May 5, 2005

know you're there, but don't know who you are

When I first came to know of dessert using strawberry with vinegar years ago, I was stunned. Horrified. Petrified. Strawberry in vinegar, no way, I thought. The dessert I saw in a magazine was ice-cream with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar, and at that time I had never tasted balsamic vinegar, which wasn't common at all in Japan back in the day. It said balsamic vinegar isn't same as more "regular" vinegars we'd use, like rice or even apple vinegar but more fragrant and mellow kind. I couldn't help but wishing to try one, which I subsequently did.

Years after, I became a regular user of balsamic vinegar, mostly for cooking but sometimes in dessert as well. The easiest one was of course strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar, but sometimes I'd boil down the vinegar and pour over ice-cream, a lot of times cherry or strawberry one. Balsamic vinegar is acid because it's vinegar after all, but when combined with fruits it seems to make a background flavor that enhances natural sweetness of the fruits.

I hadn't had any of such dessert for a while until recently when I had a pastry roll with freeze-dried strawberries, filled with custard flavored with balsamic vinegar. The bread was just okay, but it was good enough to make me feel like whipping up some dessert using the pair on my own.

And I brought myself to try and make strawberry mousse with balsamic vinegar. I wanted something very easy to make, and settled down with a recipe like this (in Japanese), one using strawberries, sugar and cream as the core ingredients, but not eggs.

At first I planned to make regular strawberry mousse and serve it with balsamic-marinated berries, but this recipe changed my mind; I decided to add the vinegar to the mousse, too, by marinating the berries before pureeing them.

Very dark, almost sepia-like balsamic vinegar turned the vivid red of strawberry into very dull brownish red, and for a moment I was worried that my mousse would look shabby. When added to the mousse base, to my surprise, the pureed berries tinted the mousse with pretty pink - not a happy bright pink but more subtle, nuanced pink. I liked it.

The mousse was extremely mellow and didn't quite taste of balsamic vinegar. You can tell there's something added to it, but might not figure it out. I served the mousse with diced strawberries tossed with balsamic vinegar on top, which added a more obvious balsamic flavor to the mousse and gave it a kick. I liked the mousse as it was, but I loved it with fresh berries and the little extra balsamic taste.


Anonymous said...

I've never tried vinegar in strawberries, but I think vinegar as a whole is definitely underrated. As a Canadian kid who sprinkled vinegar all over his french fries on a regular basis, I was shocked when I asked for vinegar in an American McDonald's and was met with the question:"Why do you want vinegar?" I guess they don't put vinegar on fries in America?

Vinegar is great on everything. But strawberries? Wow. I share your former skepticism, but I trust your taste, Chika-sama...


Posted by Scott

Anonymous said...

Hi Chika,

I've never had strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar before, but I can imagine how it would mellow the slightly sweet-tart flavor of the strawberries. It sounds nice, and maybe I'll try it.

BTW...the mousse looks good. =) 

Posted by Reid

Anonymous said...

Your thinking before you tried the combination of strawberries with balsamic vinegar is what I thinking at this time. Now I'll have to try it out of curiosity. Thanks for the enlightenment, I hope :^) 

Posted by lance

Anonymous said...

amazing as ever
may i know what camera you use ?
your photos are so lovely 

Posted by cheryleong

Anonymous said...

I've only had balsamic vinegrette before and I can't picture that with dessert. Maybe I need to try the real thing before I judge. The mousse looks delectable nonetheless. 

Posted by Tea

Anonymous said...

Your food photos are absolutely stunning. And your strawberries sound delicious. 

Posted by Lyn

Anonymous said...

You take great pictures! What camera do you use?

Thanks for sharing the eye candy. ;-) 

Posted by Catherine