One of the boons of modern horticulture was the arrival in the 1980s of day-neutral strawberries, which will produce fruit not once or twice, but anytime temperatures stay within a moderate range. This means we can get berries well into September or even October if the weather is mild.
One of the better known varieties is the Tristar, a small, deep-red gem with a heady aroma and more than a touch of wild fruit about it. Of the types Jackie and I see at our local farmers markets, Tristar is our favorite.
A side benefit to Tristar’s long season is its overlap with the height of tomato season, which allows you to combine the two berries (yes, to a botanist tomatoes are berries, too) in a simple and surprising dish, which can be either a salad or dessert.
We first had something like this at New York’s Jean-Georges , served up in a silver dish as an accompaniment to the best veal schnitzel we’d ever eaten. Though the details have blurred in my memory, the idea behind the dish has stayed with me: The tomatoes bring a sweet-tart-umami richness to the sweet-tart brightness of the strawberries. Very little needs to be done, apart from bringing their inherent flavors to the fore.
Here’s how I did it: Before dinner, I rinsed, dried and hulled a pint of ripe, fragrant Tristars, halving the larger ones. These I sprinkled with sugar — not much, less than a teaspoon, just to bring out the juiciness. At dessert time, I cut 10 to 12 little tomatoes (less than an inch across and orange-purple-green rather than bright red) into quarters or sixths, depending on size. Then I combined them with the strawberries and their juice, dribbled a few drops of traditional balsamic vinegar over the mixture and added some crunchy salt, again very little. I kept everything at room temperature.
It had an amazing, almost haunting flavor and aroma. Stirring in some slivered mint leaves — or thyme — would have been good, but it’s not necessary. As it was at Jean-Georges, the dish could have been a main-course side or a topping for a breaded cutlet; cut into smaller pieces and left for a while to get juicier, the tomatoes and strawberries could have even been turned into a not-very-liquid soup served in coffee cups for slurping.
However long it is, the Tristar season won’t go on forever, so think about making this while there’s still time.