Recipe: Strawberries with Vermouth, Vanilla, Orange, and Basil, Served with Ricotta Cream
Impatience is a personality trait of many cooks, don’t you agree? Food—the raw ingredients, the cooking, eating—it’s all a flash in the pan. There’s so much pressure to capture the moment. And there’s seasonal pressure, too. You know what I’m talking about, that gnawing agitation, most profound in early spring. I make trips to my Greenmarket, optimistically snooping around, but seeing nothing but those cute but culinarily unappealing fiddleheads. I then march off, anxious, my face all screwed up, only to stop, in desperation, at my super duper mercato to pick up my stand-in asparagus and strawberries, not accepting that I should wait for the good stuff, the local stuff. So I give in. I don’t play farm girl. I can’t wait. My Klonopin-craving brain buys the pumped up Florida produce and brings it all home. The stuff smells like close to nothing, unblemished nothing. How do I coax flavor out of it? We cooks have our ways.
Strawberries with Vermouth, Vanilla, Orange, and Basil, Served with Ricotta Cream
(Serves 5 or 6)
1½ cups dry vermouth
A drizzle of Cointreau
½ cup sugar, or a bit more if your fruit is less sweet
½ a moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise
2 long strips orange peel
2 pints small strawberries, hulled but left whole (or larger ones,cut in half)
A handful of small basil leaves, left whole (or larger ones ripped in two)
2 cups whole milk ricotta
A drizzle of whole milk
Place the vermouth, sugar, vanilla bean, Cointreau, and orange peel in a saucepan. Add about ¼ cup of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down a touch, and let the mixture bubble, uncovered, until reduced by about half (which should leave about a cup of liquid, maybe a bit less). Let cool completely. When cooled it should have the consistency of a loose syrup.
Put the ricotta and a drizzle of milk in a food processor and pulse a few times until it’s smooth.
When you’re ready to serve, put the strawberries in a serving bowl, add the basil leaves, and pour the syrup over the berries, giving them a gentle stir.
Spoon some ricotta into wine or parfait glasses. Add some strawberries to each, and finish with a big drizzle of their syrup.