It’s Strawberry Season. Meet Your New Secret Ingredient

Food & Drink

In the south, strawberry season comes early. The first local strawberries that I tasted this year showed up in a small beachside market in mid-March, and this week is prime strawberry season in my neighborhood.

Every time I eat a farm-stand strawberry, I think, “oh, that’s what a strawberry tastes like.”

They are juicy and sweet with a tang, and drip bright red juice when you cut them. They barely resemble the strawberries that I buy in the grocery store. They are more delicate, and because they are picked ripe without any green hue to them, they need to be washed and sliced immediately. They don’t keep in the refrigerator for a week like their less ripe cousins.

There are so many ways to enjoy vine-ripe strawberries, but when they taste this good all by themselves, the simpler the better. Besides eating them whole while I am cleaning them or eating them on my granola in the morning, I give them a quick fruit “marinade” which is usually a splash of Bourbon or Grand Marnier and a sprinkle of sugar. But this year, I am treating them a little different.

I was recently introduced to Gran Deposito Aceto Balsamico Giuseppe Giusti and my new favorite condiment; the “white condiment.” Even though the name sounds a little generic, that is its name when you translate it from Italian to English. It is called “Agrodulce Bianco” in Italy where it is made which means bittersweet white. I call it my secret ingredient!

It’s mistakenly been called “white vinegar,” and some websites sell it as white balsamic, but it is not vinegar. The White Giusti condiment is the sweet juice (a concentrated must) from a delicate pressing of Trebbiano grapes mixed with high-quality white-wine vinegar aged in French oak and wooden ash casks.

“This process keeps all the fruity and floral aromas of the grapes, creating a condiment of contrasting low acidity and the notes of sweet, yellow fruits and dried citrus. Fresh and balanced, it is extremely versatile and easy to use,” according to Guisti.

Italian Chef Michele Casadei Massari of Lucciola restaurant in NYC calls it “buonina,” which in English means,”something that makes everything good.” I interpret that translation to be on the same level as “bourbon makes everything better.” And, everything that I have tried it on, has been better.

When I opened the bottle, I gave it a good sniff and tasted a bit of the liquid on a spoon. Instantly I thought of ripe strawberries. The light floral notes of the white condiment made me think of ripe berries and elderflower.

I decided to see if it could be substituted for the alcohol that I normally use to macerate the berries. Not only does it work beautifully but it is so concentrated that you need only a teaspoon to flavor the berries where I usually use a tablespoon of a spirit. Now that I knew it worked, it was time to build my classic ‘Strawberry and Cream’ dessert.

I sprinkled the white-condiment coated strawberries with light brown sugar and let them sit for a few minutes. As it macerated—similar to marinating—I added a ½ teaspoon of “White Condiment” to some sour cream to thin it out, and mixed it until it was silky and spoonable. [You could also use crème fraiche, Greek yogurt or even whipped cream if you prefer.]

Using two glass bowls, I layered the sour cream and the strawberries with their juice beginning with the cream and ending with the cream. I garnished the bowl with a whole strawberry and a pinch of OSMO Four Roses Toasted Vanilla Bourbon Salt for a bit of contrast.

It was easy to make but had big flavor and is utterly delicious. I will make it as many times as I can during this short strawberry season.

Strawberries and Cream with Agrodulce Bianco and Brown Sugar

Strawberries and Cream is a classic combination. In France, it’s the cultured slightly sour crème fraiche, and in the South, it’s sour cream and light brown sugar for a casual way to serve ripe in-season strawberries. Whipped heavy cream is generally reserved for the fancier Strawberry Shortcake. In this simple recipe, I prefer the contrast of the rich sour cream with the sweet ripe berries, and the addition of the Agrodulce Bianco “white condiment” adds that special finishing touch.

Makes 2 servings

2 cups ripe sliced strawberries

1 ½ teaspoons “White Condiment” a.k.a. Agrodulce Bianco, divided

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1/2 cup sour cream or cream fraiche; whipped Greek yogurt or stiff whipped cream

2 whole strawberries, washed and dried

OSMO Four Roses Toasted Vanilla Bourbon Salt, optional

1. Pour 1 teaspoon of the white on the strawberries and stir to coat the strawberries.

2. Sprinkle with the tablespoon of light brown sugar and mix well. Set aside.

3. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of the “white condiment “ to the sour cream or crème fraiche and mix well until the texture of the cream is very smooth.

4. Using 2 glass dishes, build your dessert by dropping a teaspoon of the cream in the bottom of each glass dish. Add a layer of the marinated strawberries and some of the juice. Add more cream and more strawberries until you run out ending with a dollop of the cream on top.

5. Top with a whole strawberry and if you want to gild the strawberry, sprinkle a small pinch of the OSMO Four Roses bourbon sugar/salt on top .

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