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Vanilla Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta

Let’s talk balsamic vinegar.

And dessert.

Sound like a strange combination? I used to think so, too… but I’ve come to fully embrace the surprisingly scrumptious pairing of the two.

The inspiration for this summery dessert was yet another purchase from the Boston Olive Oil Company.

Vanilla Balsamic Vinegar.

This slightly sweet and intensely aromatic vinegar is definitely a dessert-worthy ingredient. When combined with a bit of sugar, balsamic vinegar breaks down, softens, and flavors whatever berries you choose to pair it with.

My berry of choice was obviously strawberries, but the macerating method would work beautifully with raspberries and/or blueberries as well.

You could even separately macerate red berries & blueberries to layer with the white ricotta for a patriotic 4th of July dessert!

Now, on to the other component of this beautiful layered dish: ricotta cheese. Ricotta has an underlying natural sweetness, rendering added sugar unnecessary.

See those vanilla bean specks? No need to buy a ludicrously expensive vanilla bean – vanilla bean paste will do the trick. The vanilla ricotta tastes like partially melted (albeit somewhat grainy) french vanilla ice cream, I kid you not.

And when you pair together that rich & creamy ricotta and those juicy & sweet vanilla balsamic strawberries, something pretty fantastic happens.

This dessert came out even better than I could have hoped!

The acidic balsamic vinegar is the perfect compliment to the sweet berries, and the vanilla-specked ricotta cheese pulls it all together.

I know that some parfaits and trifles can be made in advance and chilled in the fridge until serving, but I would caution you against doing so in this particular case. If the assembled dessert sits for too long, the vinegar will seep into the cheese, and you’ll end up with brownish ricotta – not pretty. I also prefer the strawberries at room temperature to when they’re cold; I think their flavor is more pronounced.

Have I successfully convinced you to use balsamic vinegar in your desserts yet?

I certainly hope so.

Enjoy the remainder of the holiday weekend! John and I are taking the transcontinental journey out to California for a mini vacation followed by his company’s three-day conference, but I’ve already planned a couple of recipes to post. If I get some good shots of the west coast, I’ll be sure to share them with you!

Vanilla Balsamic Strawberries with Ricotta

Printer-Friendly Recipe

yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hulled & roughly chopped strawberries, preferably organic
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla balsamic vinegar, available at Boston Olive Oil Company, alternately, you can use 1 Tbsp regular balsamic vinegar + 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp evaporated cane juice or other non-refined granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla bean paste

Directions:

  1. Gently toss the chopped strawberries with the vanilla balsamic vinegar and the evaporated cane juice. Let sit and macerate at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, stir together the ricotta and vanilla bean paste.
  3. Layer the macerated strawberries and vanilla ricotta into glasses.
  4. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

182.5 calories, 6.7 grams total fat, 3.8 grams saturated fat, 22.6 grams total carbohydrate, 3.8 grams fiber, 16 grams sugars, 9.7 grams protein

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