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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Balsamic Strawberries & Vanilla Bean Sugar

If you're thinking, "Psssht. Those are just strawberries in a bowl. That's not a recipe!" then bear with me for a moment while I describe the taste miracle that is these strawberries. On strawberry shortcake? Over vanilla ice cream?...

This afternoon my mother and I went for a stroll in Vineyard Haven where we fell in love with a bottle of 18-year-old balsamic vinegar. If this balsamic were a person it could vote, smoke, and gamble. Unlike "young" balsamic vinegar, aged balsamic is intensely sweet and incredibly thick. We tasted it at the store and my first thought was, "That tastes like dessert!" So into our dessert it went, and quite successfully! My father raved about them, including saying "Wow-kazow!"

When you macerate (to soften food by soaking in a liquid) strawberries in balsamic vinegar they release their juices which combine with the balsamic to create a rich syrup that just might be the elixir of life. In addition to the balsamic vinegar I also bought a single vanilla bean. What could possibly make these macerated summer strawberries better? Vanilla bean sugar.

Vanilla beans... The smell alone is enough to make me lose my mind. They make vanilla extract look like the ugly redheaded stepchild. I can think of a thousand ways you could use this vanilla sugar... from baking to fruit pies to grilled peaches to morning coffee... and if you can turn on a food processor, you can make this. (One vanilla bean only cost me $2.35)

Vanilla Bean Sugar:
1 whole vanilla bean
2 cups raw sugar

1. Whirl the sugar and whole vanilla bean in the food processor until the vanilla bean is completely broken up and incorporated into the sugar. Store in an airtight container.
2. Periodically open the container and smell your delicious creation.

Balsamic Macerated Strawberries with Vanilla Bean Sugar:
1. Wash and slice 1 pint fresh strawberries.
2. Add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and vanilla bean sugar to taste. Stir and let the berries sit until they begin to release their juices a bit.

* Listen to this: Silvio Rodríguez, "De la ausencia y de ti, Velia"

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