I think that summer has decided to stick around at last! We are finally getting some consistently sun and warm weather here in the northwestern U.S., a fact of which I am very grateful. I've been getting out on my bike instead of driving my car in order to take advantage of these lovely days.
Hang on -- I'm wildly changing topics here! After I wrote the above paragraph, I noticed people outside the coffee shop I'm blogging from making horrible faces and looking up the street. Curious, I walked outside to see what they were gawking at. Apparently, a motorcyclist was just hit by an SUV. He's on the ground and yelling in pain while the paramedics and police are trying to help him and keep the busy street safe for both the biker and the continuing traffic. After coming back in and reading what I wrote about taking my bicycle out instead of a car, I'm reminded that I'm not invincible. We all need to be careful as we travel around, obeying local traffic laws whether we are moving by two wheels, four wheels, foot, or hoof (hey, it could happen). And always wear a helmet if your mode of transportation calls for it, of course. Be safe this summer, folks!
Whew! That was a rather intense interlude. I hope that accident victim is okay. They've just loaded him into the ambulance. How terrifying! I've got the chills. Okay, back to your regularly scheduled post.
As I was saying before that horrible interruption, summer has finally arrived in full force here in my corner of the galaxy. It's come a little later than the rest of the hemisphere, perhaps, but that just makes me appreciate the delicious weather all the more. Summery tastes have also pervaded the ingredients for this month's Royal Foodie Joust, hosted by the Leftover Queen. This round, submitted dishes must include strawberries, basil, and whole grains.
Strawberries are red and ripe and available by the bucketful at Costco, and we have a seemingly constant supply in our fridge. I stocked up on fresh basil, and prepared to get my whole grain on in order to compete, and I turned out an Italian-inspired parfait. This ricotta parfait makes a beautiful and light dessert on a hot evening, or a delightful breakfast. Also, the strawberry granola is quite versatile and can be enjoyed in the parfait as well as with your favorite yogurt or even all on its own.
Dolce Estivo: Ricotta Cream Parfait with Balsamic Strawberries
1/4 cup ricotta cheese (part-skim/fat-free if you wish)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T brown sugar OR 1/2 packet stevia
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 T fresh basil, chopped
1/2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup Spiced Strawberry Granola (see below)
Mix the ricotta cheese, vanilla, and sugar or stevia. Set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the strawberries, basil, and vinegar. Allow the berries to steep for 10 minutes.
In a glass or dish of your choice, begin to layer the ingredients. Place strawberries over the bottom of the dish, then spread the ricotta cream mixture over the berries. Top the ricotta with a sprinkle of granola. Repeat this layering process until all the ingredients have been used. Garnish with a whole strawberry and a sprig of basil.
Spiced Strawberry Granola
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/8 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T canola oil
2 T maple syrup (I used sugar free)
1/8 cup diced dried strawberries
1/8 cup sliced almonds
sprinkle of crystallized ginger baking chips
Preheat the oven to 300*F. Layer a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and cover with a light coating of non-stick spray if you are using foil.
While the oven is warming, mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl until well blended. Spread the mixture on the lined baking sheet, pressing it down onto the surface to encourage the oats to clump. Bake for 20 minutes, then stir. Bake for another 20 minutes or until the granola is golden brown in color.
Allow the granola to cool completely before serving or storing.
Makes just over 1 cup of granola.
By the way, "dolce estivo" means "summer dessert" in Italian, as far as I can tell. And this parfait certainly is a quintessential summertime treat, both on the continent and in the New World! Enjoy the sun, folks, and be safe.