Strawberries with Balsamic

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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.

I recently had the privilege of attending a classic Italian lunch at Erika Kerekes of In Erika’s Kitchen. The Italians really know how to eat and Erika really knows how to cook.

We started our engaging meal with a peach Bellini followed by a Northern Italian meal.

in erika's kitchen Our gracious host Erika preparing the Focaccia – Radicchio Salad with Prosciutto

In erika's kitchen risottoBaked Vegetables with Crispy Breadcrumbs – Risotto with Truffles
For the Baked Vegetable recipe check on Lana’s blog www.Bibberche.com 

VamoosTravel girls

Suzie Agelopoulos and Erika Suhr of Vamoos Travel enhanced our dining experience with compelling tales of culinary adventures they offer in Northern Italy.

As they talked…

italy - vamoos travel

I could see myself in a quaint Italian town learning local family recipes, using treasured ingredients from their farmers market.

vamoos travel hunting for truffles

I could imagine foraging for truffles and learning to cook with them with a noted local chef.

vamoos travel - italy

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.

vamoos travel  italy

My mind was steeped in the idea of far away places with melodic Italian names, when…

Dessert was served.

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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.

Today’s Recipe:

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.

Strawberry with Balsamic
 
This easy dessert's simple combination is a gourmet way to enhance the flavor of strawberries. Serves four... or if you are me, one.
Ingredients
  • 1 pint ripe strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 pint vanilla gelato or ice cream
  • Balsamic vinegar for drizzling
Instructions
  1. Quickly rinse and hull the strawberries, then cut them in half lengthwise.
  2. Combine the strawberries and sugar in a bowl and toss.
  3. Cover and allow to rest at room temperature for about an hour.
  4. To serve, place a scoop of gelato in a bowl, top with strawberries, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

Fun Facts:

  • 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. shepaused4thought_line-NEW
Note: Photos of Italy are courtesy of Vamoos Travel.
All “imaginatings” were inspired by the wonderful food and by Erika & Suzi’s travel stories.shepaused4thought_line-NEW

 
 

About Cathy Arkle

Cathy Arkle is a food blogger, culinary explorer, graphic artist, and cooking class junkie. Her inspirations come from her travels across the globe (50 countries) in the last 20+ years partaking in various ethnic cuisines while working as a graphic artist for major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX & ESPN). She has collected a few Emmys in the field of graphic design for sports & entertainment. Cathy is also a graduate of the Pro Chef courses at The New School of Cooking in Culver City, CA

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18 Responses to Strawberries with Balsamic

  1. Christina May 6, 2013 at 1:42 pm #

    Oh, Cathy! I’d love to jump on a plane right now after this post!!! 🙁

  2. Lana May 6, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    I am tagging along, ladies! Beautiful post, Cathy! And the dessert was dreamy:)

    • cathyarkle May 6, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

      You are most welcome Lana. We just need a few more and we have our Italian culinary vacation ready to go!

  3. Teri Ciani May 7, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    Hi! Cathy,
    I make my own ice cream and one that is wicked is the balsamic vanilla ice cream and with your recipe it would be over the top!!!!

    • cathyarkle May 7, 2013 at 10:07 am #

      What a fabulous idea Teri. I haven’t heard of balsamic vanilla ice cream – that sounds too good to be true!

  4. Rona Lewis May 7, 2013 at 1:21 pm #

    I look Italian! Does that count? Let’s go! I use balsamic on salads, steak, to finish leafy, sauteed vegetables AND….try it on goat cheese. YUMMY!

    • cathyarkle May 7, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      Rona I feel Italian, so I think that counts for both of us. I think we need to take our culinary training on the road… what better place than Italy?!

  5. Leslie Macchiarella May 7, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    I have 3 Italian kids, does that count? 🙂 I love this! It looks and sounds heavenly! And I so love your history and tips on the sales of the real deal balsamic! (Plus I secretly want to create my own — after only 12 years in a cask.) 🙂

    • cathyarkle May 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm #

      Yes Leslie, bring them along for the ride! Let me know how the balsamic making goes… if anybody could do it, it would be you!

  6. Lail | With A Spin May 7, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    I love easy desserts. Sounds lip smacking.

    • cathyarkle May 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

      It doesn’t get easier than this dessert. I think you are going to love this one.

  7. atasteofmadess May 8, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

    I have never tried strawberries with balsamic, but I’m seeing it everywhere now, and I can only imagine how good this must be!

    • cathyarkle May 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      I beg you to try balsamic on strawberries, you will not be disappointed!

  8. Cheri Cameron Newell May 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    WOW… You know me with the salty/sweet thing!!! This looks to die for and I will definitely try it!!! Thanks of sharing!!!

    • cathyarkle May 8, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Cheri, I know you will love this one!

  9. The Seaside Baker May 9, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    MMM I love this flavor combination!!!

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