Friday, April 12, 2013

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar

It's strawberry season in Southern California.  We're so lucky to have delicious local strawberries available for much of the year, but these are the first in our CSA box for 2013.  You may want to enjoy these berries completely unadulterated.  But if you'd like to dress them up just a little Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar is a simply wonderful way to do it.

I must admit I was a skeptic about putting strong flavors such as vinegar and pepper on sweet little strawberries, so I was truly surprised at how inspired this combination of flavors turned out to be.  It's really not a surprise, though, when you think about it, since balsamic vinegar is made from grape juice reduced and aged to a thick and sweet syrup.  The pepper perks things up, but finely chopped fresh mint or basil can be equally perky substitutes if you're not fond of pepper.

Use the best, thickest, most syrup-y balsamic you have.  It makes a big difference in this recipe.  You only need 1 teaspoon per serving.  I like to use agave syrup in this recipe.  Granulated sugar may not dissolve well giving the dish a slightly gritty texture.  If you don't have (or don't like) agave syrup, use simple syrup instead.

It's easy to make simple syrup.  Just bring 1 C water and 1 C granulated sugar to a boil stirring occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.  Then cool completely and store in a glass jar in the fridge.  It keeps for weeks.

For 2 servings:

1 C washed, hulled, and very coarsely chopped strawberries*
2 t aged balsamic vinegar
2 t agave syrup or simple syrup
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.  Put the chopped strawberries in a bowl.

2.  Drizzle the balsamic and agave or simple syrup over the berries.

3.  Stir gently to coat.

4.  Let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.

5.  Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper to taste and stir gently.

6.  Serve or refrigerate and serve within 3 hours.

This recipe can be easily doubled or triple.

*Very small strawberries can be left whole, and small strawberries can be halved.  Larger berries are best quartered or coarsely chopped.

Today's bounty included:

From Jimenez Family Farm:  Spinach, kale, wild arugula, red or green butter lettuce, dandelion greens, beets, strawberries, and mache;

From Country Line Harvest:  Baby fennel, white Tokyo turnips, red radishes, carrots, and spring onions;

From Rancho Santa Cecilia:  Navel oranges;

From Weiser Family Farm:  Parsnips and Russian banana baker potatoes;

From Silver Lake Farms: Chives, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, or French sorrel.