Monday, April 11, 2011

Outside the Jar: Strawberry Vinaigrette with Balsamic and Black Pepper

Strawberry season is approaching and I'm looking for ways to use the last of my dried and frozen strawberries to make way for this year's berries.  I'm looking forward to the first bowl of slightly sweetened berries topped with a hint of balsamic vinegar and a little freshly ground black pepper.  It occurred to me that those ingredients would make a great vinaigrette and I still had a handful of dried strawberry slices to be used so I set about to play.
 When dried, fruits and vegetables become more intense in flavor and sweetness, and can become a spice themselves.  I started out by soaking about a half a cup of dried strawberries in just enough water to barely cover them and allowed them to sit for a half hour to soften.
Next, using my trusty immersion blender and a jar just slightly bigger than the stick's bottom,
I poured the softened berries and their liquid into the jar and pureed them.  You can do this in the small bowl of a food processor or a blender but I like the control the stick gives me.  The above set-up works great for making about a cup of mayonnaise too.
I measured out a generous 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and 2/3 cup of olive oil.  If you prefer you could use a more neutral flavored oil like canola, safflower, or grapeseed.
I poured this into the jar, inserted the stick all the way to the bottom and hit the power button.  With the stick running, slowly pull the stick to the top of the liquid.  The strawberry puree will emulsify with the vinegar and oil creating a creamy, light mayonnaise-like texture.
 Roughly crush 1/2 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns and stir them into the dressing.
Taste for sweetness.  I think the dried strawberries are plenty sweet as is and add nothing more to it but you may prefer a little more sweetness.  Sugar will dissolve readily but I would prefer honey and that might require an extra whiz with the immersion blender to mix in thoroughly.  If you prefer a more pourable consistency, add a bit of water, stirring after each addition, until you get the liquidity you like.

Pour the finished vinaigrette into one of those pretty salad dressing bottles you saved from the old days when you actually bought salad dressing, label, date, and store in the fridge.  It should have a good two weeks of shelf life under refrigeration.

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