About this time every year, I start daydreaming. There’s something about springtime that makes me yearn for new ideas. How can I work peas, artichokes, spinach, and strawberries into my everyday meals in new and exciting ways! This generally means I also reminisce about flavors I’ve discovered through travel.
I can still smell the fragrance those macerated orange basil and mint strawberries gave off. We were traveling in Rome. It was the very end of spring, and we kept seeing strawberries on every menu. One of the things I most admire about Italians is that they are purists in their approach to cuisine. I adore the way they elevate everyday produce in the most simple ways.
Imagine an American restaurant featuring macerated strawberries–by themselves–on their dessert menu. I’m talking no whipped cream, no ice cream! Our Italian waiter insisted we try them. He couldn’t leave it up to us to make a bad choice. This light and refreshing dessert was in our future. Out came a small bowl of sliced strawberries swimming in a simple syrup decorated by curled orange peels speckled with bits of mint and hints of fresh basil. With our spoons, we tried to slowly savor every last bite.
I’ve never been able to replicate that exact experience, but I’ll promise you this interpretation is as close as you can come to a starlit night under Italian stars, sharing a meal with someone you love. I hope you’ll enjoy them as is, with yogurt, and whatever other way you find to be exciting and fresh this spring!
- Strawberries (fresh), 16 oz container
- Orange, 1
- Basil (fresh), 1 small bunch
- Mint, 1 small bunch
- Sugar (organic turbinado), 1/2 cup
- Water, 1/2 cup
- Yogurt (plain full fat organic), 2 cups
- Take 5 minutes to get out all your ingredients, measuring and cooking equipment needed, and place them on a cookie sheet within easy reach.
- Cut off 2-3 big pieces of the orange peel by using a sharp pairing knife and running it closely along the orange’s skin. This will be used in the simple syrup.
- With the remaining skin of the orange, zest it and place zest into a bowl. Juice the orange and add it to the bowl. Set aside.
- Make the simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together at a simmer until the sugar melts. Add the orange peels to add flavor. Let cool before using.
- Wash strawberries, remove green tops, and cut into any shape you like (slice, quarters, etc.).
- Wash herbs and dry with a paper towel. To cut into thin ribbons, stack the leaves on top of each other, roll up like a cigar, and cut across the roll in thin strips.
- Combine cut strawberries, simple syrup, orange juice and herbs in a bowl. You can use immediately or let sit 30 minutes to an hour before serving.
- We love to serve these over yogurt. They are also delicious over ice cream, with a rich chocolate dessert, or in your morning oatmeal!