This week's selection for Sunday Slow Bakers was again from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. This recipe was a relief for many in the hot parts of the country-no baking, so no hot oven. This was a very quick and easy recipe to put together-marinate quartered strawberries in Chianti wine and sugar and make a topping of whipped cream, ricotta, and crushed black peppercorns. I had doubts about two things-I'm not crazy about the texture of ricotta, and I thought the peppercorn flavor might be overpowering. I didn't have to worry about either. Maybe it was the brand of ricotta I bought, but it seemed smoother than normal. And Gina says to make sure and crack your peppercorns(you can use the bottom of a small, heavy saute pan)-do not use ground pepper, otherwise the flavor would be way too strong. I wouldn't serve this to people who like basic plain food though-it is different having such a pepper flavor in dessert. When I went to make this, I also realized that I didn't have any Chianti wine on hand. I had an open bottle of a wine that was a mixture of zinfindel, petite syrah, and cab. I knew that it would be heavier, but I thought the peppery flavor of the zin would go well, and I was right. So if you want to make this but don't have Chianti, substitute another red wine.
STRAWBERRIES IN CHIANTI WITH BLACK PEPPER RICOTTA CREAM
(fragole al vino con ricotta e pepe) Makes 6 servings
2 pints ripe, fragrant strawberries(about 1 pound)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Chianti Classico
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked
About 2 hours before serving the dessert, lightly rinse the strawberries if they are sandy and place them in a single layer on a clean dish towel to dry. Remove the hulls, then cut the berries in quarters or in half lengthwise, according to size, and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the berries and toss them to distribute. Pour the Chianti Classico over them. Using a large spoon, gently turn the berries to coat them wtih the wine. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill, giving them a gentle toss every so often.
Place the heavy cream and the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the whisk attachment on medium speed to beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the ricotta and black pepper and briefly beat until the mixture is combined and makes firm peaks.
To serve, place a generous spoonful of the ricotta cream in each of six dessert glasses and spoon some of the berries and their juices alongside and over the top.