You know what’s the bestest thing about spring?
Fresh, local strawberries will be here soon. I love the berries that our Ohio Valley farmers grow. They’re the perfect size — not frankenstein gargantuan like you find at the grocery — and you slice them open and they’re blood red inside (not white), and so juicy that you’re immediately regretful that you didn’t change out of your white shirt before going at the entire quart with a knife.
Spring is the only time of year when strawberries are so nomlicious that they sell out at the farmers’ market within the first half hour. Standing in line, gripped in a fever of berry greed, you buy waaahaay more than you need, and so the next few days become a panic of creative cookery, plotting to use up every last morsel before they collapse on their sugary selves.
My annual rite of spring dessert is the ubiquitous strawberry shortcake. As a topping, I macerate extra sliced strawberries in an elixir of balsamic vinegar, vanilla, and sugar, and spoon the whole concoction over the best vanilla bean ice cream I can find, which sits on top of homemade shortcakes kissed with orange zest.
That’s on the menu this spring, fo’ shizz, but the strawberry-balsamic combo is so amazing that it shouldn’t be reserved for that single purpose. And so, the strawberry balsamic smoothie. Make that, spiked strawberry balsamic smoothie.
Have you noticed that happy hour takes on an entirely different dimension when summer arrives? The end-of-a-long-day refreshment — spiked or not — becomes not just a relaxing wind-down, but also something that cools you off, inside and out. In Cincinnati, we have plenty of evening party-in-the-park events, and no where will you find someone sipping a hot toddy.
Cold and icy, peeps. Cold and icy.
As a change up from beer or cocktails, I present the creamy, fruity smoothie, flavored with balsamic-soaked strawberries and spiked with that tropical mainstay, rum, with just enough vanilla to bring it all together. (And if you’re like me and can’t resist greening up your smoothies, you can even toss in a small palmful of spinach leaves, stems removed. No one will know the difference.)
Easy sipping, cold and refreshing.
I can’t wait for strawberry season!
- 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 heaping teaspoons sugar (I use raw sugar)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
- 1 cup sliced strawberries (7 or 8 medium strawberries)
- 2/3 cup coconut milk (about 5 ounces)
- 1/4 cup Greek or coconut yogurt (plain or vanilla, your choice)
- 1 three-inch piece of a medium/large frozen banana, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 cup ice
- 1 shot of rum (1 1/2 ounces - more or less to suit your tastes)
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk the vinegar and sugar until combined. Add the strawberries, spooning the vinegar solution over the strawberries. Let macerate for at least an hour (if possible).
- Add the macerated strawberries (and juices), coconut milk, yogurt, bananas, ice, and rum to a blender. Puree until the strawberries are smooth. Serve with a pretty sprig of mint, if desired.