Years ago, you couldn’t get strawberries any old time of year. You’d have to wait for the right season, starting around April, when you’d go to your local market and get a basketful of small red fruit that gave off a mesmerizing perfume as sweet as cotton candy. The berries were soft and juicy and half the time I’d eat half a boxful before we even got home, so it was usually the case that my Mom would have to buy much more if she wanted to use them for dessert.
Fresh, new season strawberries were a big thing for Passover. Served with macaroons or spongecake. Nothing else was needed. No ice cream, whipped cream, sauce. Nothing.
But strawberries aren’t like they used to be. I hate those enormous things you see in the stores today. They look as if they came from some giant planet in outer space and taste like they were shipped to earth after several light years. Dry and tasteless.
And why they have to grow them so gigantic I know not why.
If you can find yourself some local, small berries, do yourself a favor and buy some. Let the aroma draw you near. That’s the way you can tell a good strawberry.
But if you can’t, look for smaller berries that are all red, dark red, and have a sweet, floral fragrance. Maybe they aren’t as perfect for eating out of hand.
But — if you add a hint of freshly ground black pepper, a bit of refreshing grated orange rind and a lush, thick, rich zabaglione, you’ll have a really swell dessert for your Seder dinner.
Or anytime really.
Peppered Strawberries with Orange-Scented Zabaglione
4-6 cups fresh strawberries
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh orange rind
1/2 cup sweet white Passover wine
Fresh mint leaves as garnish
Rinse the berries, remove the hull and cut into chunks into a bowl. Add the 2 tablespoons sugar, orange juice and pepper. Toss gently and let macerate while you prepare the zabaglione. Place the egg yolks, 2/3 cup sugar and the orange rind in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water. Beat with a handheld mixer at medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture has thickened slightly and is pale in color. While continuing to beat constantly, gradually going from medium to high speed, gradually add the wine. Beat for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is thick and fluffy. Place the berries in individual serving dishes. Pour equal amounts of the zabaglione over the berries. Mix gently. Garnish each with a mint leaf. Makes 8 servings.
NOTE: You can use the zabaglione warm from the pan, let it cool to room temperature or serve it chilled. To chill, place the bowl of zabaglione in a larger bowl filled with ice and stir until the sauce is cold. It will hold for up to one hour.