Fresh Strawberries Make Light as Air Dessert
There is nothing like a fresh strawberry, just picked from the field. When late May and early June roll around, here in northern Indiana, it's time to go pick berries. Even though it is easier to pick the large ones, I like the sweetness of smaller strawberries. And I pull out all those recipes that are made for the season and the memories that come with them.
During my teen years, when I lived in Belgium, I often spent time with my best friend's family. Pierre and Anny and their four children lived in a house on the next hill from mine. I often walked or biked the whole way down my street to the bottom of the hill, then up past the Catholic Church and the train station, then left onto a broader street that slowly rose towards their house. I spent many days there, sometimes staying nights, when my parents had to be gone. My friend Christine and I spent hours laughing our way through homework and play. We strummed our guitars together and sang through many songbooks.
Sometimes, her parents would take us to the movies or concerts. I still remember going into Brussels to see Stravinsky's Rite of Spring as interpreted by the Twentieth Century Ballet of Maurice Béjart. I enjoyed seeing how a family other than mine went through their daily life. And, when I stayed at their house, I brought some of my family culture with me. I introduced them to fudge and made them pizza. I liked working in their bright open kitchen and cooking for them when Christine's mom let me.
One of my family's first encounters with Christine's family happened on their backyard flagstone patio. Anny prepared a simple meal that she served us at their outdoor dinning table. I remember good food and conversation. As Pierre and Anny talked with my parents, we kids ran around the lush backyard. But we were called back to the table for dessert. Since it was strawberry season, Anny had made a strawberry mousse. As she brought a big glass bowl out, I saw a light, fluffy, pink and heavenly looking dessert. I took my first bite and tasted the pure pleasure of summer.
These days, here I am across the ocean, far from these friends. And after many years, I have reconnected with their family. It is a friendship that has survived distance and circumstance. When I make the strawberry mousse, I find myself back in their yard. I hear Anny's ringing laughter and bracelets jingling on her arm, and Pierre's clear voice.
This year, I found my first strawberries at the Chattanooga Farmers' Market. So I made my first batch of mousse just in time for an outdoor gathering on our deck for Mother's Day. Here is the recipe and a few pictures to go with it.
Mousse aux Fraises (Fresh Strawberry Mousse)
4 egg whites and 1 c. confectioner’s sugar in a double boiler and beat with an electric beater on medium for 5 to 8 minutes until the mixture is a brilliant white and takes shape (but not too stiff). Cool.
1 quart of washed and hulled strawberries and add the juice of one lemon.
Beat until stiff:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
Drain whatever liquid might have accumulated at the bottom of the egg whites. Then, very gently fold the strawberries, whipped cream and egg whites together until they are combined. Chill until it is served. It is best served the day it is made. Serves six.