetable Tray with Herby Yogurt Dip – Healthy Delicious
- Baked Brie with Fresh Berries and Toasted Walnuts – Creative Culinary
- Creamy Asparagus Soup (Gluten Free & Dairy Free) – The Heritage Cook
- Artichoke Foccacia – From a Chef’s Kitchen
- Spring Onion Fiddlehead Risotto – Sarah’s Cucina Bella
- Grilled Mexican Steak and Arugula Salad – Beyond Mere Sustenance
- Strawberry Spinach Salad – OMG Yummy
- Shrimp and Pork Belly Fried Rice with Peas – Karen’s Kitchen Stories
Fresh Strawberry Thyme Bellini
This refreshing drink takes advantage of delicious spring strawberries and fresh thyme. Enjoy it with a sparkling wine such as Prosecco or in an alcohol-free version with sparkling cider or water.
- 1 pint strawberries, hulled and quartered, divided, plus a few extra for garnish
- 1 cup superfine or bar sugar
- 1 large handful fresh thyme sprigs, plus more for garnish 1/4 ounce/ 10 grams if you can measure it
- 1 bottle Prosecco or other sparkling wine. To make an alcohol-free mocktail, substitute sparkling cider or water.
Put 1/4 pint (3 ounces) strawberries (about 3 large/6 medium/9 small) into a small pot with the cup of superfine sugar, the thyme sprigs, and 6 ounces of water. Bring to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to a simmer and cook the mixture for 10-15 minutes until the strawberries are quite soft.
Once it is cooked, take the pot off the stove and cool the mixture for 30 minutes. Then take out the sprigs of thyme and strain the mixture into a measuring up or container. Chill it well, for at least 1 hour.
Put the rest of the strawberries into a blender and crush them. Then strain the mixture to remove the seeds.
Mix 1 ounce of the puree and 1 ounce of simple syrup. Top with about 4 ounces of Prosecco, other sparkling wine or a non-alcoholic alternative such as sparkling apple cider or sparkling water. If desired garnish with a half or quarter of a hulled strawberry, sliced partway up so you can slide it onto the glass. If you want to intensify the thyme aroma, rub a sprig of fresh between your fingers (to release the aroma), and put it in the glass. Although it's not as sturdy as a celery stick in a Bloody Mary and therefore can't be twirled around, it's a nice touch and adds to the festive quality of the drink.
Here are easy instructions on how to hull strawberries (cutting off the top and the inner core), along with some rather interesting strawberry facts and helpful tips.
To keep the glasses pristine, I mixed the simple syrup and puree in a separate measuring cup before adding them to the glass and topping it off with the sparkling wine or non-alcoholic alternative.
This recipe makes more than enough strawberry-thyme simple syrup for a double batch, about 10 ounces total. Keep any unused simple syrup refrigerated for about a week or freeze for use beyond that time.
If making a double batch, make only 1 batch of simple syrup and use all the rest of the strawberries (about 18 ounces) for the puree.