Aakash, Nate and I drove up to Sonoma to celebrate Nate’s birthday with wine tasting and a peanut butter sandwich picnic. It was overcast and windy, very like New York this time of year. My favorite part (I drove) was buying beautiful purple heads of garlic and the sweetest fresh strawberries from a roadside stand in front of the berry fields and across the road from a vineyard.
Roasting strawberries is a great way to preserve the flavor of fresh spring strawberries for longer than two days – or to save some already sad-looking berries. Roasting them with olive oil, a bit of maple syrup, and a generous spoonful of balsamic gives these a jammy, tangy flavor that goes great with the creamy avocado and a bit of spiciness from freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of red pepper flakes.
This is a great breakfast but is also good for lunch or a snack, especially if you roast the strawberrries beforehand. Just toast some bread (gluten-free if that’s your flavor), slice up or mash on avocado, scoop up a few berries along with their dense, sticky syrup and add a sprinkle of salt, and black and red pepper. If you have fresh herbs, they would really finish this dish – basil would be especially nice, but cilantro or parsley would also work.
If strawberries seem like an odd thing to pair with avocado, just remember that you eat another dense, creamy, good-with-salt food with strawberry jam all the time (peanut butter), and also know that strawberries share a very similar flavor profile with tomatoes. Next time you make salsa, use strawberries instead, and you can even sub tomatoes in a strawberry pie (no kidding; this was a hit with my dad).
The balsamic vinegar takes on the flavor of a sweet, full balsamic reduction (without the extra work). Balsamic and black pepper love fruit (especially stonefruit like avocado and peaches), but they are best pals with strawberries – try a grind of black pepper on your strawberry ice cream. And because of the creamy richness + tangy sweetness, it craves a touch of spiciness, so don’t underestimate the red pepper flakes.
Even if you are uninterested in strawberry-avocado toast, these strawberries are amazing alone or on pretty much anything – I have been scooping a generous portion on top of my quinoa-oatmeal breakfasts.
Also, if you don’t lick the pan after roasting the strawberries, you’re taking yourself too seriously.
- 8 oz strawberries
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or agave
- 4 slices bread*
- 1-2 ripe avocados
- 2 tablespoons Earth Balance or other nonhyd. margarine (optional)
- freshly ground black pepper
- red pepper flakes
- sea salt
- basil leaves, chiffonade** (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse the strawberries and remove their tops. Cut all but the smallest strawberries in half or thirds and put in a large bowl. Measure in the oil, vinegar, and maple syrup and mix gently until evenly coated. Pour out onto a fully-rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan (there will be a lot of juice) and then bake for 30-40 minutes, until the juices thicken.
- Toast the bread. Butter with Earth Balance. Slice avocado and layer on bread or mash on using a fork. Scoop on strawberry chunks and some juice, then sprinkle on pepper, sea salt, and basil. Serve immediately.
- *Use gluten-free bread if necessary
- **Roll the basil leaves up and thinly slice along the width. Use can also use parsley or cilantro leaves.