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~ Strawberries with (Fig-Infused) Balsamic Vinegar ~

IMG_4772Don't quote me on this, but strawberries just might be the most popular berry in the world.  I can say with certainty they are the most popular berry in my kitchen, and I don't use them just to make desserts.  I use this versatile fruit in salads, pair them with proteins (mostly chicken and pork), and, even use them to make vinaigrettes, sauces and barbeque sauces.  Here in Pennsylvania, we don't typically see strawberries in our garden, or really good strawberries at really good prices in our grocery stores much before the end of April.  That being said, on Saturday Joe found some really good-looking, great-tasting, California strawberries at Wegmans.  They were just $5.00 for a big, 2-pound box and he bought two boxes.  I served one box with my recipe for ~ Not just any chocolate will do:  Toblerone Fondue ~, on Sunday night. You can find the recipe in Categories 6, 11 & 20, or click on the Related Article link below!

PICT0011Today, I'm using the second box of strawberries to make a very unique Italian dessert treat: strawberries with balsamic vinegar.

If the combination of strawberries and balsamic vinegar sounds odd to you, is is neither odd, nor new. The Romans were growing and eating strawberries as far back as 200 B.C.  About 1400 years later (about 900 years ago), their Italian decendents began producing balsamic vinegar. Freshly-picked, sweet strawberries were drizzled with a few drops of their very best balsamic:  Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena!

IMG_4654Liquid Gold:

If you're not lucky enough to have a gold-labeled bottle of this prized, somewhat hard-to-find, $250-a-bottle balsamic vinegar in your pantry, don't lose any sleep over it. I wouldn't have one either, except it was a Christmas gift from my family and this gives me the perfect forum to show it off!

Instead of using the really expensive stuff straight out of the bottle, all you need to do is reduce a good-quality, moderately priced balsamic vinegar ($18-$25) on the stovetop to concentrate the flavors and make a balsamic glaze.  I like to use fig-infused balsamic for this!

6a0120a8551282970b0153941bd5fd970b-320wiYou'll need to simmer:

3 cups balsamic vinegar, your favorite kind, combined with:

2  tablespoons  dark brown sugar

for about 25-35 minutes, until reduced to a syrup.  This will yield about 2/3 cup and you can keep it stored in your refrigerator indefinitely.  It's wonderful drizzled on grilled meat and vegetables too!

For all of my step-by-step photos, and detailed instructions, check out my recipe for ~ Reducing Balsamic Vinegar:  To Create a Savory Syrup, Sauce or Glaze for Dipping or Drizzling ~ in Categories 8, 15 or 20.  This is one condiment you'll want to keep on hand at all times!

IMG_4751Note:  Everyone prepares and serves this concoction a little differently, but one thing we all agree on is the balsamic-glazed strawberries do not hold up for any length of time, and, for optimum flavor, they should not be refrigerated.  In my opinion, for best results:  don't toss your strawberries with the sugar and syrup any more than 15-20 minutes prior to serving!

Here is how I prepare and present my version:

IMG_47242  pounds trimmed and  1/4"-thick sliced strawberries, about 6 cups (fresh peaches are great too)

2  tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar syrup, prepared as directed above and chilled

a tiny drizzle of balsamic syrup, prepared as directed above and chilled, for garnishing each of 6-12, 1/2-1-cup servings (optional)

IMG_47276-12 fresh mint sprigs, for garnishing each of 6-12, 1/2-1-cup servings (optional)

high-quality vanilla and/or strawberry ice cream or frozen yogurt (optional) (Note:  If you serve the strawberries over ice cream or yogurt, the strawberries will yield 12, 1/2-cup servings.)

6a0120a8551282970b01676709b080970b-320wi~ Step 1.  Slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in a mixing bowl as you work.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently toss them with the granulated sugar, and two teaspoons of the balsamic glaze. Set aside, at room temperature, for 15-20 minutes, stopping to retoss every 5 minutes, to ensure all of the strawberries macerate evenly. At the end of this time, the strawberries will be coated in a nice, light, smooth, amazing-tasting glaze:



Strawberries with (Fig-Infused) Balsamic Vinegar:  Recipe yields 6-12 servings:  six 1-cup servings of strawberries alone, or, twelve, 1/2-cup servings of strawberries served over ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large bowl; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b0163062795a4970d-800wiCook's Note:  My recipe for ~ Quesadillas:  Grilled Guajillo Chile Chicken Thighs w/Vidalia Onions, Black Beans & Queso Fresco ~ can be found in Categories 2, 3, 10, 13, 17 or 20!

My recipe for ~ Sweet Heat, Strawberry & Guajillo Chile Sauce, or:  Summer Strawberries Never Tasted Soooooo Good! ~, can be found in Categories 3, 8, 13, 20 or 22!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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