I've really come to enjoy this thing called simplicity. Simplicity in life and simplicity in cooking, these are things I can get behind. Things don't need to be difficult, stressful, and/or dramatic. My former self would say this is crazy talk, but my new self is ok with it. When I first started this blog, and well, really, when I first started taking cooking seriously (see, here I go with the serious talk) I would put way too much pressure on myself to always come up with the fanciest, most elaborate recipes - like this. But it turns out that many people, including myself, like simple, easy to prepare dishes. I've started to come around to the idea of a few simple, fresh, good quality ingredients, paying more attention to the preparation and pairing.
I've also been doing this new thing, where I'm actively trying to keep my days simple. Not simple in the way that I sit at home all day and eat bon bons on the couch, but simple and organized, with an easy schedule and achievable lists. My days tend to get difficult and stressful when I don't stick to a schedule, when I create unnecessary tasks, pile my list too high, and feel too overwhelmed to accomplish anything. You know those days when your list of things-to-do seems so big you don't know where to start, so instead you spend the whole day on pinterest, facebook, and/or reddit. Or you spend 5 hours shopping online for bar stools, to later realize that the counter isn't even wide enough for bar stools. Five hours I will never get back.
Some days I wish I could just disable my facebook and twitter accounts, but then how would I find out that if Julia Child were still alive today, she would be 100, or that there is such a thing called chicken liver mousse. Facebook has done this interesting thing, where they have turned my account into a news site. Well, I kind of did that, but they have created a platform where I can stalk people while also catching up on the news. Frankly, it's bittersweet. The more time I spend on pinterest/twitter/facebook, the more awesome, stunning, and spectacular blogs I come across, and more possibilities to waste time. I have somewhat of a blog addiction. My list keeps growing and growing. There are so many darn talented people out there. I'm really going to have to learn how to get this thing under control, or set out a specific time to read bog posts. It's just that twitter keeps recommending people to follow, and then I check them out, and then they are awesome, and in-turn have awesome friends. Geesh, life is hard, there are just too many awesome people out there.
Speaking of awesome and simple, have I got a treat for you. First, I must interrupt myself and let you know that having a good quality balsamic vinegar is a must for this recipe. Unfortunately, this comes with a price. I picked up a small bottle for $40 USD a year or so ago, but on a more positive note, it's been almost a year and I still have half the bottle left. You can really stretch it out far if you don't pour it over everything you eat. You probably won't be able to find a good quality balsamic in the grocery store. If there is a small deli, cheese shop, specialty shop, or some wine shops carry the good stuff. A nice aged balsamic is sweet, thick, carries notes of fig and honey, and can easily be sipped on with a spoon. Brent still prefers the stuff in the store for sandwiches and salad dressing, but personally, since trying the good stuff I can't go back.
The production of balsamic vinegar is quite similar to wine making. A sweet white grape is used, cooked in a large copper cauldron until the water content is reduced by 50%. The 'must' is then transferred to wooden barrels, oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash, acacia, or mulberry being the only approved, and allowed to age for up to 150 years, likely out of my price range. Typically, a good balsamic has aged for 12 years. In Italy, balsamic vinegar is made only in the region of Modena. It is called Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, and has to be aged for at least 12 years to get the approval from the Italian Consortium to be called a true balsamic vinegar. Now that is some serious business. If you are looking to purchase a bottle, here are some things to look for:
- very few ingredients
- consortium label
- specific consortium bottle
- the official name Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena
Once you have found a nice bottle of vinegar, try this recipe, and it will blow you away. A few flavors, fresh strawberries, and some creamy vanilla ice cream. Lets just keep is simple.
BALSAMIC ROASTED STRAWBERRIES WITH VANILLA ICE CREAM RECIPE
serves 5 - 6
1 lb (3 3/4 cups) strawberries, washed, de-stemmed, and halved
1 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar
1 small pint of vanilla ice cream
Preheat the oven to 300 ºF. Place a sheet of parchment paper onto a baking sheet.
In a medium sized bowl, toss the halved strawberries with sugar and balsamic vinegar. It is important to use a good aged balsamic vinegar, sweet and thick.
Pour the strawberries and their accompanying sauce onto the baking sheet. Spear them around with the spatula so that they lay flat on the sheet. Try not to overlap them.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or so, turning the strawberries with a spatula half way. Once the strawberries have finished roasting, they should be soft and juicy, not too dry. Scoop the strawberries into a bowl, with their sauce, and let cool.
Place one scoop of vanilla ice cream into a small bowl. It is not as important to have a high quality ice cream, as the flavors will come from the balsamic sauce. I like to use Tahitian Vanilla Bean by
. Generously scoop the berries onto the ice cream, and drizzle some of the balsamic sauce on top. I like to serve the berries slightly warm. You can store the berries in the fridge for a couple of days, but I doubt they will last that long.