With strawberries coming into season soon, I wanted to find a way to serve them as a finger food at get-togethers. I know it could serve them plain, but I would like to offer a dip. Any suggestions for something not too sweet?
Strawberries – good, ripe ones – are sweet enough by themselves. But the varieties grown commercially now are chosen for their ability to withstanding shipping long distances and storage, so often they’re not that exciting. Most dip recipes for strawberries often include sugar or other form of sweetener to enhance what should naturally be in the fruit.
Most of the recipes I’ve seen call for a base of cream cheese, which is mild with a hint of tanginess, to which is added powdered sugar, marshmallow fluff (not for me, thanks), orange juice concentrate, or something else sweet. Sometimes flavored yogurt, particularly strawberry yogurt, is suggested as a “healthy” choice. Another popular choice is chocolate in some form.
Avoiding all of the above except for cream cheese, I’d be thinking along the lines of what complements a strawberry’s flavor while giving it some contrast. Citrus comes to mind, along with ginger, mint, wines or liqueurs, and balsamic vinegar.
For citrus, think about lemon curd; lime curd might or might not be too strong. Serve by itself, or how about with a little minced candied ginger folded in? If that’s too strong for you, whip some heavy cream or cream cheese to fold in and mellow it out. Or try adding chopped fresh spearmint or peppermint leaves to lemon curd. You can make the lemon curd yourself (it’s a good way to use up extra egg yolks) or buy it ready-made.
If you want to make the dip, a thick crème Anglaise which can be flavored multiple ways would be good. Crème anglaise is a stirred, pourable custard quickly made on the stovetop. Add extra yolks to make it very thick and flavor it with extracts (vanilla, orange, almond, etc.), liqueurs like Grand Marnier or Cointreau, or fresh herbs. Come to think of it, somewhere I have a recipe for something like that which is flavored with basil and white wine – completely unexpected, and very good indeed.
Of course, you can simply macerate the berries in a little sugar and any of the following: white wine, red wine, fortified wines like port, or balsamic vinegar. This will leave them a little drippy, so you won’t want to serve strawberries this way when everyone’s dressed up or you have light-colored carpet. Save that for the dinner table.