Jul 132014

Balsamic Strawberries + Lambrusco

Here’s a sweet ending for a summer dinner — gorgeously sweet, ripe strawberries, macerated in a bit of balsamic vinegar and served over vanilla ice cream.

This is one of those moments when there is only a handful of ingredients, so quality is everything. Using seasonal, organic strawberries, aged balsamic, the best vanilla ice cream you can find — makes all the difference.

If mixing strawberries and balsamic vinegar seems odd to you, I understand. But you have to taste this. Really good, aged balsamic has a syrupy texture — rich and deep and unbelievably intense. It somehow makes the strawberries taste strawberry-ier and look redder and smell… amazing. They are delicious on their own, or you could serve them with a strawberry sorbet, or simply a shortbread cookie. Or, as here, with vanilla ice cream.

I chose the Ndali Estate vanilla bean ice cream from Jeni’s Ice Cream. Flecked with vanilla bean, it is really lovely. Aromatic, light, a little floral, clean, nothing that tastes artificial or cloying. Definitely a winner.

Recipe: Balsamic Strawberries

2 pints ripe strawberries
2 tablespoons best quality, aged balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Wash and dry the strawberries. (Drying is important — you don’t want to water down the balsamic intensity!) Hull and core the berries and cut each one in half. Toss them in a large bowl with the balsamic and sugar. Cover and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours before serving. Spoon some of the balsamic liquid over each serving.

Pairing: Lambrusco

This classic sparkling red from central Italy is a frothy, fruity, fresh, easy-drinking wine that actually covers a wide range of styles and quality levels. If you tour the Lambrusco-producing regions in Italy, you’ll be amazed at the diversity and complexity that these wines can offer. But typically what you find exported to the U.S. is on the sweet side, fresh and tasty if not terribly complex, and an easy match for this type of dessert. This bottling from Mionetto is just sweet enough for this dessert. The flavors are complimentary, and it works as a sort of palate-refresher for the ice cream.

Mionetto NV Lambrusco Emilia Il ($14). Aromatic red berry flavors are fresh and forward, with currant jelly and light spice notes, a smooth frothiness, and a nice balance between acidity and sweetness. Find it!

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