Red Wine and Strawberry Dessert

Start to finish: 20 minutes

Servings: makes 1 cup of red wine sauce. Number of servings depends on amount of sauce used per serving.

    6 egg yolks
    3 to 4 tablespoons white sugar
    1/4 cup sweet red Marsala wine
    Fresh (not frozen) strawberries, sliced or quartered

Separate the eggs and save the whites for another use (see notes below). Using a heat-safe bowl or double boiler, slowly whisk the egg yolks, white sugar and Marsala wine together over an open flame or other heat source. Depending on the intensity of the heat, this may take 3 to 4 minutes to make a thick sauce. Keep heat low enough so that the egg yolks do not cook.

Remove from heat, but keep whisk going as desired amount of sauce is poured over strawberries. Serve immediately.

Serving suggestions

Because of the bright red color of the strawberries and the rich yellow color of the sauce, this dessert is a show-stopper in any season. To heighten the effect, use bright colored serving dishes, such as Fiestaware. Or for an elegant presentation, use sliced strawberries and decoratively drizzle the sauce. This could be highlighted in individual cut-glass serving plates or bowls.

This dessert could be made at the table of a restaurant or intimately in the kitchen for the chef and his or her dinner date. With their heart shape and red color, strawberries are perfect for Valentine’s Day or any other romantic occasion. They are often the symbol associated with Venus, the Goddess of Love.

Coffee or tea would pair nicely with this dessert. A nice color contrast could be introduced with the dark hues of espresso. Of course, Champagne is a classic companion for strawberries and a natural one for romance.

This recipe is based on a type of Italian custard known as “zabaglione.” Although there is some disagreement about its origin, chefs almost universally agree to zabaglione’s appeal both in desserts such as tiramisu or featured with berries, as done here.

Marsala is a type of fortified wine from Italy. It may be red or white in color. It will likely be one of three degrees of sweetness: dry, semi-sweet or sweet. Look for the word used on the label to be “dolce,” the Italian word for “sweet.” Marsala is named after the Italian city of the same name. It was originally fortified with alcohol to make it safe for exporting from Italy. Used mostly for cooking, Marsala is popular in both sweet and savory dishes, depending on the variety.

Separating egg yolks from whites is made easier by starting with cold eggs. If you do not have an egg separator, try using a funnel or slotted spoon. In all cases, crack the egg at its widest point and separate the shells slowly and gently.

Leftover egg whites may be used in many recipes including angel food cake, meringue cookies or frosting and egg white omelets. They may also be used to glaze baked goods such as breads.

Some mixed drinks using gin, such as fizzes or sours, take advantage of egg whites in their ingredients to create a froth. This is often done in a shaker but without ice. Egg whites may also be frozen for later use.

A double boiler was a standard piece of kitchen equipment for the 1950s housewife. It is ideal for slowly heating and stirring something, such as chocolate. Made up of two pieces, as the “double” implies, water in a saucepan is used to give indirect heat to a second pan (or bowl). You can create your own double boiler by finding a saucepan (or heat safe bowl) that will fit over a lower saucepan. Put enough water in the lower saucepan so that as it boils it will heat the upper pan or bowl.

Slow and steady is the key to using a double boiler and it may take some practice. Exploring different sizes and shapes of whisks may also enhance results in the consistency of the sauce. Try switching hands holding the whisk to prevent fatigue.

Strawberries are an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants. For those concerned about the use of pesticides, it is best to find organic strawberries.