The first time I tried these amazing strawberries, I was about 13 years old. It was at my friend Elena’s house, where Ena, her mother, would prepare them for us as a dessert. At that moment, they were going through a difficult time of mourning and loss of their father after a long debilitating disease. I remember vividly how this family dealt with hardship with such grace, unity and acceptance. At this time in my life, I still had my 4 grandparents and this experience changed my life as I felt how fragile and delicate life can be. Elena is still my friend and I have seen her blossom into a wonderful mother, sister, friend and wife. She always wanted to help other people, and recently started a foundation to help the parents of children with special needs in Puerto Rico called Horizontina. Through this foundation, she helps parents pay for their children’s therapies to become independent human beings. I want to share this recipe with you, which I often keep in the fridge and serve alone or with zabaglione. It is simply refreshing, decadent and delicious with a distinct but pleasurable taste.
FYI, the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is produced from cooked grapes (usually Trebbiano, sugary white grapes harvested as late as possible) that are matured by a long and slow vinegarization process through natural fermentation. This is followed by progressive concentration through aging in a series of casks made of different types of woods without the addition of any other flavorings or spices. The four characteristics of this vinegar are:
Color- dark brown
Density- Fluid and syrup like consistency
Fragrance- complex, sharp and pleasantly acid
Flavor- traditional sweet and sour in perfect proportions
3 pints of fresh strawberries
3 tbsp good quality balsamic vinegar of modena
1 tbsp water
3 tbsp granulated sugar
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1. Trim leaves from the strawberries and quarter them. Place in a mixing bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar, water and sugar and stir to coat strawberries evenly with the mixture.
2. Add fresh ground pepper to taste (optional). Then proceed to let the mixture stand for about an hour at room temperature in order for the sugar to dissolve and the flavors to blend.
3. Refrigerate until ready to serve alone, whipped cream, cake, vanilla ice cream or Zabaglione.