Strawberries and rhubarb?
Been there. Done that.
How about strawberries and balsamic vinegar? On a warm spring day, it makes for a much lighter and more intriguing dessert than pie or strawberry shortcake. Not just any balsamic vinegar, of course. Preferably one that’s been aged 12 years and brought to you by Demetra Kontoulis, our resident olive oil queen. It just so happens Demetra Kontoulis will be here this Saturday with her elegant glass bottles of olive oil (and jars of tapenade) and balsamic vinegar, too. If you’ve never tried this happy combination, it’s easy.
Here is Mark Bittman’s method, adapted from the New York Times.
Strawberries With Balsamic Vinegar
Yield 4 to 6 servings
Time 15 minutes
Strawberries with balsamic vinegar will not hold for any length of time. You can sugar the berries an hour or two before serving them, but no longer. Sprinkle on the vinegar and pepper, very judiciously, just before serving. Feel free to mix in some blackberries or blueberries for color; their addition is a striking one. The berries, of course, can be served solo, but for an even more elegant presentation, add a few crisp cookies or a slice of pound, sponge or angel food cake.
1 quart strawberries, rinsed, hulled and sliced
1/2 pint blackberries or blueberries, optional
1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste
1 teaspoon high-quality balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh mint leaves for garnish, optional
1. Toss strawberries and other berries, if using, with the 1/4 cup sugar, and let sit for 10 minutes or longer. Do not refrigerate.
2. Sprinkle with the vinegar; toss gently, then taste and add more sugar or vinegar if necessary. Sprinkle with the pepper, toss again, and serve, garnished with the mint, if you like. Spoon into a glass or bowl, and serve next to cookies or a piece of cake.
There will also be plenty of rhubarb at the market this week. Rhubarb doesn’t need berries to be at home in a tart, crumble or pie. It, does, however need sugar and lots of it to balance out its sour and acidic tendencies.Back in 2000 BC, the Chinese used rhubarb (which is actually an herb in the sorrel family) as medicine.But, these days, we appreciate rhubarb for its piercing red flavor.
Here’s what one of my favorite chefs, Jamie Oliver, has to say about rhubarb:
“Rhubarb has an amazing flavour spectrum – one that floats, skips, jumps and crashes right over your tongue, from the front to the sides and back again! It’s incredibly refreshing, so eating rhubarb is a great way to finish your meal. As rhubarb goes so well with sweet, rich flavours, it is a favourite ingredient for British desserts. Sponges, puddings, pastries and tarts all go hand in hand with rhubarb, but its classic friendship is with vanilla custard. A genius combination, whether the two flavours are rippled together in ice cream, or are served simply as a bowl of hot stewed rhubarb and custard.” It only takes five minutes to stew up some rhubarb, adds Oliver, “so it’s a beautiful thing to serve for breakfast, either stirred into cold Greek yogurt, with lovely toasted oats sprinkled over the top, or spooned over the top of pancakes. Stewed rhubarb compote is great alongside meat, in the same way a Chinese plum sauce works with duck.”
Why not pick some up to serve with some Gaia’s Breath or Stone Barns’ pastured meats?
By the way, By the Way Bakery is back for their monthly summer visit this week.
The weather should be lovely. Enjoy the market this weekend….
Pascale Le Draoulec
food writer/ author/ farmers market director