In the Kitchen with Sigona’s featuring Strawberries
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we’re taking more of a dessert approach with strawberries. Below are a few romantic and delicious options for you to enjoy with your Valentine this year.
Coeur a la Crème (Heart of Cream)
If you love cheesecake you have to try this classic French Valentine’s dessert. It’s every bit as good and less than half the work. If you can’t find the molds, just serve a scoop of the cream in a martini glass.
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/3 (one-third) cup sour cream
- 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar, or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- Pinch salt
- 1 basket strawberries, hulled (about 1 pint, 12 large berries)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 (1/3 cup) ceramic coeur a la creme molds** (click here for an example, available at gourmet kitchenware shops or online)
To make coeurs: Beat together cream cheese, sour cream, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt until smooth. Press mixture through a fine sieve or strainer (something like this, for example, available at most kitchenware stores) to remove any fine lumps. Line molds with a single layer of dampened cheesecloth and divide cheese mixture among molds, smoothing tops. Fold overhanging cheesecloth over tops, pressing it lightly. Refrigerate molds in a shallow pan or dish (to catch drips) at least 4 hours. **If you don’t have molds just line a strainer with cheesecloth, set over a bowl and chill for 4 hours or up to 2 days. Then scoop the creamy goodness into a martini glass when serving.
To make sauce: Heat strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice over moderate heat in a
saucepan just until they begin to exude their juices but still maintain their shape. Unmold cheese mixture and carefully peel off cheesecloth. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving. Sauce can be served hot or cold. Spread a few dollops on a plate and place the coeur on top. Drizzle more sauce on top if desired.
Strawberries over Gelato — Sicilian Style!
A good balsamic is already sweet due to the aging process, and our infused balsamics, such as the vanilla bean balsamic, are the perfect combination of sweet & tangy.
- 2 cups strawberries
- 1 ½ tbsp. Sigona’s Fresh Press Vanilla Bean balsamic OR Sigona’s Dark Chocolate Balsamic
- A generous scoop (or two!) of Massimo’s vanilla bean gelato
Directions: Scoop the gelato into two dessert bowls. Slice the strawberries and divide evenly between the two bowls. Just before serving, drizzle them with our outstanding 12-year, barrel-aged vanilla balsamic.
Sliced strawberries drizzled with balsamic is the typical Italian way of serving this dish.
Strawberry & Brie Sweet Crostini with Toasted Almonds
This sweet appetizer, inspired by a California Strawberry Commission recipe, would be fabulous at a spring brunch! If you don’t have Brie on hand, you can always use mascarpone cheese – just don’t put the bread back in the oven to melt the cheese!
- 1 baguette, cut into ½ inch slices
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 12 slices of Brie cheese
- 4 cups strawberries, sliced and stemmed
- 1 cup sliced almonds, toasted*
Directions: Heat oven to 375 F. Spread 1 side of each bread slice with butter; arrange, butter side up, on large baking sheet.
In small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle 1 teaspoon over each slice of bread. Reserve remaining sugar mixture. Toast bread in oven for 5 minutes (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn). Remove from oven. Top each with 1 slice cheese; return to oven. Bake an additional 4 to 6 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove and set bread rounds on a serving platter.
Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine strawberries and remaining sugar mixture; toss lightly.
Scoop a spoonful of the strawberry mixture over each crostini; sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately.
*Cook’s Note: To toast almonds, spread in even layer on baking sheet. Bake in 350°F oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring once or twice for even browning.
Courtesy of Sandra Moon Farley and her cookbook Cooking with Sandy: Ideas about Food & Recipes from Our Family.
Mix up a batch of breakfast biscuits (recipe follows) being a little more generous with the sugar and butter. If the dough is a little sticky, you can make spoon drop biscuits rather than rolled and cut biscuits.
While they’re baking, slice up some fresh strawberries, about ½ basket per person. Add about a tablespoon of brown sugar per basket and stir into the berries. This helps them juice up.
Serve biscuits, berries and sour cream (for dolloping). We usually let folks serve themselves family-style because not everyone wants sour cream. Brown sugar and sour cream are delightfully complimentary.
If you are doing a savory breakfast with eggs and sausage or bacon, make the biscuits less sweet. If intended to be served with fresh berries (like for this shortcake recipe), up the sugar level. Makes 12 biscuits.
- 2 cups flour (all purpose, or part whole wheat)
- ¼ cup butter or shortening at room temperature
- ½ cup sugar (more or less to preference)
- 1 TBL baking powder
- ¾ cup liquid (either milk, soy milk or buttermilk*)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix the dry ingredients and the butter with a pastry cutter or fork. Gradually add the liquid. Some flour absorbs more so you have to judge. The dough should come together.
Turn onto a floured board and fold and press several times. Use a biscuit cutter or glass to make circles. Refold the scraps and keep making biscuits. When you get down to the last little scrap of dough, roll it into a little snake and twist it into a knot it like a pretzel. (The pretzel biscuit was a sought after item with the kids were young.) Place biscuits on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 F for 12-15 minutes or until starting to turn golden.
*Sandra’s note: that if you’re using buttermilk, you’ll need to substitute 1 tsp baking soda for the baking powder because of the acid in the buttermilk.
Sweet Strawberry Sauce
I use this sauce on buckwheat pancakes and crepes. Buckwheat is a whole grain that’s very healthy, gluten free and has a very earthy, healthy taste. It’s great for those who have a gluten allergy. – Carmelo Sigona
Simply clean berries and remove the stems. Put them in a blender with a little organic Agave nectar and blend just enough so as not to puree. I let this mixture set for about 5 minuets to meld all the juices and natural flavor of the berries. Pour the mix over pancakes and enjoy.
I make the same topping for buckwheat crepes, though I mix it up with other fruit toppings from time to time. As for the inside of the crepe, I make a preparation of strawberries, too.
Clean and slice the berries. In a bowl add the strawberries and a little organic Agave nectar as a sweetener to bring out the natural sugars of the berries. The longer you let this mixture sit at room temperature the greater the intensity of the strawberry flavor becomes. Not longer than say 1 1/2 hours.
Add a few spoonfuls of the mixture to a crepe and roll it up. Spoon on a bit of the strawberry sauce and dust with a touch of powder sugar or dollop of whipped cream!