Strawberry Time

Balsamic Strawberries with Mascarpone Whipped Cream

 

1 Quart Farm Stand strawberries, washed, hulled and cut lengthwise into two or three sections (see instructions below)

1 tablespoon superfine sugar

 

For syrup:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon lemon juice

Pinch cayenne

Pinch salt

 

For Mascarpone whipped cream:

½ cup Mascarpone cheese (available at almost any grocery store now, or your local Italian market), SOFTENED

1 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

 

For assembly: ½ cup crushed amaretti cookies (available at your local Italian market)

 

 

Let the strawberries drain after washing.  Dry gently, hull and cut lengthwise into two or three sections. Set aside in a medium sized bowl and sprinkle with the 1 tablespoon of superfine sugar. There should be about 2-3 cups of berries (give or take).

 

Place the brown sugar, the balsamic, the lemon juice and the cayenne into a sauce pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until it reaches a very syrupy consistency, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly, 1-2 minutes.  Pour over berries scraping the syrup off of the pan with a rubber spatula. Stir the berries gently to distribute syrup, add the pinch of salt, stir and place in the refrigerator to chill.

 

While the strawberries chill, place the softened mascarpone cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth.  Add the sugar, and beat for 1-2 more minutes. Add the cream and the vanilla and beat until still peaks form.  Do not over beat. 

 

Assembly:

 

Divide the cream amongst 4 martini glasses.  Place the strawberries on top of each cream filled glass, and sprinkle with the crushed amaretti cookies. Finally, divide the syrup amongst the four glasses by pouring it over the strawberries and around the rim of the cream.  Serves 4.

 

TIP: Ensure that the mascarpone is softened so as to avoid lumps when mixed with the cream. Leave it out for a few hours on the counter to soften.

 

TIP: Amaretti and mascarpone are available at almost any grocery store with a gourmet section.  However, they are always available at your local Italian market.

 

TIP: The cayenne pepper imparts a warm feeling after you’ve eaten the berry and the pinch of salt helps to intensify that berry flavor. Although it seems counter intuitive, the salt is necessary but only a pinch.

 

TIP: I love cold berries, but be aware that the longer the berries sit in the refrigerator, the more juice will form.  Try to assemble as close to serving to avoid this. If there is an overabundance of syrup in the bottom of the pan, use your judgment and just spoon one tablespoon or so of juice over the cream filled glasses. 

Cream puff recipe

I did not include the recipe for cream puffs below.  Here it is!  Just make sure to overbake them until the form is baked fully and there is no chance for collapse.  These shells offer endless opportunities in a sweet or savory preparation.  When I finally get my hands on the in-season berries, perhaps as early as this weekend, I am going to fill these puffs with mascarpone mousse and balsamic glazed strawberries! I’ll make sure and include a photo!

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

3/4 cup water

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup all purpose flour

3 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 400F. 

Combine water, butter and salt in a medium sized saucepan over high heat.  Stir until butter is melted and reduce heat to medium.  Add flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture pulls away from the side of the pan and forms a ball (about 1 minute).  Transfer mixture to the bowl of a food processor and let cool slightly.  Add eggs one at a time through the feed tube while the processor is running (run the machine for about 20 seconds after each addition). Add vanilla and beat for 5 seconds or so.  Turn off machine.

With a small ice cream scoop, scoop 18-20 mounds of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush each cream puff with egg wash and bake about 30 minutes until completely puffed out and hardened and golden brown.

To form the cream puff sundaes below split each cream puff in half, fill with pure vanilla ice cream and drizzle warmed sauce over top.

Puffs can be kept in a zip lock bag which will result in a softening of the cream puff but no collapse. To crisp them before filling them, place in a 350F oven (preheated) for about 5 minutes. 

Patty shoe

Pate a choux is, I would say, the most versatile of the French patisserie line up–and the easiest.  Shaped into eclairs or cream puffs, sweet or savory, this simplest of doughs can be stirred together in the time that the oven barely has a chance to preheat.  Split open and filled with pure vanilla ice cream, then decadently drizzled with any sweet sauce, these now Profiteroles are the perfect ending to any dinner party.  Small and “just enough.”  The key to preventing collapse of any cream puff is to actually overbake them.  The high concentration of eggs in the batter will form the distinctive puff and you’ll be tempted to take them out of the oven when lightly browned.  But, continue to bake them until they produce a distinctive thump when tapped gently with a fingertip. The hard crunchy exterior will prevent collapse and when split open, they will still retain their shape. Enjoy!   

And it works with beef too!

My partner Randall refuses to eat lamb.  So…wanting to please his taste buds too, I substituted 3 pounds of beef short ribs in the recipe (the extra pound was to compensate for the bones in the ribs), and proceeded as usual. The meat, as you can imagine it would after 2.5 hours of stewing, shredded so very easily. Folded into the penne pasta it coated each piece with the perfect amount of condiment (as Lydia Bastianich would say) and contained in each bite a little morsel of soft meat.  Ground beef simply does not taste like this and I would urge you not to prepare this with ground beef.  Although the meat “taste” will be there, you’ll be missing out on the shredded jewels studding each bite.  Delicious.