Strawberry Tiramisu

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Warmer weather means one important thing for me: summer fruits! Berries, melons, mangoes, and peaches galore! Don’t even get me started. Strawberries have come back in season, just in time for Mother’s Day desserts! This year, I decided to make some strawberry tiramisu (essentially a trifle) for my mom and mother-in-law. Asian people have specific taste when it comes to their desserts: they like them with reduced sugar compared to American desserts. Many desserts made by American and French bakeries are often cloyingly sweet-too intense for me. The thing is, we can adjust our taste buds to be able to appreciate sweet and salty flavors without overdoing our seasonings. Whenever I look up desserts recipes, I always adjust the sugar to 1/3 – ½ of what the recipe calls for. That usually gives me the perfect amount of sweetness without falling into a diabetic coma.

In California, May is not exactly the best month to enjoy fresh strawberries. This is the beginning of strawberry season, which means the berries are often more bland or sour. When I take a gamble and buy some fresh strawberries, I’m never sure what I’m going to get. Which is why I love having strawberry dessert recipes on hand so that I can repurpose the strawberries if they are not sweet enough on their own to eat by themselves. I often make strawberry jam from strawberries that are just under or past their peak ripeness. I come from a family that firmly believes in wasting as little as possible so we try to be resourceful when it comes to preserving our food and stretching it that extra mile.

The strawberry tiramisu recipe that I’ve prepared can easily be altered using other summer fruits, including blueberries, blackberries, peaches, or even mango. In writing this, I suddenly feel the urge to experiment with all these other fruits! Tiramisu can use different cream bases along with mascarpone. I personally love crème patisserie and anything custard-related really. So I combined crème patisserie with mascarpone to create a delicious pillow of creaminess to cushion the bite of the cake and tartness of strawberry. Hope you enjoy!

Cooking notes/tips:

When in doubt, always put less sugar than you think a recipe will need. You can always add more sugar, but you cannot take it away once it has been added. Think about the sweetness level of all your ingredients. I knew that the sponge cake I was using had a higher level of sugar, so I made sure to make my strawberry jam and crème patisserie/mascarpone cream mixture minimally sweet to create balance in this dessert.

Tiramisu is traditionally made with lady fingers, but prepared vanilla sponge cake or angel food cake can be wonderful substitutes.

I almost always make tiramisu the day before because you need time for the cake or lady fingers to soak up the flavorful liquid with which you have doused it.

Recipe
Serves 24
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 60 minutes

Ingredients
2 loaves sponge cake
3 egg yolks
6 eggs
4 cups 2% milk
¾ cup corn starch
¾ cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 containers (24 oz) mascarpone
5 lbs fresh strawberries
½ cup white sugar
3 cups whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp powdered sugar

Directions

Strawberry Jam:

Wash strawberries and place in a large saucepan. Reserve 24 strawberries for decoration at the end. Add sugar. Turn on high heat and allow to boil and reduce for approximately 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. When liquid begins to reduce, lower heat to medium or medium-low. Continue simmering until jam begins to thicken.

Optional: use immersion blender to blend the chunks out of the jam

Allow to cool for approximately 20 minutes. Set aside.

Crème Patisserie:

Heat milk in a sauce pan

In a large mixing bowl, whisk eggs, egg yolks, sugar, and corn starch together.

When milk almost comes to a boil, slowly whisk milk into egg mixture, one ladle at a time. This will heat the egg mixture. After egg mixture has become warm, add the rest of the milk and whisk into egg mixture.

Return the mixture to saucepan and heat on medium until it thickens to the consistency of a thin pudding. Whisk constantly to prevent curdling of egg mixture.

When crème patisserie is at the desired consistency, immediately remove from heat. Continue whisking and add in vanilla extract and mascarpone.

Transfer to a large clean bowl. Pass through a sieve when transferring to the bowl to ensure a smooth mixture (or at least pass the mixture from the bottom of the sauce pan through the sieve to prevent clumps from getting in).

Cover with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to make contact with the top of the crème patisserie. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Tiramisu Assembly:

Find a large square or rectangular container that is at least 4 inches in height.

Cut sponge cake into ½ inch thick slices and place a thin layer of cake onto the container.

Spread a generous layer of strawberry jam on top of the cake layer.

Spread a generous layer of crème patisserie/mascarpone cream mixture on top of jam layer.

Repeat until there are at least 2 complete sets of layers. Top the last layer of crème patisserie with a generous layer of strawberry jam.

Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Serve with fresh whipped cream and fresh strawberries. To prepare Chantilly cream, place whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract into a mixer or mixing bowl. Whip for 3-5 minutes, or until soft peaks form on the cream.

Decorate to your heart’s content and enjoy with friends and family!

 

Creamy Pasta with Chicken, Tomato, and Spinach

IMG_7727For the majority of my meals, I am watching my refined carbohydrates and trying to reduce starches in my diet. I have come a long way in the realm of healthy eating and weight management-an achievement of which I am incredibly proud. But, every once in a while, I completely give in to my love of pasta. Soaking in tomato sauce, kissed by basil, swimming in broth, how I love pasta. Let me count the ways. I can’t help it-I just love food in all shapes and forms. And pasta, whether dressed up in a bow tie, slenderized in fettuccine, or rolled thinly and svelte as papperdelle, never disappoints. And the cherry on top? The delicious sauce that comes as its partner! Whenever I eat pasta at restaurants, I always indulge in a nice creamy sauce because I usually limit myself to tomato-based sauces when I cook at home. However, some foods are made to nourish the body and some have been designed to nourish the soul.

Today, I was inspired to make this dish because I needed to nourish the body and soul of my brother-in-law. My sister recently gave birth to her first child- my niece Jamie. I am so thrilled to finally be an auntie! She is absolutely adorable and I can’t wait to see what kind of person she becomes. We all know it takes a village to raise a child. So I’ve begun delivering meals for my brother-in-law because my sister has been occupied with caring for her new bundle of joy. I asked myself: what would I want to eat if I were completely exhausted an in need of a pick-me-up? Pasta was the first thing that came to mind.

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Cooking Tips

When cooking pieces of chicken breast in a sauce, it is important to be strategic about how big the chicken breast pieces will be. Cut them too small and the chicken will become dry after cooking for a short amount of time. If they are too large and thick, the cooking process may render the outside layers overcooked while the inside remains undercooked. If you are cooking a whole chicken breast, consider the butterfly technique and using a meat mallet or a large knife to flatten thickness. This will cut down on cooking time and create evenness in the cooking process of the chicken.

Red pepper flake and shallots may be difficult to pinpoint and isolate in an Italian dish, but when they are missing, it is similar to the foundation being cracked in a structure. Unstable and shaky, the pasta dish cannot stand without the fundamental building blocks of flavor.

If you like pasta to be “al dente”, purposely undercook the pasta by a minute or two in boiling water. When the pasta is added to your sauce, you can cook it to its desired consistency and texture. Please, please, please never drain pasta and then serve after topping it with sauce! The pasta needs to be cooked in the sauce to create a complete pasta dish-it allows the pasta to soak up and stick to the sauce.

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Servings: 4-6
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients
½ package dried penne
½ package bacon or pancetta, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 diced shallot
2 chicken breasts
1 tsp garlic salt, or to taste
pinch of red pepper flake, to taste
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tsp dried basil
¼ c sherry wine
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmigianno Reggiano
1 bunch spinach
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 bunch basil

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil pasta according to package directions (approximately 7-10 minutes).

While pasta is cooking, sauté pancetta in large skillet. Heat skillet on medium high and place pancetta in the pan. When the bacon begins to crisp up showing a nice golden brown color, add onion and garlic. Saute for another 2-3 minutes, then set aside.

Thinly slice chicken breast into ¼ inch thick pieces. Season with garlic salt, red pepper flake, black pepper, dried basil. Set aside for 10 minutes to marinate. When chicken has finished marinating, heat large skillet and drizzle with oil. Sear chicken until both sides are golden brown (approximately 3-5 minutes). Then add pancetta, garlic, and shallot mixture.

Add wine and heavy whipping cream, and Parmiggiano Reggiano into the chicken. Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce thickens.

Drain the pasta and add into chicken and cream sauce. Add a splash of pasta water to adjust consistency of the pasta sauce. When the pasta sauce has thickened to desired consistency, add spinach and tomato. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes.

Turn off the fire and add in fresh basil. Adjust seasoning as needed: add garlic salt, red pepper flake, Parmiggiano Reggiano, and black pepper to taste.