I know it was Julia Child’s 100th birthday this week and she was an important person in my life. Although it was my Mom who taught me the basics, Julia taught me to take giant leaps beyond. I didn’t cook every recipe in her first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I did make many of them. A boyfriend had given me that book — a treasured first edition — which is now gravy stained and coverless and signed by Julia herself on one of my favorite recipes (I met her when I took a cooking course along with several hundred other people like in some College 101 class).
So, Happy Birthday Julia.
But this week was also a friend’s birthday. A what you call “round number” birthday, so I invited her to my house, along with another friend, who recently celebrated that same round number birthday. We had a few hors d’oeuvre with a nice few glasses of wine, then grilled fish with Grilled Pineapple Salsa (and a few vegetables) for dinner.
SO healthy. We are all at that nice round number watch-what-you-eat age.
But dessert? Oh well. Why count calories when summer strawberries are out and you can eat Strawberry Shortcake?
Which is what I made instead of baking or buying a birthday cake.
Not a morsel was left on our plates.
Classic Strawberry Shortcake
2 pounds fresh strawberries
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
orange, mango or papaya juice
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon peel
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Wash the berries and slice them into a bowl, sprinkle them with 2 tablespoons sugar and a few tablespoons of juice and set aside. In another bowl, mix the flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, baking powder and lemon peel. Add the butter and work into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat the egg and milk together until well combined. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and mix until a soft dough forms. Roll or press the dough to 1/2-inch thick circle on a lightly floured surface. Cut out 8 circles with a cookie cutter. Place the circles on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12–15 minutes or until puffed and lightly brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Whip the cream with the remaining teaspoon sugar until the mixture stands in soft peaks. Cut the biscuits in half and place each bottom half on a serving dish. Place the berries and any accumulated juices on top. Pour some of the cream on top. Top with the remaining biscuit halves. Makes 8 servings.