Alice Medrich’s New Strawberries and Cream (and a quick visit to the bay area)
Hello, everyone. I just returned from a trip to California. I spent a few days visiting my twin sister, Lindsey, in Berkeley and San Francisco, while also getting to spend a nice weekend with some family in Santa Barbara. (You may remember that I take some version of this trip just about every year.) A part of me wishes I would have been the type of blogger that would have updated you with a post mid-trip; but, lo and behold, a greater, more lazy and more wise part of me steers me away from the internet and those nasty little things called computers whenever I’m travelling. So I apologize for the silence around here (sort of, not really).
Anyway, that little trip may have been one of the most memorable vacations of my life so far, but I think I’ll keep most of the personal, cheesy memories and revelations for myself. I do think it’s appropriate if I share some food-related observation though, don’t you? So, I present to you Amy’s Selective and Superficial Notes on Anything Food (and then some) in the Bay Area (along with some photos, most of which have graciously come from Lindsey’s camera):
1. Tartine Bakery. I know this place is celebrated to no end in the food-blog world, but for some reason, I didn’t think it was that memorable. Lindsey and I stumbled across it while exploring (and loving! devouring!) the Mission district of San Francisco. We picked up a lemon cream tart and a pain au chocolate, and both were alright. I swear the key lime pie Lindsey had waiting for me at her house in Berkeley (this recipe!) was better than that lemon tart. Maybe it’s just a personal preference thing, though.
2. This place, also in the Mission district, had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had outside Naples. (Jeez I sound like a spoiled brat on here, don’t I?)
3. I didn’t see any “gluten-free” this, or “dairy-free” that anywhere. I love that. This is an area that seems to be a bit unconcerned with food trends, and they make things the way they like. Which, in case you didn’t know, is unarguably good.
4. Chez Panisse. Good, good food. I do think I over-hyped it though, in my head. After all, even Alice Waters can’t make food non-food. I think that’s her whole point anyway though. Oh well. Moving on.
5. I learned a new word: bourgy (pronounced boo-gshee). As in, bourgeois. As in, “that whole downtown Palo Alto area is so bourgy.” (True story.)
6. Oh yeah, and how do people not get the fear that they might die while on the BART, sailing under the Bay, in the case of an earthquake? Freaky.
7. As good as food is in San Francisco and Berkeley, nothing can beat your grandparent’s house where they never fail to continually replenish the same cookies in the cookie jar (pecan sandie’s and oatmeal cranberry cookies), and they still have the same box of granola in the pantry that you bought them over a year ago. Food tastes better when it’s around people you love. Maybe that’s what I forgot when I entered Chez Panisse with the expectations that I did.
Anyway, I guess this as good a time as ever to move on to tell you about the recipe I wanted to share with you today. I made this just before I left on my trip, when I wanted to end one particularly hot day with some sort of fresh fruit dessert. This one comes from Alice Medrich, and she calls it the “new” strawberries and cream. She infuses cream with mint, and then melts in some white chocolate. This mixture chills, until you’re ready to whip it up into a whipped cream consistency and then spoon dollops of it over the freshest fruit you can get your hands on. What you end up with is a fluffy cream with the sweetness and body of white chocolate, but with the freshness of mint to cut through any heaviness. It’s a perfect summer dessert, hands down. (By the way, this is coming from someone who, at best, doesn’t really like white chocolate, and at worst, is anti-white chocolate. And still, my verdict: perfect.)
If that’s still a little too much effort for you, you can simply chill the mixture, and then spoon it as is, liquidy consistency and all, over the fresh fruit. This is the way Waylon and I enjoyed it this waythe first time I had it. I not only thought there were definite charms in its ease, but that it was just as pleasent (if not a little less aesthetically pleasing).
It is important to note, though, that this dessert is only as good as the berries you’re using are, so make sure you spend the extra money to pick up some good ones when making this. What you’ll end up with fresh fruit who’s flavor and ripeness isn’t bombarded or covered up, but complimented. Really—I’m not just saying that to justify some sort of “bourgy” summer dessert. It’s definitely good. But most of all, don’t forget to share it with people you love on this last stretch of summer nights.
The New Strawberries and Cream
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s A Year in Chocolate
Serves 6 to 8
One bunch fresh mint
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 quart ripe strawberries
To make the mint cream, rinse the mint and blot dry with paper towels. Set aside a few mint leaves for garnish, if you’d like. Chop of the remaining leaves to make roughly 1/4 cup, lightly packed. Combine the chopped mint and cream in a small saucepan and bring to a good simmer. Remove from heat. Cover pot and let the mint steep in the hot cream for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a medium, heat-proof bowl and set a strainer across it. Pour the still-very-warm cream through the strainer, pressing the mint to extract the cream. Discard the mint. Stir the chocolate-cream mixture until all the chocolate has melted and it is completely smooth. Refrigerate at least 3 hours or up to 2 days.
To serve, rinse the strawberries and pat them dry. Hull and cut the berries into halves or quarters, depending on what you like. Divide among the dessert dishes. Beat the chilled white chocolate-cream mixture with an electric mixture until the cream stiffens and holds it shape, like thick whipped cream. This should happen pretty quickly, after only a few minutes. Top each dish of berries with a dollop of the whipped chocolate-cream, and garnish with a sprig of mint, if you’d like.