That’s right, I used all caps! But isn’t that how all of you feel in the markets now, eyeballing these expensive little baskets of berries after a rainy and cold spring that was a bit too long on beets? Here in the D.C. area I have seen at least two varieties: a small wonderfully-sweet one that tastes so much of Los Angeles that I can see the mountains from Olympic Blvd. when I bite into them, and larger ones that are less flavorful but none the less very welcome in my kitchen.
So buy the best strawberries you can find, and the rest of everything else when you whip up AppleAnnie’s Fresh Strawberries in a Pink Cloud as soon as you can. Yes indeed, this is one of those recipes that is more about shopping than cooking, but conceptually it is so brilliant that I could think of three instant occasions for making it.
The neighbor stops by looking for a little chow and you want to show off, but sort of in a subtle way, as in “this old thing?” Pffff!
You look out the car window and see someone who looks suspiciously like your 7 year-old child walking door to door along your very street selling her “artwork.” You need a lure to bring her home.
You feel strawberries and cream is a cliché and want to elevate it for a party.
There is very little prep here, other than to macerate those berries for as long as you have time. While that’s going on, put together your cloud just as AppleAnnie instructs, using the best cheeses you can find. In my case, that was The Blue Ridge Dairy Company, a Virginia maker of yogurt and cheeses sold at the Dupont Farmer’s market and Whole Foods in the wilds of Tenleytown. A local food52er introduced me and I am loving it. Even better, if you have, say, three cups of shallots that need to be sliced up for a dinner recipe, ask your friend/neighbor/house guest to do it for you while you prepare this dessert. Flatter them by saying they have superior knife skills you've long admired.
Oh and by the way, how did I not find AppleAnnie’s recipes earlier than this week? She is a baker and librarian! Don’t you want to go to her house, whip up a pound cake and talk to her about everything that was wrong with Freedom?
So anyway, as you can see, this whole dessert sort of makes itself while you eat dinner. You can double it or increase it by any size really, almost totally by eye. If you run low on mascarpone you will be none the worse for it. Don’t skip the part where you add the juice because it does make the cloud a lovely color of pink. Further, as the 4 year-old formerly in my immediate vicinity would attest, this is a divine breakfast, too.
1/2 teaspoon grated Meyer lemon or regular lemon zest
Heat honey, raw sugar, and water in microwaveable bowl for about 30 seconds, to soften honey and dissolve sugar.
Stir in balsamic and lemon juice until well blended.
Let cool a minute and pour the syrup over the strawberries.
Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, until the strawberries have released ¼-1/2 cups of juice
In a food processor blend ¼-1/3 cup of the strawberry juice with the mascarpone cheese.
Add the ricotta and vanilla to the mascarpone, and blend just until mixed. Add a little more strawberry juice to get a nice pink tint.
For each serving, put 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the ricotta mixture in a small dessert bowl, and then spoon an equal amount of sliced strawberries on top.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).