Cooking with the sisterhood: Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Trifle

Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Trifles.TheCubanReuben.comMy mother-in-law, Bette Jo, has been an active member at her synagogue for years,  and some of her closest friends are those she met participating in her temple sisterhood. These are the women whose kids grew up alongside my husband and his brothers, and who jumped at the chance to throw me a fantastic bridal shower when I married Kenny. Several of them made the trek to L.A. to celebrate our nuptials with us, and a couple even acted as official witnesses during our ketubah signing ceremony. Over the years, some of Bette Jo’s sisterhood friends and I have connected via social media, and every time I post a cooking or blog-related post, they are always quick to respond.
Last year, after I posted a photo from one of my cooking classes, Marci and Judi both commented about how they wished they could join the class, but given our current distance at the time, their participation was out of the question. I responded with a promise to hold a cooking class the next time I was in Columbus, whenever that might be. A couple months ago, when Kenny and I settled our plans for a visit to his hometown, I reminded Bette Jo of my promise, and a plan was quickly hatched. Of course, within moments of the official announcement for the class, Marci and Judi sent in their RSVPs (though, as they were the impetus of the whole event, I did give them a heads up that this was in the works).

The Women of Temple Israel working hard to cook a tasty dinner. (Photo by Kenny Stempel)

The Women of Temple Israel working hard to cook a tasty dinner. (Photo by Kenny Stempel)

Bette Jo graciously offered to host the event in her home, and with her help, I relished coming up with a menu that I hoped would include ingredients that might be new to these women. Bette Jo made sure her knives were sharpened, and when I arrived to town, we had a blast going from store to store, procuring all the ingredients on my list. Soon, the night of the event was upon us, and ten Women of Temple Israel joined us for a cooking class and a fun dinner amongst friends.

We chatted as we cooked, sipping on a Summer punch Bette Jo had made (and some of us had spiked), and we quickly navigated through four of our five dishes before we got cozy around the dinner table to feast on the fruits of our labor. By the time dessert rolled around, the ladies were pretty full, but once they knew what we’d be making, we all managed to make room for our Marinated Strawberry Trifles. I could see the skepticism written across a few faces as they saw that we would be marinating our strawberries in a good balsamic, but the dubious looks quickly subsided as we whisked together freshly made whipped cream, Barbi’s favorite ingredient. We assembled our trifles in little decorative mason jars that Bette Jo found for the occasion, and soon, the women oohed and aahed at the tangy and sweet flavor from the unusual pairing. I knew my recipe had earned their stamp of approval when every single trifle-filled mason jar turned up empty at the end of the night. This was good news for the ladies, as they now had a handy take-out container to fill with our leftover pasta dish.

The Women of Temple Israel showing off their desserts. (Photo by Kenny Stempel)

The Women of Temple Israel showing off their desserts. (Photo by Kenny Stempel)

As the night came to an end, and Kenny, Bette Jo and I finished putting away the last of the dishes, I checked my Facebook page, and sure enough, I found comments and “likes” from the women who started it all. I now understand why this group is so important to Bette Jo, and I am thrilled that I was able to share this experience with them. I’m already thinking about what recipes we’ll make next time I’m in town!

Balsamic Marinated Strawberry Trifle
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4-6
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
A tangy twist on a traditional trifle.
Ingredients
For the strawberries:
  • 1 quart fresh strawberries, stemmed and quartered
  • ½ cup of good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp superfine of baker's sugar
For the cream:
  • 3 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup powdered sugar
For the trifle:
  • 12 vanilla meringue cookies
Instructions
  1. In a baking dish, add the strawberries, vinegar and baker's sugar. Stir to combine, and set aside to marinate for 15-20 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl that has been chilled, add the whipping cream, and using a mixer with a wire whisk,
  3. whisk until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and sugar, then continue to whisk
  4. until stiff.
  5. In individual glasses, spoon 2 Tbs. of the whipped cream. Using a different spoon,
  6. add 2 Tbs. of the marinated strawberries to each glass. Crumble in some of the
  7. vanilla meringue. Keep building layers until the glass has reached desired level of
  8. fullness.
  9. Serve immediately, or refrigerate until serving time.

 

Summer Harvest Salad

Summer Harvest Salad

One of the things I miss most about my time spent living in the Midwest is the changing of the seasons. Don’t get my wrong. I understand that living in Southern California, I am certainly spoiled by the weather, but with the two options being hot and hotter, I sometimes reminisce about a cool fall breeze, or a refreshing spring shower (I don’t get too carried away about missing Chicago winters, however).

Fortunately for me, we’ve been experiencing a particularly unusual summer, and have had several days of rain. If I could hand-pick any sort of rain from the sky, it would undoubtedly be a warm summer rain. I can probably count on one hand how many times we’ve had them here in the So.Cal., but I love them just the same. To me, they act as a gentle reminder to appreciate the amazing weather we have every other day of the year. But more importantly, just as April showers bring May flowers, summer rains promise even more than the average colorful and delicious bounty of crops.

My latest venture to the local farmer’s market left me overwhelmed by the season’s harvest of crimson-colored berries, stone fruit in every hue of the rainbow, and the  techni-color array of vegetables available. And after tasting my new favorite herb, the sour-lemon-like sorrel greens at the beloved Saly Cortile Cucina a few weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bundle of such greens for the picking at my favorite stand. Traditionally, sorrel is a spring green, but with Southern California’s climate the way it is, it was a welcome find on this hot summer day. Needless to say, I left the market with my arms full of produce and the wheels in my head turning.

When I got home, I knew exactly what I’d serve alongside my grilled chicken that night. Making quick work of the strawberries and plums, I arranged them atop a generous pile of peppery arugula and the tart sorrel greens. I then whipped up a quick balsamic vinaigrette, and called it a day. Kenny gave me his stamp of approval when he went for seconds of this Summer Harvest Salad a la Jenny, and I made variations for days, only stopping when I ran out of ingredients. I can’t wait to see what else they have for my salad fixings next week!

I’ve included the basic recipe for you, but know that it is very easily adaptable. Want to make this a main dish? Add goat cheese or slivered almonds for some protein. Don’t have plums? How about fresh peaches, instead? Use your imagination, and get inspired by what you find in your garden or local farmer’s market.

 

5.0 from 2 reviews
Summer Harvest Salad
 
Author:
Recipe type: Main, Side
Cuisine: American
Serves: 4
Prep time:
Total time:
 
This light, fresh salad takes the best of Summer's bounty, and combines it into one dish.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups sorrel greens, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup fresh berries (I used strawberries, but blueberries would be nice here, too)
  • 1 cup fresh stone fruit, sliced (I used plums, but apricots or peaches would work)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the arugula with the sorrel greens, and toss to combine.
  2. Add the berries and stone fruit.
  3. In a separate small bowl, make your vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad, and serve.

 

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