- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What was once a tart, sweet gift of spring — the strawberry — is becoming a flavor adventure.

Farmers markets and even some supermarkets are no longer just selling strawberries; they’re merchandising them by variety, each one offering subtle differences in taste to tempt you.

Until recently, the distinctions between one berry and another may have been lost on you, but that is changing. Instead of simply buying a pint of strawberries, you may be treated to Earliglow, which, true to its name, is one of the first berries harvested. This lush, big berry is also one of the best-tasting, with excellent sweetness and a hint of acid.

As the growing season expands, so do your options. You can try Kent, with very good flavor in a medium to large berry. Jewel, with plump, glossy fruit and firm texture, is a delightful berry to sample in June and July.

In July and August, look for Lateglow strawberries, with firm texture and mellow flavor.

You can best appreciate the strawberry range of charms by using the berry in simple dishes. The following recipe starring strawberries is both luscious and easy to make. Spread buttery, crisp bread slices with honey and a mixture of ricotta and mascarpone cheese, and top with strawberry slices.

Think of it as strawberry cheesecake you can eat for breakfast.

Strawberry breakfast sandwiches

1 tablespoon butter

2 slices country bread, 1/2-inch thick, about 6 inches long

2 teaspoons honey

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1/4 cup mascarpone cheese

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sliced strawberries

Melt butter in large skillet. Add bread and fry on one side over medium-high heat until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from skillet. Spread 1 teaspoon honey over each bread slice on the side that wasn’t fried.

Combine ricotta cheese, mascarpone cheese and vanilla extract in a bowl. Mix well.

Spread half the cheese mixture over honey on each bread slice. Spoon half the strawberries over cheese on each bread slice, pressing down into cheese. Makes 2 servings.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).

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