It's finally summer, or at least it is officially. However. here in Northern California, the seasons I loved most, Fall and Spring, and rushed. Just as they're about to unpack their back and grace with our presence they are given the bums rush like an unruly and unwelcome house guest. Then we Northern Californian's are swept into the frigid cold lower 40's (I don't want to hear any boo-hooing from you people in Michigan or whatnot, this is what I was raised with and to me it's cold), or as we are now, the sweltering heat in the 90's and 100's. Keep in mind now, that it's been that way since April.
Like a guest arriving to the party an hour too early, you don't know what to do with them. You smile and make nice, make them a drink and attempt to be friendly and formal all while still getting ready. Still, now that it's official, I'm not so much ready for summer as I am ready for it to be over.
Plus, you have to take into account that our summer so far has been marked by an adobe colored sun with a neon haze glazing through smoky skies. Lots of fires in California. Sparked by dry lightning, intense heat and winds, and tinder hills. If you move here, allow me to dispell a myth for you. We don't worry about earthquakes. We worry about fires. The air has a been thick with ash and smoke in what many would consider Biblical foreshadowing. Biking to work has no longer become an option as once I reach my destination my face is slightly greyed with two teary streaks running from my stinging eyes.
Hot and smoky, Nor Cal Summer feels like being stranded in a Mad Max film, but minus Tina Turner in a chain-link dress.
Still, I have my ways of escaping the heat. I rely on my ice cream maker a lot I admit. It's simple and requires so little work upon my part. However, I had left the bowl out overnight and I wasn't about to make it the old fashioned way without an ice cream maker since I'm lazy and all. I perused and found some strawberries on their last legs, how they made it that far is beyond me. Normally, they're all devoured within 24 hours. By all accounts they must have been hiding behind the milk.
An orange and some cream caught my eye and it dawned on me. Strawberries Romanov. A fancy but relatively simple dish that requires only the most basic cooking skills, it was one of the first for show dishes I ever learned. A dish that is rumored to have been developed by the pastry chef Marie Antoine Careme, who served it to Tsar Nicholas I of the royal house of Romanov. The dish was a supposed favorite of his children.
Not nearly served in such a regal manner, when I presented it it wowed people in the dorms and acted as a celebratory way to finish off a communal meal of curry and salad. But then again, who couldn't love a dessert such as this? Fancy liquors -which we loves-, berries glistening in their carbuncle hues, and billowy mounds of barely sweetened cream. It's a delicious treat, especially when served from nice crystal or wine glasses. A step up from when I used to serve it in a Lord of the Rings collectors cup from Carl's Jr.
In addition, just the name itself is pleasing. Strawberries Romanov. It sounds of regal history, of grande finishes to grander fêtes in Petrograd. However, in Northern California, for me, it's simply an indulgent way to stave off the sweltering heat.
What You'll Need...
1 1/2 lbs. strawberries, cleaned and quartered
2 tablespoons of Cointreau, Grand Mariner, or Triple Sec
1 tablespoon of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of orange zest
1/2 cup of cream
2 tablespoons of powdered sugar
What You'll Do...
1) Combine the strawberries, liquor, sugar, and orange zest in a bowl and mix. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 1 hour to macerate.
2) Drain and reserve the juices. Purée about one-quarter of the strawberries with the reserved juices.
3) Divide the remaining berries into four glasses. Beat the cream and powdered sugar until soft peaks form, then fold in the berry purée. Spoon the berry whipped cream on to the strawberries and serve. May be refrigerated before hand before serving for up to 3 hours, be sure to cover.