STRAWBERRIES AND CREAM DIPPED IN NORTHERN ITALY
I thought it was about time I blogged a dessert again. Again, using my fridge as the base for my ideas, I opened it
tonight to start dinner and spotted the box of bright red Strawberries from Florida. Next to the box was 3/4 of a tub of
Mascarpone cheese, you know, the Tira Mi Su cheese that I love to add to sauces and pastas.Hey that's right, it's the
rest of the cheese that was in the last blog post I did. Mascarpone is almost 100% thick rich grassy Italian cream, it's
full of flavor and leaves a pleasant dairy taste in the mouth. A little about the cheese without getting boring..it comes
from Northern Italy, although it is consumed throughout the country. Most production is in Lombardia, the capital
is Milano. By the way, it's awesome in risotto too. This cheese that I use comes from the Galbani cheese factory
in Melzo, a municipality of Milano.
Well, just sitting on a pantry shelf was a container of Hazelnuts. I put them all together and came up with this
pretty simple dessert idea, nothing earth shattering about it, but full of fresh flavors. Please...don't ask me why
there is no chocolate in here...first, something you should know about me, Chocolate is good, I like chocolate...I
don't LOVE chocolate. I will always grab the vanilla, or fruit, or buttery nutty flavored sweet before I pick up
chocolate and I think many times it's in places it doesn't need to be in. Unless its a pretzel or Graham Cracker..lol.
I do like chocolate, but, sometimes it's nice to let the other flavor shine through. Here's one of those times you
can. To one container of Mascarpone, approx. 2 cups, add 1 tablespoon of GOOD Vanilla. People, cheap some-
times means what it says, cheap. Imitation vanilla is a chemical creation that "mimics" the taste of real vanilla for
a lot less money. Real vanilla is pretty much a labor intensive process, distilling vanilla pods into the extract we
use to flavor almost every baked good and icing. I beg any of you who have the fake stuff to pour it down the drain
and march into a store and get the real stuff. Your taste buds will thank you. With a thin sharp knife make a slice
down the entire length of a Vanilla pod(bean) and scrape out all of the beans on the inside. Add that to the cheese.
Add a pinch of salt and 2 tsp. of powdered sugar. Mix well. Let this sit in the fridge, covered for about 4 hours
to let the flavor develop. Vanilla Bean is just intoxicating with
it's deep rich exotic flavor. Now crush 1 cup of Roasted Hazelnuts, unsalted till you have a nice blend of very small
pieces mixed with some larger ones. I used my
olivewood Mortar and Pestle because I just love to use it and fell more in control of the final texture, but
certainly and few spins in a food processor will do the same thing. Just pulse it a few times or you will
wind up with Hazelnut butter. In a cast iron pan, get it hot and add the nuts, along with 1/2 tsp. of unsalted
butter, 1 tsp. of granulated sugar, 1/8 tsp. of Kosher Salt and keep shaking the pan or gently stirring with a
wooden spatula. You are toasting the nuts and getting the sugar and salt to coat the nut mixture, but you
cant let them burn..Do this for probably 3-4 minutes, then remove from the flame.
Remove the toasted nuts from the pan and let them cool.
Arrange 2 doz strawberries (with stems very nice...but if not, at least make sure they have their green "caps" on
them. place the Mascarpone in a bowl or in the center of the plate, Place the nuts in a bowl, or nicely arranged on
a large platter. Garnish the creme with some Vanilla beans. There. You are done. Dip those berries' tips into the
cream and then into the nuts...it's awesome. Ok..if you must have chocolate, have a bowl of room temperature
Nutella out too and dip in one, or the other, or both. Please....no double dipping.
Serves about 6.