Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that local farm-grown strawberries please me almost as much as wild ones. They’re back now, at least in Massachusetts, which is what makes Strawberries with Marsala Zabaglione finally possible.
Until I was in third or fourth grade the dirt road with its dozen cookie-cutter bungalows where I grew up was an outlier in what was otherwise farmland or undeveloped property that nobody had yet figured out was supposed to be tract houses. The back yards of houses on both sides of the road abutted untilled fields where, for a short time in May or June, we could suss out wild strawberries. They were practically invisible, no larger than marbles. My brothers and I had to get down on our hands and knees and root around the wild rye, daisies, Black-eyed Susans, goldenrod and Queen Anne’s lace until we found a cluster of bright red berries. We’d work our way around the field, ignoring the scratches on our forearms.
A wild strawberry tastes like it looks–an explosion of sweetness, with a long stem of regret that it’s over.
Good strawberries ought to be messed with as little as possible. The zabaglione in this recipe is a counterpoint, a foamy textural difference that sets up your mouth for that next little explosion. Zabaglione (za-bull-YOH-ni) sounds like a high-wire act–Direct from a command performance in Novi Pazar! The Flying Zabagliones!–but it’s really a comfort food tricked out in elegant duds through a bit of muscular legerdemain. You beat eggs and sugar and wine, traditionally Marsala, over heat, usually a pot of simmering water, until it turns to an ambrosial foam. Any questions? You can use an electric beater if you don’t give a hoot about tradition. Just don’t overdo things, and take care not to let the mix get too warm lest the eggs start to curdle (you want them to cook, but not curdle). If in doubt, transfer the bowl onto a nearby heatproof surface while you continue beating. Furiously.
Then throw the strawberries in a glass, spoon over the zabaglione, and have at it, right away.
Strawberries with Marsala Zabaglione
- 6 large farm egg yolks
- 6 tablespoons cane sugar
- 6 tablespoons dry Marsala wine–be sure to use a high quality wine
- 1 quart strawberries
- 1 tablespoon coarse raw sugar or, if unavailable, cane sugar
- Combine the yolks and sugar in a medium-sized glass or metal bowl and beat with a whisk for 2-3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Set over a pot with a couple of inches of simmering water, taking care that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Add the Marsala and continue beating for 10-15 minutes or until it’s super light and fluffy, about 4 times the volume and it reads at least 120 degrees on an instant read thermometer. If the eggs start to cook too quickly, take the bowl off the pot and beat until it’s cooled a bit and then put it back on the heat. When the yolks barely hold a floppy peak, remove from the heat.
- Wash, hull and slice the strawberries. Toss with the coarse sugar.
- Arrange the strawberries in the bottom of 6 small glasses. Top with the zabaglione. Serve immediately with crisp cookies.
As I was making this recipe I began channeling my mother on Christmas Day making a foamy sherry sauce to serve with brandy drenched plum pudding. A light bulb went off–her sherry sauce is a British version of zabaglione. Eggs, sugar, wine.
The two most important ingredients in the success of this sauce are the wine and patience. The Marsala should be dry and of high quality. If it’s too sweet, the sugar will dominate and if it doesn’t taste great, you can’t hide it. In order to get the lovely billowy texture of zabaglione, you’ll have to whisk for a long time over moderate heat. If you rush it by turning up the heat, you risk scrambling the eggs. You can use an electric beater, but why give up the opportunity to work on your guns and delts while making a yummy dessert.
If you don’t mind cold zabaglione, you can make it a few hours ahead and refrigerate it without too much loss of volume. Don’t introduce the strawberries to the zabaglione until right before serving. (I don’t even cut the the strawberries in advance.) If you do everything ahead strawberry juice will dilute the zabaglione.
Prosecco or sherry–again, high-quality–are good alternatives for Marsala.
Yummy recipe. But where’s the one for the cookies? Do tell.
I was going to include a composite photo of the biscuits, but time… In any event it’s a piece of a torta de aceite, from Ines Rosales, a Spanish company. Tortas de aceite are sweet olive oil wafers about 5 inches across and they come in several different flavors–rosemary, orange, even chocolate. You CAN make them yourself, but it’s convenient just to buy them from Whole Foods. They are, by the way, the only thing resembling a cookie that we allow in our house these days. You can also put some in your knapsack while out counting butterflies. Ken
The strawberries came in wonderfully this year and this looks like a quick yummy desert with a big splash. Just what I was looking for!
Yum! This looks fantastic and your pictures are beautiful! Thanks for sharing. I’m glad I came across you on here – your blog is great! :)
Thank you, Becca. Ken
I said this somewhere else in the last day or so, but I’ll repeat: The biggest problem with following blogs from more northern climes is I see all these great ideas after the particular ingredient is gone for the year! Alas, we have no more strawberries. But I imagine this would work well with other berries. Beautiful photos, as always.
Absolutely. Blackberries and blueberries especially. I once had it with red currants, which also looked gorgeous. Ken
I’m a little intimidated to try this, but it looks amazing. I’ll have to make sure I have the kitchen all to myself before making the zabaglione step–it looks so delicious though. (I admit I may use an electric mixer, but I’ll try…I have bad memories of an experiment trying to whip egg whites by hand in a ceramic bowl). I had to smile about Novi Pazar.
Are you a Thomas Pynchon fan? In GRAVITY’S RAINBOW a member of the British Foreign Office breaks into song upon learning of his new appointment:
So pack up my Gladstone
and light up a big fat cigar.
I’m off… off and away…
to the Sanjak of Novi Pazar.
Or something like that. My memory may be a little rusty, having read it 35 years ago.
Re: the zabaglione
Go for it! It’s easy with an electric beater – and the taste and texture are amazing!
I noticed that we do the same way of separating egg yolks! I think that is the best way even though it makes my hands messy! I love your BEAUTIFUL Yellowish, creamy Zabaione shot! It must be delicious,too! want some, right now ;-) Have a good weekend! Jody and Ken!
Years of restaurant training – and the most efficient way! Ken
Here too the regular strawberries we’ve been getting at the market called “gariguettes’ taste a bit like the wild ones, though bigger and less fragile (ie mushy). I wonder if they are crossed with wild ones (!)
I guess if you can do zabaglione with prosecco, you can do it with champagne, non?
(ps. inspired by your rhubarb and rose cake I made a strawberry and rhubarb crumble with a little rosewater in the fruit…Everybody looked very happy eating it!)
Amy! How nice to hear from you here. You can definitely do it with champagne. Are you still getting those giant purple asparagus Oliver and I saw during our last visit? (The rhubarb-strawberry-rose water combo sounds great.) Ken
Funny you should ask about the asparagus; this spring we have been gorging upon “les grosses violettes”. For some reason there have been a lot, (therefore cheap), and the season has been long; they started mid-April and are still going strong. We had the really giant ones pan roasted, (my nephew Sam was in town from London and he has a six-sense for timing them, just the right amount of gros sel, lemon etc), then we draped long leaves of bear garlic over them and chomped. I also had some “à la Jody and Ken” but with bear garlic pesto instead of basil (getting the theme here? But I’m going to try the basil too). In Ménerbes Sam and I walked over and bought kilos from our 88 year old neighbor, Mme Trouillet, who has a field of white asparagus, and had them for dinners, simply roasted with lemon-zest flavored olive oil from Les Baux over fresh greens. Mme Trouillet thought Sam was cute and gave him a present of an oddity – a gigantic asparagus that must have weighed a pound on its own. Poor Sam, with his psychoanalyst auntie who thinks she has a sense of humor! As for the green asparagus, I added some to the top of your radiccio/fava/greenbean salad from the book. They went great with the creamy lemony sauce. Among the lunch guests that day I had two italian philosophers who loved your salad so much they went mute – a rare event! Then they burst into a fountain of Proustian associations to childhood meals in Venice… (radiccio, in French, is “trévise”).
Well, you asked! (and I’m even editing – I made asparagus soup too from the bits and pieces. Did learn that potato is not necessary, at least with the white ones).
Forgot to tell you that I served the strawb/rhubarb/rose crumble with lemon-thyme sorbet from Berthillon. The very faint thym-iness went great with the fruit and the rose – a garden of a dessert!).
Since I’m going on and on, I’ll join my voice to the chorus of admiration for Garum’s recipes and photos. Bisous too!
What a wonderful dessert!
Amy–You’re making me long for the Vaucluse, but hey I’d settle for Paris too. We just got back from a 65 mile bike ride. I’m afraid we’ll have to content ourselves with something far more prosaic than giant phallic asparagus–and we certainly won’t be eating thyme sorbet from Berthillon pour le dessert. Oh, one soldiers on… Bisous, bella. Ken
I can still remember my Grandma Marchetti whipping her delicious zabaglione, furious indeed!
I can’t believe more people don’t make zabaglione – it’s a great dessert. Perhaps it’s the thought of hand-whipping it, although it’s really easy with an electric mixer. Anyway, you were a lucky kid to have that kind of grandma – I never tasted zabaglione until I was on a year abroad. Ken
Wow, my dad used to make a killer zabaglione. I’d not thought of it for a while, but I picked up some local strawberries yesterday. May have to see if I still have his metal bowl….
…and his eggbeaters? Interesting how many readers remember eating a parent’s or grandparent’s version of this and then go: “Oh, yeah. I forgot about that–it was great!” Time for a zabaglione resurrection, methinks. Thanks for stopping by. Ken
Ken, Jody, I tried this out and it worked out really well. Here’s a link to my quick summary and a picture. Jody, there’s a Rialto review link too.
Hi, Charles–We LOVE it when people send us links to photos of items they’ve successfully made from the blog. Good for you. Thanks for your kind words about the blog and about Rialto. Ken
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