I have in the past had strawberries in restaurants with a bit of balsamic vinegar (and maybe a grind of black pepper?!). I would like to do something like this for a dinner tomorrow, if the farmers' market has strawberries, but am unsure of how best to do it at home to show off the strawberries to their best advantage. I also like a bit of a kick to them! I am planning to serve them with (homemade) vanilla ice cream and lemon cookies, or lemon ice cream and butter cookies.
Does anybody have suggestions (or better seasonal ideas)?
I usually just slice and sprinkle with the balsamic and pepper. But since you were considering cookies anyway, maybe the pepper should go in the cookies? I've made lemon cookies in the past with a bit of black pepper in, and they were very good. Maybe a pepper shortbread or butter cookie? I would be inclined to make sweet cream, rather than vanilla, ice cream, to keep the flavors clear. Slice the strawberries, serve with a drizzle of balsamic, the ice cream and cookies on the side. Or you could bake the cookie dough into a tart shell and fill with the strawberries, topped with the ice cream (do it right before serving to keep the shell crisp).
Or you could make a strawberry sorbet, spiked with the pepper, and serve drizzled with the balsamic.
1/2 tablespoon of balsamic per pint of sliced strawberries is my magic proportion. Add a pinch of salt to the vinegar and make sure it's dissolved before you pout on the strawberries. Add sugar to taste (how much depends on how sweet your strawberries already are, and how sweet you like things, a tablespoon per pint works for me for sweet, juice strawberries, trending up to 1/4 cup if they're underripe) and toss the strawberries.
You can do this in one of two ways:
- just as you're ready to serve dessert for brilliant fresh strawberries with a balsamic hit to them (which will be mellowed by the ice cream) and a bit of crunch if you use large crystal sugar
- ahead of time and refrigerate for a few hours if you want more of a strawberry syrup / sauce effect. This will be sweeter and mellow the balsamic on its own.
A warm alternative that melts ice cream nicely:
- toss the strawberries lightly in the balsamic, layer on a cookie sheet, top with sugar, broil until the sugar melts.
When doing this, I have presented the strawberries three ways on the plate and thickened the balsamic; (1) remove stems from about 3/4 berries and slice up lengthwise (2) leave stem on, slice lengthwise almost up to the stem, and fan strawberries (3) whole strawberry.
Put a mound of fresh sliced berries on the plate, place two fanned berries at one edge of it and place one uncut berry between them. Draw circles (or musical notes) or just a circle, dip and drag with the thickened balsamic around on the plate. Either add the white pepper to the balsamic with a hint a powdered rosemary or thyme or just put a small pile of the powder on the plate for dipping.
I also like to sweetne the balsamic just a touch with honey.
Flavors will vary with source of products used.
As far as I'm concerned, balsamic-macerated strawberries w/ homemade vanilla ice cream may be the most perfect dessert in the world. I once made this exact combo for some friends, and they still mention it to this day! While I LOVE lemon cookies, I personally think that something more neutral like butter or almond cookies would bring everything together better. I think I served mine w/ some tuile-style cookies.
I don't ever use exact measurements since strawberries vary so gradually add and adjust balsamic, sugar, and black pepper to taste. How the strawberries are sliced is important. I used to slice them lengthwise, such that I'd get heart-shaped discs. However, I found that quartering them lengthwise into even quadrants looked better and also allowed the berries to retain their shape and texture better while macerating.
In terms of how long to macerate, I always seem to vary that too depending on my cooking itinerary. Seems like I prefer anywhere btwn. 2-4 hrs. before serving. If you are looking for a kick-ass homemade vanilla ice cream recipe, then scroll down to my response on that recent thread wherein I link a Martha Stewart recipe that I've really liked.
STRAWBERRIES BALSAMICO - Serves 6
Serve the berries and syrup with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened mascarpone cheese.
1⁄3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon lemon juice
3 pints strawberries, hulled and cut lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices (strawberries can be quartered)
1⁄4 cup packed light brown sugar or granulated sugar
Ground black pepper
1. Bring the vinegar, granulated sugar, and lemon juice to a simmer in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the syrup is reduced by half (to approximately 3 tablespoons), about 3 minutes. Transfer the vinegar syrup to a small bowl and cool
2. With a spoon, lightly toss the berries and brown sugar in a large bowl. Let stand until the sugar dissolves and the berries exude some juice, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour the balsamic vinegar syrup over the berries, add pepper to taste, and toss to combine. Serve immediately in individual bowls. Garnish with fresh lavender blossoms from the garden.