Romantic Desserts: Strawberries
The Advantage of Strawberries
If you're struggling to find the time to make a special meal, working ahead of time is a necessity, and that's where cold, uncooked food is really useful. That's one reason I love to serve strawberries at the end of a meal. They're almost always available in stores and even if you simply clean them, remove the stalks and serve with cream (and a sprinkling of sugar), your dessert will look and taste fantastic.
For a romantic occasion strawberries are ideal because of their romantic red color, but that's not all. Cut them into slices and you'll find that strawberries are heart shaped, so what could be better for a romantic meal?
Strawberries as Finger Foods
There's something romantic about finger foods, and strawberries can easily be used in that way. Feed each other fat, ripe strawberries dipped in chocolate, whipped cream, greek yogurt (with honey) or super soft cream cheese. Fora dinner party you might even serve strawberries as part of a chocolate fondue or try this idea to create a chocolate dipped strawberry bouquet.
A Strawberry Bouquet
Chef Rene Verdon
Book filled with great stories and recipes from the Chef who popularised the modern version of Strawberries Romanoff.
Strawberries Romanoff: Russian Tradition or White House Favorite?
I first tasted Strawberries Romanoff at the famous Claridges Restaurant in London, and have been a fan of the dessert ever since. Like many famous dishes, there are several versions and the origin of the dish is the subject of dispute.
Romanoff is the family name of the Russian Royal family and many believe that the dish was originally created for Tsar Nicholas I. Still others believe it was invented by the so called Prince Michael Romanoff (actual name Harry F. Gerguson, or Hershel Geguzin) of Romanoff's restaurant in Beverly Hills, while some believe the dish was created by Escoffier himself. Escoffier was famous for a number of strawberry desserts, including Strawberries Imperator, created for Kasier Wilhelm and fraises à la Sarah Bernhardt, a dish of strawberries with pineapple and a Curaçao sorbet.
What is certain is that there are several different versions of Strawberries Romanoff, some use Curacao, some Grand Marnier and yet others use Cointreau, but the most famous version of modern times was created by White House Chef René Verdon in 1961 for a lunch in honor of Princess Grace of Monaco.
- 2 cups Strawbrries, Washed, dried, stem removed and sliced.
- Orange liquer, Cointreau or Grand Marnier, but almost anything will do.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Icing (confectioners) sugar, or more if you prefer it sweeter
- 1/4 cup Heavy, whipping cream, or double cream if you can get it
- drops Vanilla essence, Best available
- 2 sprigs Fresh Mint, for garnish
- A handful Crystallized Violets, for garnish
- 1 cup Softened Vanilla Ice Cream
- If the strawberries are large, slice them and place in a bowl with the sugar and liqueur or mixture of liquers. Cover and leave for around 3 hours.
- Thirty minutes before serving take vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and allow to soften in the refrigerator. Chill the serving bowls.
- . When you're ready to serve, whip the cream with the vanilla ice cream. Place the sliced strawberries in chilled bowls, spoon the cream mixture over and top with crystallised violets and mint leaves.
You can use almost any type of liqueur, although the classic recipe requires an orange flavor. Some people enjoy brandy, I've even heard of others using Baileys.
In another variation, you can use brown sugar rather than confectioners sugar, and sour cream rather than whipping cream. If you are really pressed for time, you can simply add brandy to cream and whip it together, sprinkle sugar over the sliced strawberries and serve.
This is a classic recipe, and you really can't go wrong with it!
How to Serve
Romance is one of those things which is often left out of life because there just isn't time and everything else seems more important, but it needn't be that way. With just a little planning you can enjoy romantic meals which are easy to prepare and you can gather the best items for decoration as you go along. It may be paper napkins and plastic glasses this year, but if you plan, you can graduate to crystal and china, assuming you want to.
The ideal dishes for something like Strawberries Romanoff are glass, preferably stemmed dishes or compotes which make the fruit look even more special. If you don't have anything like that, a simple white bowl is ideal, or serve your strawberries in a tall wine glass.
Romantic meals tend to be for two, so if keep an eye out for special dishes when you pass a curio, or thrift shop, you never know what beautiful dishes you might be able to find.
There's something about luxury and romance, they seem to go hand in hand, but one of the most romantic meals I ever had was fish and chips with mayonnaise, when we were both curled up in bed. It's really a question of attitude! It's not the food or drink, the plates, glasses or flowers that make the occasion, it's the people, but the trimmings always help!
Champagne Water Ice
Made with champagne, sugar, water and lemon juice, a water ice or granita is easier to make than ice cream as it does not need to be stirred as it freezes. Like gelato, granita is an italian dish, and like all dishes it varies from place to place. True granita comes from Sicily and is usually chunky rather than smooth like sorbet (which is similar but has added egg white). Coffee granita is very popular, as is granita made with almonds. Smother granita's can be found elsewhere, but for the authentic version don't use an ice cream maker, you want your granita to be rough and chunky.
You can easily make this a day ahead, ready to serve with fresh strawberries.
To serve four people you'll need around
3/4 cup (125) of superfine sugar
1 cup water
Juice of one lemon
1 cup of champagne (or other dry, sparkling wine)
Heat the water and sugar together until the sugar dissolves, then bring it to the boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Let it cool and then add the champagne, then pour the mixture into a freezer container and freeze for one hour. Stir the mixture every hour to break up the ice, it will take about three hours to freeze properly.
Once the champagne granita is frozen you can almost shave it with a knife, onto a bowl of strawberries, or serve it alone, with champagne poured over and garnished with a single strawberry.
The Ideal Accompaniement
Most chef's agree that the ideal partner for strawberries of any kind is champagne, but there is more than one way to serve champagne with a meal. Tall glasses of chilled champagne taste good with almost anything, but champagne also makes a great sorbet or water ice. You can serve it between full flavoured courses as a way to 'cleanse the palate' or you can serve it with strawberries as a salad or as a dessert.
Strawberries in Vinegar
It doesn't sound right, but strawberries soaked in balsamic vinegar and sugar are truly delicious. Here's a recipe your friends may not have tried, and like the others, it really couldn't be easier.
To serve four you'll need
- around two pounds of strawberries, thinly sliced and hulled
- One tablespoon of sugar
- Two teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
- ten basil leaves.
Mix the sugar and vinegar and add the sliced strawberries.
Toss them in the mixture and leave for at least thirty minutes, but don't leave for two long as the strawberries will begin to fall apart. You might like to do this as you sit down to start your meal.
When you are ready to serve, roll the basil leaves together (like a cigar) and cut them in very thing slices to create what chefs call a chiffonade.
Divide the strawberries between bowls and scatter the basil on top. If you like you can add a small amount of fresh or sour cream.