Throw together a simple strawberry delight

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Three years ago a neighbor shared some strawberry plants she had bought from the Boy Scouts. Other than their provenance, not much other information was available. I set aside a place in my garden for a strawberry patch and crossed my fingers.

The plants seemed to like their new location, and the second year they produced six gorgeous berries. I was thrilled. This year I am picking a quart a day.

It’s still strawberry season in southcentral Pennsylvania, so pick ’em while you can.

It was time to search my recipe files for more strawberry desserts. Last week’s heat wave was a strong deterrent for turning on the oven. Then I recalled a recipe that I used to make frequently but had abandoned in a quest for fancier desserts.

With only three main ingredients and a premade graham cracker crust, this cream cheese pie comes together in minutes. Because I had a lot of strawberries I wanted to use up, I decided on a cooked strawberry topping. Sliced fresh strawberries, however, are an even easier option. The only disadvantage is they tend to become a bit soggy after a day or two. Of course, a lot of eager eaters could make that a moot point.

Because lemon juice is one of the principal ingredients in the pie, be sure to use freshly squeezed. Bottled lemon juice contains preservatives and other ingredients that give it an off taste. Its higher acidity may also prevent the pie from setting.

As for the cream cheese, I’ve tried various store brands, but I find they can’t compete with the taste and texture of the Philadelphia brand.

Rich, creamy, sweet and tart, this simple cream cheese pie is the perfect vehicle for any summer fruit.

A no-bake strawberry pie is just the thing when you’re craving a sweet, chilled dessert. It’s still strawberry season in southcentral Pennsylvania, so pick ’em while you can.

No-Bake Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie

  • 1 graham cracker pie crust
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the cream cheese, condensed milk, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat well until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pie crust and chill overnight or for a minimum of four hours. Before serving, top with fresh fruit or cooked strawberry topping.

Strawberry Topping

  • 4 cups fresh strawberries, washed and hulled, sliced into bite-sized pieces, divided
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch

Add 2 cups strawberries to a small pot with the sugar and place on medium-low heat. Mix together the lemon juice, water and cornstarch, and add to the strawberries. Stirring constantly, cook until the strawberry mixture has thickened. Pour the mixture into a bowl and then fold in the remaining strawberries. Once the mixture is cooled completely, spoon over the cream cheese filling and chill before serving.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.