Have you ever had a dessert that is so divinely decadent you felt you needed to confess to someone after eating it? I have, and here is my confession.
We started our engaging meal with a peach Bellini followed by a Northern Italian meal.
Our gracious host Erika preparing the Focaccia – Radicchio Salad with Prosciutto
Baked Vegetables with Crispy Breadcrumbs – Risotto with Truffles
For the Baked Vegetable recipe check on Lana’s blog www.Bibberche.com
As they talked…
I could see myself in a quaint Italian town learning local family recipes, using treasured ingredients from their farmers market.
I could imagine foraging for truffles and learning to cook with them with a noted local chef.
I knew just how much I would appreciate and enjoy the local cheese makers’ secrets. The men above are making the “King of Italian Cheese” Parmigiano Reggiano – I’d want to shoulder my way in to taste, alongside some gorgeous local prosciutto and salami.
My mind was steeped in the idea of far away places with melodic Italian names, when…
Dessert was served.
I secretly wanted everyone in the room to disappear so I could completely savor this ambrosial dessert, along with those seductive images of Italy. It was simply that amazing, so rich it felt like a little trip to Italy all by itself.
Here is the secret to this dessert.
This isn’t really a recipe, it is simply a combination of four simple ingredients – gelato, strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar. What will make it perfect is excellent balsamic vinegar – this is a necessity.
What is Good Balsamic Vinegar?
This condiment’s history goes back to the Middle Ages. Balsamic, which means health giving, is produced on artisan level in the providence of Modena and Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy and is far superior to factory productions.
Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is produced from only one ingredient – the juice from white grapes, which is reduced by simmering for 24-42 hours. It is then allowed to ferment and age in small wood barrels for a minimum of 12 years. The result is a thick, syrupy elixir that, once tasted, may just change your life forever.
To guarantee that your vinegar is the real thing, it must have the phrase Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena on the label. A little bit goes a long way, drizzled over just about everything, from steak to Parmigiano Reggiano or, as is the new rule in my home, gorgeous, ripe strawberries and gelato!
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a commercial grade product that imitates the traditional vinegar. There are no laws in the U.S. regulating this production which means it can be made with wine vinegar, sugar, additives, preservatives or thickeners. This commercial product can be found in most grocery stores – use it with abandon in recipes where it will be cooked, or mixed with other ingredients (such as in a vinaigrette).
Where to Buy Good Balsamic Vinegar:
For the real McCoy, order it online from Manicaretti.com.
If you live in Los Angeles, buy it at Bay Cities Italian Deli or Surfas. If you want a price break, Epicure Imports in North Hollywood is a great find. They are only open to the public 7 times a year. It is a zoo, but the bargains and imported products are worth the lines. Next sale is this weekend, May 10th & 11th, 2013.
- 1 pint ripe strawberries
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 pint vanilla gelato or ice cream
- Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
- Quickly rinse and hull the strawberries, then cut them in half lengthwise.
- Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and toss.
- Cover and allow to rest at room temperature for about an hour.
- To serve, place a scoop of gelato in a bowl, top with strawberries, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.
- Balsamic vinegar was once a medicine dating back to the 11th century. It wasn’t considered a food product for hundreds of years.
- In the 1500s, balsamic vinegar was so highly treasured it became a popular wedding gift in Modena, a tradition that continues today.
I think excellent balsamic vinegar is a great hostess gift or birthday gift for those of us who celebrate in May… hint, hint.
…and then, she paused for thought.
Note: Photos of Italy are courtesy of Vamoos Travel.
All “imaginatings” were inspired by the wonderful food and by Erika & Suzi’s travel stories.