The local strawberries are out in force at the farmer’s market, on the street corners (those little tarts!) and in the produce section. Mine are delivered weekly via my CSA. The strawberries are the first lot out of the bag and always the first to be eaten. And man, they are delicious! I was inspired to do a lil something different by my friend Sherry Page of Culinary Getaways, whose recipe for Balsamic Strawberries with Cracked Black Pepper was too intriguing to pass over.
I had received a bottle of Fig Balsamic Vinegar as a gift and I thought this would make for a good base for the dessert. No crème fraiche in the house, so I just enjoyed the strawberries over ice cream with a nice glass of Vino de Mocha from Kirigin Cellars on the side.
The vinegar smelled sweet and had a slight acidic burn as I breathed it in. The sliced strawberries bathed in the vinegar, releasing their juices and soaking up some of the balsamic, I think that is what is known as macerating. I let them sit on the counter for about 45 minutes . Then I scooped some into the bowl of vanilla ice cream and topped it all off with a good twist of black pepper. I settled down to watch the season finale of “Fallen Skies”, no spoilers here, but the equivalent of light summer reading, you should check it out!
The strawberries were amazing, the acid of the balsamic drew out every drop of sweetness they had to offer. The sugar from the strawberries tempered the vinegar and the black pepper taste quickly dried out in my mouth, leaving me ready for the next bite.
My only problem with the recipe was what to do with the remaining strawberry sweetened balsamic at the bottom of the bowl. It was too delicious to toss –but I didn’t think drinking it was an option. There were a few remaining strawberry slices floating in the brew – what was I to do? I threw it all into a container, stuck it in the fridge and hoped inspiration would strike.
Well, today for lunch – I had a Chicken Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Almonds and Feta Cheese, topped with a glorious dressing that I based upon the leftover Strawberry Balsamic Juice sitting in the fridge. Amazing!
Here’s the recipe for Sherry’s Balsamic Strawberries and below is my recipe for the dressing that it inspired. I have enough dressing left that I am going to baste some jumbo prawns and grill ‘em up.
Strawberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
All measures are approx. depending on how much strawberry balsamic vinegar you have leftover, how much oil and salt you choose to use.
¼ c. Strawberry Balsamic vinegar and any floating strawberry slices (leftover from the Balsamic Strawberries)
2 T. Fig Balsamic Vinegar (or nice smooth aged Balsamic)
2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
A small pinch of kosher salt
A couple of twists of ground pepper
Using a hand blender, whip together any macerated strawberries and strawberry balsamic vinegar until smooth. It will be thick. Thin out with balsamic vinegar and stir in the olive oil. Blend together well. Season with ginger, salt and pepper to taste.
Components of the Salad:
– Well washed organic spinach, rinsed well and patted dry
– Leftover shredded chicken breast
– A couple of fresh strawberries, sliced
– Slivered Almonds, lightly toasted
– Crumbled Feta Cheese
Proportioned to what you have on hand and how many people you are serving. Top with dressing and toss well. Finish off with a bit more cracked pepper and enjoy!