Friday, May 2, 2014

A Delightfully Simple Strawberry Dessert with an Unusual Twist

chocolate infused balsamic vinegar
Have you ever tried chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar?

I received a lovely little bottle of this luxuriously unctuous, magnificently complex and mysteriously opaque liquid as a gift, and was immediately seduced by its satiny mouthfeel and marvelously mellow balsamic flavor that lacked any sharp vinegar edginess. The card tied to the neck of the bottle explained that the balsamic vinegar had been aged for at least 25 years, resulting in an almost syrup-like consistency with lusciously layered wood notes reminiscent of a fine, well-aged red wine. The infusion of chocolate provided sumptuously deep, nuanced, dark cocoa notes that harmonized beautifully with the other flavors

The thoughtful and generous friend who gave me this gourmet treat explained that chocolate balsamic vinegar can be used with oil to dress salads or blended with cream cheese for a dip, and the card on the bottle suggesgted drizzling over vanilla ice cream or fresh berries, or using as a marinade for chicken and pork. I bet it would be fantastic drizzled over New York cheesecake, too, and possibly on bread pudding, warm brie or rice pudding as well, and even as a marinade for wild game.

Inspired by the thought of berries and creamier style cheeses, I came up with the following dessert which is deceptively simple in terms of ingredients and preparation, yet remarkable in its layers of intriguingly unexpected yet delightfully complementary flavors. There is no need to measure the ingredients -- use the proportions that look, sound and taste good to you. You could also choose to add one or more of the following ingredients, none of which I've done yet (simply because I haven't had them on hand yet) but each of which I suspect would work quite nicely and add a pleasantly complementary flavor note: A chiffonade of fresh basil or mint leaves; a gentle dusting of very coarse sea salt and coarsely ground peppercorns; a light sprinkling of thinly sliced spring onions (a little bit of the green tops as well as the white bulb).

If you try this dessert or any variations thereof, please leave a comment below to let us know what you did and how it turned out! Click here to buy chocolate balsamic vinegar (it's surprisingly affordable and available through one of our trusted partners).

strawberries with feta & chocolate balsamic vinegar
Fresh ripe strawberries (perhaps 5 or 6 per person)
Crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese
Aged chocolate-infused balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry the strawberries, cut off the green tops and halve lengthwise. I like to leave 1 strawberry per serving untrimmed and uncut to use as a garnish. Arrange several strawberries in each serving bowl, sprinkle with as much cheese as desired, then drizzle as desired with the chocolate balsamic vinegar.

Note: If using any of the following additional ingredients, I recommend adding as follows:
Sprinkle the herb chiffonade after you've drizzled the berries and cheese with the vinegar
Lightly sprinkle the salt & pepper over the berries before topping with cheese and vinegar
Serve the berries and sliced spring onion together before topping with cheese and vinegar

Zestfully yours,
Carolina Sauce Company

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