Hard to believe that it’s already been 11 weeks since we made mascarpone together. At the time, I said that I would revisit the dishes used to illustrate that post and, to that end, I’ve already shared the recipe for Pappardelle with Spinach, Mascarpone, and Pecorino Romano Cheeses. Today we’re going to use mascarpone in two desserts and again to make jalapeño poppers.
When most hear the word “mascarpone”, they think of tiramisu, that quintessential Italian treat — and who would blame them? I do plan to share our family recipe for tiramisu but at a later date. That dish deserves a post all its own. So, instead, I’ll share two easy confections that combine whipped mascarpone with fresh berries. To make the whipped mascarpone, take some whipping cream and beat until peaks form. Add icing/confectioner’s sugar, to taste, during the process. To the sweetened whipped cream, add at least an equal amount of mascarpone and beat the mixture until peaks again form. Taste midway through to see if more sugar is needed. Set aside for use in either of the following two recipes.
In the first case, fresh strawberries are hulled and quartered before being macerated with a little sugar and balsamic vinegar. There is only one real concern about this dish and that involves the balsamic vinegar. In the past, when I made this, I took a couple of ounces of balsamic, added a little sugar & lemon juice, and then reduced it by half over a med-high heat. Once cooled, I used it to make my parfaits. Last Christmas, my friends, Cynthia & Nigel, gave me a bottle of aged balsamic and it’s perfect for this dessert without being reduced or sweetened. Whether your balsamic is good as-is or has been reduced and cooled, the parfaits are made the same from this point forward. Hull and quarter 4 or 5 strawberries per serving. Sprinkle them with a little sugar, more or less depending upon the sweetness of the berries. Add a couple of tablespoons of the (reduced) balsamic vinegar, mix well, and set aside for about a half hour. (This would be a good time to make the whipped mascarpone.) Once the berries are ready, begin building the parfaits. Start with the mascarpone and create alternating layers of the whipped cheese and the berries in each parfait cup. You’ll want to finish with berries on top. When all the cups have been filled, divide whatever berry/balsamic sauce is left among the servings. Garnish with a piece of basil, if you like.
This next recipe uses chocolate sauce instead of balsamic vinegar. As you’ve probably noticed in the picture, I like a thick chocolate sauce. Here I created a granache, of sorts, by melting 4 semi-sweet chocolate squares in a double boiler, adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream, and stirring until well combined. Once cooled, I used it to top my dessert, resulting in a thick mass of chocolate-y goodness. For a thinner sauce, add more cream, some butter, and sugar to the double boiler and stir thoroughly. As for the berries, you can wash and trim them, serving them as-is, or, once cleaned, you can put them all in a bowl, add a little sugar & lemon juice, and let sit for 30 minutes. When ready to prepare your dessert, place a large dollop of whipped mascarpone in the center of each dessert plate and spoon mixed berries on top of each dollop. Add another, smaller, dollop on each dish and top off each with more berries. Finish each dessert with some chocolate sauce and serve.
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The last recipe for today uses mascarpone to make jalapeño poppers. Most of us have favorite popper recipes and mine involves cream cheese, garlic, onion, and grated cheeses to make a filling for the peppers. Mascarpone, though creamier, isn’t as flavorful as cream cheese and, as a result, I do not add garlic nor onion to the filling for fear of completely overpowering the mascarpone. I do add grated Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses to the filling to give it more “body.” I use 2 parts mascarpone to 1 part cheddar and 1 part Monterey Jack. To prepare the peppers, take off the top of each, creating a boat-like vessel to hold the cheese. (Cutting them in half will allow the cheese filling to spill during baking.) With a spoon, clean out the seeds and ribs from inside each “boat.” Now, filling each pepper, as-is, will result in pretty mild poppers. For more heat, dice the trimmed tops with as much of the seeds & ribs that you like and add them to the cheeses. Once thoroughly mixed, fill each boat with the cheese but not to over-flowing. Next, place some Panko bread crumbs and a couple of tablespoons of grated Pecorino Romano cheese in a shallow dish and roll each filled pepper into the dish, coating the cheese filling with the bread crumb mixture. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, place each on the tray, and cook in a pre-heated 400˚ oven until topping begins to brown. I start checking at about the 15 minute mark. If the peppers bake for too long, the pepper walls might collapse, spilling the hot cheese filling all over your baking sheet. Once baked to your satisfaction, remove to a serving platter and allow to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.
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Warn the dairies! Next week we’re making American Mozzarella.
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By any other name …
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