summertime strawberries

My favorite place in Paris is the market and my favorite thing about the market is summertime strawberries.

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This isn’t surprising seeing as even at home I love grocery shopping. In college, I would go to HEB at 10pm so I could explore an empty store without interruption. In NYC, I happily meandered around the killer lines in Trader Joes, inspecting all the new products they have on display. In Paris, there are open-air farmers markets everywhere that I can spend hours in.

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Since I’ve been here since May, I’ve had the full benefit of summer fruit overflowing at the markets. The smells! Walking through Le Marche de Aligre, I am reminded that fruit should actually smell like fruit before you eat it. Each stall is brimming with the smell of sweet and ripe, calling you to goûte or taste when you can.

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So obviously, I spent far too much time pacing the market, tasting cherries and strawberries, smelling tiny melons, and admiring heirloom tomatoes. I ended up with several kilos of French strawberries and even after a picnic along the Seine, I realized I had way more than I could reasonably eat before they went bad.

So what do we do when we have too many berries on hand? We make the cake Smitten Kitchen keeps posting about and we worry about the problem of too much cake later!

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Ever the recipe advocate, I followed Deb’s recipe exactly – with one exception. I used coconut milk instead of regular milk. I made the switch because I don’t really drink milk. When I’m at home I can usually find something else to make with the milk I buy or I can push it onto my brother-in-law (who is an adult milk drinker… ew).

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I started subbing coconut milk in baking because I usually have a can of it on hand and am generally too lazy to go to the store for one ingredient. I obviously had to go to the store this time, but opted for coconut milk anyway because it came in a smaller package than regular milk. Plus, any excess can easily be added to savory dishes. Case in point: I added my leftover coconut milk to soup!

I thought that perhaps I’d get the added benefit of a strawberry- coconut cake, but didn’t find that the flavor really came though in the end. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on the person. If you wanted to make yours more of a strawberry-coconut cake, I would suggest throwing in some coconut extract and/or shredded, unsweetened coconut, maybe ¼ -½ of a cup.

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I made my cake in the tiny kitchenette of my shared Airbnb apartment where there was no mixer or oven, but a large toaster oven I could bake in. In this setting, it was a labor of love but if you have a hand or stand mixer and counter space that exceeds 1½ feet, it will be a breeze.  For me, the most fun part was arranging all the pretty strawberry slices on top. If you have children in your life, this would be a good spot for them to join in!

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One note – Deb suggests baking this in a 10” cake pan. My Airbnb didn’t have that, so I opted for a loaf pan. I like this option because it somehow allowed me to feel less bad about eating cake for breakfast, snack, and dessert. But, if you have a cake pan, it will make such a lovely, gooey but crunchy on top, not too sweet cake- definitely be a show stopper if you add a little whipped cream on top.

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I hope you all are enjoying all the wonderful bounties summer has to offer in your city. If you find yourself with too many strawberries on hand or are craving something that’s both simple and good, give this a try!

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If you didn’t catch the link above, here it is:
Smitten Kitchen’s Strawberry Summer Cake

Wishing you the best on your food adventures,

Sav

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