One of the first solid foods almost every child learns to love is fresh strawberries. How can they, or any grownup for that matter, resist?

Even my two young sons, Oliver and Alexander, already know how to choose the best strawberries. Now that strawberry season has arrived, the boys head straight for them when we go to the farmers' market on Sunday morning. They let their eyes guide them to the deepest dark-red berries, which they know will be the sweetest ones. Then, their noses confirm that fact with one sniff of the sweet perfume that good, ripe strawberries give off.

Sometimes Alexander, the younger one, who is still refining his knowledge of strawberries, will bite into one of the growers' samples and ask me, "Papa, is this a ripe one?" If I say "No," he puts it back. (I discretely retrieve it and pop it into the trash.)

I've taught my boys that the farmers' market is the best place to go for your strawberries in season. Small growers generally pick the berries at a much riper stage than the ones you'll find in the supermarket. More commercial supermarket varieties have been developed to hold up well through longer shipping and storage, at the expense of their sweetness. They may look great, but when you bite into them they'll probably have a woody texture and less flavor.

Plan to use your sweet farmers' market strawberries within a day or two of buying them. They'll have the best flavor when you eat them if you keep them at cool room temperature rather than refrigerating them. But I have to admit that keeping them out in the open means that you may just eat them out of hand before you have a chance to use them in a recipe.

One of my favorite recipes for really ripe, flavorful fresh strawberries is simply to slice them and arrange them on top of a layer of homemade almond paste, marzipan, in a simple sugar dough tart shell. The combination of crispy, crumbly pastry, sweet and mellow nuts, and fragrant berries is unbelievably good and pure.

There's nothing complicated about the recipe, which makes it a perfect treat for lazy late spring and summer days. You can make the pastry in advance, then bake the marzipan-filled shell a few hours before topping it with the berries. (Be sure the pastry turns a nice, deep golden-brown color for the best flavor.) Fill the tart with the berries not long before you serve it, so their juices won't turn the crust soggy.

You'll probably want to make this tart again and again during strawberry season. But, just in case you want some variety, come back next week for another of my favorite strawberry recipes!

Strawberry Marzipan Tart Recipe

Makes one 10-inch tart

1/2 recipe Sugar Dough (recipe follows)

3/4 pound unsalted butter, slightly softened

1/2 cup sugar

3 cage-free eggs

2 tablespoons orange liqueur

Finely grated zest of 2 oranges

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 cups ground almonds

1/4 cup currant jelly

2 baskets fresh organic strawberries, hulled and cut lengthwise into slices 1/4 inch thick

At least a few hours in advance, prepare the Sugar Dough (recipe follows).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

On a floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the round of Sugar Dough to a circle 3/8 inch thick. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place a 10-inch bottomless flan ring on top of it. Loosely roll up the dough around the rolling pin and unroll it over the flan ring. Gently press the dough into the sides of the ring and down onto the parchment paper-lined sheet to form a tart shell. Loosely cover and put the baking sheet in the refrigerator to chill the shell.

Put the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl. Using a hand-held electric mixer on medium speed, cream them together until the mixture looks light and even, taking care not to let the butter get too soft. Add the eggs and mix lightly, just until blended in. With a sturdy spoon, stir in the liqueur, orange zest, and almond extract. Add the ground almonds and stir until combined.

Pour the almond mixture into the chilled pastry shell. Bake until the pastry and filling are a deep golden brown color, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Remove the tart from the oven and leave at room temperature until cool.

When the tart has cooled, put the currant jelly in a small saucepan and stir over low heat just until melted. With a pastry brush, brush the jelly over the top of the tart.

Arrange the sliced strawberries on top of the tart in concentric circles or another attractive design, covering it evenly.

To serve, carefully transfer the tart to a serving platter and remove the flan ring. Use a sharp knife to cut into wedges.


Makes 2-1/2 pounds

12 ounces pastry flour, about 3-1/3 cups

3-1/3 cups all-purpose flour, about 3-1/3 cups

Pinch salt

3/4 cup sugar

3 cage-free egg yolks

2 tablespoons heavy cream

Cut the butter into large pieces and put half of them in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add half each of the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and sugar. Process until the butter is finely chopped and evenly mixed with the flour. Add half each of the egg yolks and cream. Process just until a ball of dough forms.

Carefully remove the dough and flatten it into a 6-inch round. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator.

Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.

Chill the dough for at least 2 hours or overnight. Use as needed. The dough will remain fresh for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. To store it longer, wrap securely in plastic and then in a layer of aluminum foil and put it in the freezer, where it will keep for 2 to 3 months. Transfer to the refrigerator for 24 hours to thaw before using.


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