30 July 2011

Lavender Meringues with White Chocolate and Almonds


Lavender Profusion

One thing that is growing well in my garden this summer is lavender. I have several recommended culinary varieties that I collected last season and this year they have sprung into small bushes filled with blossoms in purple, pink and white. They are pretty and fragrant and attracts the industry of honeybees like a playground attracts children. Between the bunnies the bees and an amazing variety of birds I have an extremely active garden.


I am always looking for new ways to use my culinary lavender. I have used it to make a gorgeous Lemonade, in a marinade for chicken and to craft Lavender Wands. These recipes take advantage of the lavender’s boldness, in color, flavor or fragrance.


A Delicate Balance

This week the profusion of lavender in my garden coincided with my employment of a new rotary egg beater and I turned to the category of desserts in my exploration. Lavender’s beautiful color and delicately scaled blossoms make it naturally appealing for the creation of desserts. When I had a leftover egg white after making Sable Cookies I thought what a beautiful addition lavender flowers would make to the meringue I could whip up with my new egg beater.


In desserts, however, the boldness of lavender can be challenging. I found it difficult to adjust the amount of dried lavender required to get a pleasing hint of color and spice without drowning the flavor in floral tones. The balance is a delicate one and each lavender seems to vary significantly in impact making the amount of dried lavender needed something that changes on a case by case basis. That makes it hard to write into a recipe.



Petal Power

Then I tried something new. Instead of crushing dried lavender to add to the recipe I plucked fresh lavender blossoms (the corolla) from the stem and calyx and stirred only that part into the batter. I didn’t go to a lot of fuss about it but simply plucked the flowers from the stem with that general intention. The lavender petals offer color and a more subtle flavor note than the calyx allowing me to be more casual about the measurement and more confidant about the result.


The outcome was a pretty, fresh and subtly flavored meringue that enfolded almonds and white chocolate in a crisp yet delicate embrace. These small lavender laced cookies add a delightful and intriguing taste of light summer sweetness to an afternoon break with tea or lemonade.



Lavender Meringues with White Chocolate and Almonds
a variation of my mother's recipe for Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 heaping Tablespoon fresh lavender blossoms (petals only)
¼ cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted
¼ - ½ cup white chocolate morsels

Beat together egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually beating until peaks are stiff. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts.

Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 – 25 minutes or until set and beginning to brown slightly.

Note: I made these cookies using my new rotary egg beater. I learned a few things in the process.

The bowl you use with a rotary egg beater is important. As both hands are occupied using the egg beater (One to hold and one to turn the handle) a kitchen helper comes in handy. Second best is a bowl with a no slip base (like this one made by OXO Good Grips) or a combination of regular bowl and no slip mat.

A bowl that is just wide enough to accomodate the beater is best for efficient results.

It can also be helpful to use a lower than normal counter surface if available. The kitchen table is often a good height for such a work surface.

Beating the meringue with my rotary egg beater was not as easy as I had hoped but it was definitely do-able. It's not important though. Feel free to beat your egg whites in any way that is comfortable and familiar for you. They are not really as fussy as you may have heard and they make quick and delicious treats especially when you have leftover egg whites.

Enjoy!

26 July 2011

Mixing By Hand - Rotary Egg Beater


Mixing By Hand

Have you ever used one of these?

I don't see them much these days but I remember them fondly.  My Aunt Hen had one when I was a girl.  I loved helping my aunt in the kitchen and operating this hand-powered tool was something I could safely manage on my own.   It seemed to me it made some labor intensive kitchen tasks both simple and fun.


A mixer of some kind was needed for many of the good things that came from Aunt Hen's kitchen.  When we needed serious whipping, for smooth cake batters, frosting and such she pulled out an ancient hand-held electric mixer.  It was both powerful and heavy. When I was small Aunt Hen was reluctant to let me hold that mixer on my own though I stayed close to help out by licking the batter or frosting from the ejected beaters when the mixing was done.


When less ambitious whipping was called for, or sometimes by my special request,  Aunt Hen would  pull her rotary egg beater from the drawer instead and we would power the whipping by hand,  taking turns turning the nifty gear with the little red handle on the side. Whipping cream could be tackled this way as well as some batters and egg whites.


Old-Fashioned Notions

In my own kitchen I have long used an only somewhat less ancient 1970's harvest gold Hamilton Beach handheld electric mixer. Aunt Hen gave it to me as a wedding gift. While less sturdy than her older model it has held up under the use of many helping hands and an entire bowl of overturned cake batter, dried pieces of which stlll occasionally fall out of it’s interior.



In that era no one thought to give a rotary egg beater as a gift. By the time I moved into my own kitchen I think they must have been considered completely old-fashioned and outdated. For a long time I never saw or heard of one. Instead I had a whisk for light beating and my electric mixer for everything else.

It worked but I couldn't help feeling there was a gap there somewhere. When I wanted to whip a small amount of whipping cream to garnish a dessert for two I would find the task challenging and time-consuming armed with only a whisk but felt the noise and bother of pulling out my old electric hand mixer and beaters to be a little overdone.


Everything Old is New Again

It’s just that niche that a rotary egg beater finally slipped into in my kitchen; one I hardly knew existed but am glad to have filled. Recently, I've seen rotary egg beaters for sale again, both new and vintage models. Charmed by my memories, I ordered one a few months ago. I chose a new model and, while it may not be quite as rugged as the old one I remember, I find that it comes in handy for a number of kitchen jobs and nicely fills that gap between whisk and electric mixer.


I like my new rotary egg beater. I like the bright cheery red of the handle and gear. I like the way it cleans up easy with a quick wash and the way it is hand powered without reminding me that to have the arms of a real old-fashioned cook I need to train a lot harder and probably spend more time at the gym. Most of all, though, I like the way this convenient little tool reminds me of those times spent learning the ins and outs of Aunt Hen’s kitchen. For mixing simple batters, whipping cream or beating egg whites this old-timey gadget is a joy to have on hand.



Old-Timey Whipped Cream Topping

½ cup heavy whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sugar (I like using brown sugar best)
a splash of vanilla, balsamic vinegar, bourbon or liqueur

Combine ingredients in a bowl that is small but deep. Whip until soft peaks form. Continue whipping to desired consistency.

Spoon on top of your favorite dessert.

Enjoy!

20 July 2011

Discovering the Gibassier: The Charm of a French Inspired Pastry


I have mentioned the gibassier several times since I first purchased one from Truly Scrumptious at the Camas Farmer’s Market a year or so ago. When I first discovered this elegant pasty I could scarcely comprehend the name and I could not guess how to spell it. Soon, however, drawn by the subtle taste and texture of these delicacies, I familiarized myself with the name and made an Internet search to learn more about them.



On-line I found a lyrical post that praised Portland’s Pearl Bakery as a haven of the hard-to-find gibassier. It seems that people will go to great lengths to sample, even horde a freezer full of, the gibassier from Pearl Bakery.  Living so close to a famed source of my newfound favorite pastry I had to go and have a taste of this locally available French inspired muse.



On a weekday morning, my husband and I drove to the Pearl District early, ready for a good breakfast before accomplishing a list of errands in the city. The sun was out giving our early summer venture a novel twist. As we arrived the city was waking up and moving to a pre-coffee pulse. Outside there were a few people sitting at sidewalk tables taking in the early morning light. Bicycles were parked by delivery trucks, walkers passed by with their dogs and a unicyclist pedaled circles around the neighborhood.



Inside the cafe space of Pearl Bakery is spare but inviting. The ceilings are rugged and high. A tile floor adds charm and light to balance the sturdy wood bar counters and display space. Calla lilies adorn a window counter beside the newspapers. A rack displaying breads scales up the back wall beside the opening to the large busy bakery workspace beyond.  Up front a regular coffee shop crowd sips from steaming cups while attending to computers, iphones, companions and the occasional newspaper.



At the pastry case, displayed among a host of alluring pastries I saw the gibassier, big and beautiful with obvious chunks of candied citrus peel bulging along the sugar-swept crust. They fit the ambiance of the café: inviting, artisanal and calmly efficient. I ordered the gibassier and a café au lait. My husband chose a cinnamon crown and a latte before I added a chocolate croissant, feeling I needed to taste this standard by which I usually judge my favorite bakeries.



Pastries in hand we chose a table and settled. When our coffees were ready we tore into our pastries. All had a nice texture. The cinnamon crown had a definite but not overbearing snap of cinnamon to balance the sweetness. The chocolate croissant was crisp but buttery with plenty of filling. The gibassier was sturdy but giving with definite bits of candied fruit and anise seeds. It was wonderful and, as I had read, steps beyond the stollen and other fruited European breads we all find in abundance around the holidays. It tasted fresh and substantial, a fruited bread that filled and satisfied with a touch of lightly, even exotically, spiced sweetness.



Kim’s gibassiers are different. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Pearl Bakery. The coffee was faultless. The atmosphere was interesting and satisfying. The cinnamon crown and chocolate croissant were irresistible and the baguette we bought on the way out was perhaps the best I’ve had in Portland. The gibassier was delicious too, and yet, I found that when I thought of wanting a  gibassier  the one I wanted was from Truly Scrumptious. Kim’s gibassier was more delicate. It was softer and finer in texture and went down with a slightly lingering spiced citrus tang that challenged me to contemplate the ingredients, the process and the poetry of the pastry.  That was the gibassier of my dreams.



When I saw Kim at the market I shared my experience and asked her about the difference. She smiled. She offered that she had tweaked her recipe a bit, adding elements of a Scandinavian coffee bread. She also felt the texture of her gibassier benefitted from a slow overnight rising. Then she added that in her experience there was a world of difference between home crafted candied orange peel and the candied fruit she could obtain elsewhere. She assured me she always makes her own.



Whatever the difference, I will continue to buy the gibassier from Truly Scrumptious when they are available. And, when I can, I'll stop by the Pearl Bakery in downtown Portland for a fine cup of coffee, a choice of delightful French inspired pastries and a loaf of artisanal bread. I am the richer for my exploration and thrilled with my discoveries, a home town masterpiece and a new morning destination of choice.

18 July 2011

California Dreaming - Delicious Chicken Bits


Our weather this summer has left me California dreaming.  It seems to me it is always a pleasure to visit my in-laws in California.  Not only are they good company but they live in the midst of a tropical garden filled with a palm tree, flowers and fruit trees. There is a magic stone circle surrounded by flowers they call their front yard and a warm bubbling azure pool in the backyard to lounge in.



It seems to me their weather is always golden but when the air does grow chilly outside, or a shiver threatens while still damp from a dip in the pool,  one can sit near their AGA cooker at the heart of the kitchen and warm themselves at its eternal hearth.



When we have soaked up the sun and taken a break from the many interesting things to do in the area there is still more waiting to delight the senses. It seems we are always being introduced to something new and delicious to eat. On our last visit they shared a delightful new recipe for a sort of Indian inspired jerk chicken that is quick to prepare and perfect for lots of summer occasions...no matter the weather.



Delicious Chicken Bits
from "Quick & Easy Indian Cooking" by Madhur Jaffrey

1¼ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon bright red paprika
¾ teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut chicken breasts into approximately 1 inch pieces.

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the black pepper, turmeric, cayenne, cumin, thyme, garlic powder, paprika and salt. Add the chicken and 1 Tablespoon of the oil mixing to thoroughly coat the chicken pieces with the spice mixture. Set aside for ten minutes or longer.

Heat the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan over high heat. When the oil is hot transfer the chicken to the pan. Stir and fry quiickly until the chicken pieces are lightly browned on the outside. Place the cooked chicken in a baking dish and cover loosely with lightly oiled waxed paper. (This paper should sit inside the dish and directly on top of the chicken pieces).

Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the chicken pieces are cooked through (opaque throughout).

Note: These are good hot, warm or cold. They can be served as an appetizer, as picnic nibbles or as an entree served with rice and a salad or vegetable.

Enjoy!

14 July 2011

Warm Bacon and Herb Cole Slaw


One of the wonderful things about summer is the abundance of fresh herbs.  Those hardy, persistent plants are a delight to the senses, easily (and often independently) adding fragrance and color to even the skimpiest garden.   Many varieties, like chives, rosemary and lavender, provide beautiful edible flowers that can be added to salads or used as a pretty garnish.


Even the woody sections of rosemary and lavender are useful as skewers for shish kebabs and sage, in all its velvet leaved varieties, added to other herb sprigs from the garden makes a beautiful edible kitchen bouquet. While basil is slow to start around here this year, the chives continue to produce, my culinary lavender is in full bloom and the oregano is nearly unstoppable, spreading all along my garden path.


There are a number of ways I enjoy using the abundance of herbs my garden produces. I can make Lavender Wands to preserve the fragrance of the lavender stems that I don't put aside for cooking. Sage leaves make pretty herbal wreaths that can be trimmed from through the winter as needed. When the basil grows tall I will grind it with parsley to make Walnut Pesto that can be frozen for year round use.


Other herbs are nice to dry in small quantities but I find that my use for them over the winter is limited. This week as I trimmed oregano and mint back from the stone path I found myself breathing deeply of the fragrance but discarding large quantities I wish I had better uses for.


For that reason and more I was glad to find this salad recipe in the latest issue of Sunset. It makes a pretty Cole Slaw that includes ½ cup of oregano leaves and offers a twist by dressing it with a warm vinaigrette featuring bacon, similar to that used for Hot German Potato Salad.


As my family, like so many, are huge bacon fans, this salad was a definite hit.  It will no doubt be served at many gatherings this summer.  Whether you believe that the danger of mayonnaise based salads at a picnic is a myth or not, this Warm Bacon Cole Slaw is so good you’ll wonder why you’d want to bother with the mayo anyway.



Warm Bacon and Herb Cole Slaw
from the July 2011 issue of Sunset magazine

1 head cabbage (about 1½ lbs), cored and thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, shredded
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
½ cup fresh oregano leaves
8 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon sugar
½ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, red onion, carrot, parsley and oregano.  Set aside.

In a small skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat until brown and crispy.  With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon pieces to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the bacon drippings in the skillet.

Cook the shallots in the bacon drippings until softened, about 2 minutes.

Add the Dijon mustard, sugar and vinegar to the shallots and stir.  Add the oil, salt and pepper and continue stirring until well combined.

Pour the warm dressing over the cabbage mixture.  Add half of the cooked bacon pieces and toss to combine, coating the vegetables evenly with the dressing.  

Sprinkle the slaw with the remaining bacon pieces.  Garnish with herb sprigs if desired.

Serve and enjoy!

Note - to make this salad ahead: refrigerate the dressing, vegetables and bacon separately up to 24 hours in advance.  Rewarm the dressing and toss with the vegetables just before serving. 

08 July 2011

A Quest for Simplicity: Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs


The Search for Simplicity

For the past few months I have devoted some effort to a quest for simplicity. I have been cleaning out drawers and closets, decluttering and donating. I have tried to remember to ask myself serious question before acquiring anything; questions like...  Do I really need it? How often will I use it? and Where am I going to put it? On the whole I am seeing a positive impact on my domestic landscape.

Perhaps it was time to ease up a little, to open the space I had created to the whims of serendipity. Perhaps I was just weak. Whatever the reason, I was reminded this past week that I remain susceptible to the momentum of a single idea, especially one that involves the kitchen arts. I also remain susceptible to the debris field such an idea can bring along with it.

Good Intentions

It began with the best of intentions. My objective was to declutter the family room. I sat down to look through my monthly collection of magazines, to file anything I wanted for future reference and discard the rest. I was flipping through the pages of Sunset dreaming of summer barbecues and enjoying photos of happy families dining on colorful salads and grilled meat in the warm sunshine when something jumped off the page and caught my eye. There on page 97 was a recipe for Grilled Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs. The grill marks on the neatly cut squares of Angel Food Cake were perfectly seared at an attractive angle while the strawberries were clearly firm but juicy and covered in a sweet sauce. My mouth watered. I have already written about my delight in toasted slices of Angel Food Cake. Grilled strawberries seemed like the next step and a perfect addition.


Small Distractions

It is often the small things, the seemingly innocent distractions that get us in the end.

I hadn't really looked at the recipe too carefully. I completed the task at hand, discarded the unwanted magazines and straightened up the family room. What stayed with me was the image that illustrated the recipe. In the back of mind I held onto this thought, “Grilled Strawberry Kebabs. I have to try that!”

That afternoon I happened to be shopping for replacement cushions for my patio furniture. While my intent was to make a purchase I was still following my guidelines for simplicity. The cushions that came with my furniture were white and after one short season needed to be replaced. Without dwelling on the shortcomings of my decision to buy that set in the first place I was ready to take it in stride and move on. I found just what I was looking for in a bright cheery red. I grabbed two single chair cushions and one longer bench cushion. Arms full I turned toward the register. Then I saw it: a cute little tabletop grill.


Dangerous Associations

Seeing that Mini Fire Pit Grill was like fitting a piece into a nearly finished puzzle. It pulled together colors from the past and brought them into the present with one tangible piece of equipment. Suddenly I remembered an hibachi grill that my husband and I invested in, back in the day. It was small and practical. We would put together shish kebabs or marinate steaks, pack them up with our grill and blanket and set out for wonderful picnics in the park, preludes to summer concerts or free performances of Shakespeare under the stars. That hibachi grill was well-used when it began to fall apart. It is long gone but the memories, well…..

This little grill was adorable and reminded me of good times. Over the years the memory of the functional details of that hibachi had faded allowing this grill to whisper lines from Shakespeare and promises of rekindling the magic of those summers past. I envisioned Strawberries Shortcake Kebabs grilled tableside. I smiled to myself and took the box to checkout along with the cushions.

At home I realized I’d forgotten a few things. Since we now own a fully plumbed gas grill and have no other grilling equipment I found that we had no charcoal briquettes or starter fluid. Another trip out to pick those up and I realized I was unlikely to find enough time to bake the Angel Food Cake I would need. Still I was hopeful.


Anticipation

Back home, I opened the box, took out the pieces of the grill and unfolded the instructions. After some assembly, I set it on the patio and stacked the briquettes to light them. The first batch fizzled from lack of enough starter fluid. The second lit as the unappetizing scent of kerosene wafted through the open windows of the kitchen where the rest of our dinner was cooking.

When the coals were ready I noticed the arrangement of racks on the grill required the food to be nestled very close to the coals for cooking. There were no adjustments. Trusting the wisdom of this arrangement I put the kebabs on to cook and grabbed my camera in hand.

If you know much about grilling you have likely already anticipated the outcome. Before those strawberries began to sizzle the cubes of Angel Food Cake were charred. As I tried to turn the charred side away from the fire, they stuck. There were no grill lines, no toasty brown diagonal stripes, just black. The kebabs began to look more like S'mores Gone Wrong than an inspired version of Strawberry Shortcake.

After scraping the first batch from the grill rack I tried again. I was more careful with the second batch. My husband turned the kebabs frequently, for just two or three minutes. I took a decent photo or two. Still no carefully defined grill marks developed but the overall appearance of the kebabs was edible if not mouthwatering.


Loose Ends

Satisfied, I finished up, plated the kebabs with whipped cream and tried to set the grill aside. It was then I discovered the base was nearly as hot as the top and had no business resting on the tabletop or the back deck or anything else made of wood (or most other materials seasonal merchandise is made from). The base was hot, hot, hot! With cooking gloves my husband moved it to a concrete footing to cool while we ate.

This past weekend, in accord with our renewed quest for simplicity, my husband cleaned up a little in the garage. He made a pile of things that needed to be discarded and took them out to the driveway: a few pots from dead or discarded plants, a broken weedeater and edger, some old folding chairs we don’t use, some statuary and summer yard decorations our family has outgrown and a nearly brand new tabletop grill, along with better than half a bag of charcoal briquettes and starter fluid. Sometimes it is best to just cut your losses and get back to the task at hand.

While the grill is now history the kebabs turned out to taste very good. The strawberries were warm, tender and delicious glazed in my latest favorite sauce: a simple mixture of balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. The cake was toasty and slightly crisped and if you ignored, or even enjoyed, the charred bits around the edge I would call it a successful dessert. In fact I would, probably will, make it again; maybe this week since our local strawberries remain beautiful. I will just change a few things about the cooking process. Next time I’ll simply put them on the gas grill, a little higher above the heat, cover them for a minute or two and watch them carefully. Who knows, maybe then I will even end up with tasty browned grill marks on the cake squares...


Simple Strawberry Shortcake Kebabs

One Angel Food Cake, homemade or store bought
1 quart of strawberries, cleaned and topped
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup whipping cream
wooden skewers

Cut the Angel Food Cake into 1½- to 2-inch cubes with a serrated bread knife.

Thread the cake and strawberries alternately onto the skewers. If the strawberries are large, use two skewers in parallel for each kebab to help stabilize the kebab for turning.

In a small bowl, stir together the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar until the sugar is nearly dissolved. Brush the brown sugar mixture on the strawberries, drizzling a bit over the cake cubes if you like.

Whip the cream with the remaining brown sugar mixture.  Add a little more sugar if desired, to taste.

Place kebabs on preheated grill for approximately 2 minutes per side, turning once. Close the lid, if your grill has one, after turning.

Serve kebabs with the whipped cream (or with cream fraiche) for dipping.

Enjoy!

01 July 2011

Pan-Roasted Balsamic Strawberries

Pan-Roasted Balsamic Strawberries, Strawberry-Shortcake

Berry Days

This past Wednesday was Berry Days at the Camas Farmer's Market. While the beginning of July would often find us at the end of Strawberry Season in this area the sun has been so reluctant to show itself this year that our local berries are ripening weeks behind schedule. That means there was an abundance of local strawberries available this week as well as both golden and red raspberries.


Strawberries have been a favorite of mine as long as I can remember. My grandmother grew rows and rows of strawberries in her garden. Savoring handfuls of ripe berries, fresh-picked and still warm from the sun, was one of summer’s fondest pleasures. Those we didn't eat in the garden Grandma would slice and sprinkle with sugar, releasing their sweet juice to soak into cake or smother ice cream. What we didn't eat right away she froze for a time in mid-winter when sliced strawberries would be an unexpected treat.


The taste of my grandmother's strawberries were far and beyond that of any berries I purchased from the produce section once I moved away from home. For years it seemed that all I could find was boxes of California grown strawberries. Once past my initial amazement at the size I understood the taste and texture left much to be desired. They were all about looks and even those barely penetrated the surface. They lacked the inner beauty and tender sweetness of the strawberries I had known as a girl. I practically gave up on strawberries for many years.


A Short Sweet Season

If there is a perfect place to rediscover strawberries it is the Pacific Northwest. The local berries in Oregon and Washington are as close to my grandma’s berries as you can get: tender and sweet with an intense blush of beautiful color that penetrates to the core. In fact these strawberries may be even better. Oregon strawberries are well known for their slow-ripened sweetness developed over the mild days and cool evenings of the Northwest's spring and early summer. When they are ripe and ready to be picked they are strawberry perfection for a short sweet season.


The strawberries I brought home from the market this week were like that: wonderfully ripe, tender and sweet. Cleaned and sprinkled with just a little sugar they quickly produced a tart-sweet syrup that bathed each tender bite. We ate the first pint just that way.


Keeping It Simple

Plain and simple those strawberries were divine! In recent years, however, I have expanded my strawberry repertoire somewhat providing other ideas for the rest of my strawberries. Still, I prefer not to make things too complicated. I like strawberries fresh and with a minimal of added sweetness but even within those boundaries there is space to discover something new.


This season my discovery involved heat, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar in a very simple variation on Strawberry Shortcake. I served this last Wednesday evening when I had a couple of fresh Gibbasier from Truly Scrumptious at the Camas Farmer's Market. Luckily Kim made them again this week and with strawberries at their peak I did a repeat performance for this Wednesday's supper. Honestly, as easy as it was, summer desserts can scarcely get any better than this!



Pan-Roasted Balsamic Strawberries

1 pint fresh local strawberries
1½ Tablespoon balsamic vinegar (I used Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar from Navidi's)
1½ Tablespoon brown sugar

½ cup whipping cream

Clean berries and cut into thick slices.

Stir together the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar until sugar begins to dissolve.

Place a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, transfer sliced strawberries to the skillet. Drizzle with about half  or a little more of the brown sugar mixture.

Cook and stir the strawberries until they begin to soften, approximately two to three minutes, depending on size and ripeness of the berries.

Place the whipping cream in a small mixing bowl. Stir in the remaining brown sugar mixture. Using an electric mixer, rotary egg beater or whisk, whip the cream until soft peaks form.

Spoon the warm strawberries over slices of toasted Gibassier, or other sweet bread. Top with the balsamic whipped cream.

Serve and enjoy!