I first bumped into balsamic strawberries at a summer food festival in Edmonton half a decade ago. A local restaurant, now sadly departed, was serving up this unlikely combination with a dollop of mascarpone, a trio of flavours that I found curious enough to gamble some overpriced food tickets on. It was well worth the risk.
I expected the combination to be sour, but that wasn’t the overpowering flavour. Instead, it was the sweetness of the berries that stood out, accentuated by the tang of the balsamic. So simple, so good, and so unexpected.
After a bit of digging, I found a basic recipe online at All Recipes that I’ve used as a base, and adapted it for my own taste. Here’s my take.
- Between half a pound and a pound of strawberries, nice and ripe
- 1/4 cup of sugar
- 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
- Vanilla ice cream
- Wash and inspect the strawberries, then remove the tops and slice the berries into halves and quarters, depending on the size of the berry.
- In a bowl, combine the berries with the sugar and the balsamic vinegar. Stir together to coat evenly.
- Let sit for around an hour, stirring occasionally (every 15 minutes or so). The berries will start to turn a bit soft, and they’ll be giving off an amazing aroma.
- Spoon the berries on top of a waiting bowl of vanilla ice cream. Drizzle some of the remaining sugar/vinegar sauce on the berries and ice cream. Not too much. Just a little.
– If you can, don’t use ultra-cheap ($3 per bottle) “balsamic” vinegar. But don’t waste any delicious authentic balsamic on it, either. Something middle-of-the-road is good. (Try for the $15/bottle range. It should last you.)
– Don’t rush it. Something about the sugar and balsamic vinegar brings out the sweetness in the berries. It takes a while for the reaction to happen, so don’t be surprised if it tastes a bit funky at first. It needs the hour to marinate and exchange flavours.
– This is the perfect dessert for dinner parties where you want to dazzle guests with your gourmet prowess, even though your cooking skills may be limited. The effort to wow-factor ratio is very much in the cook’s favour.