Teresa Parker blogs about restaurants, recipes, and the reasons why she's in love with Spain's food and culture.
Still in New York, sniffing around the Greenmarket for the first signs of fruit and smelling nothing but ramps. Of course, if I were in Catalonia right now it would be a whole different story: I'd be bathing in rose petals and eating fruits vermells, the red fruits of early summer.
I've been working on a dessert as pink and tart as that fantasy. Here it is: a fresh strawberry and raspberry soup whose juiciness is jelled just a tad with agar agar, the better to flaunt your textural adventurousness like a Catalan chef. It's got a little kitchen garden whiff of herbs and flowers too.
Sopa de Roses i Fruits Vermells
4 1/2 cups clean-tasting mineral or filtered water
3/4 cup (2 oz.) hibiscus and rosehip tea blend*
1/2 cup sugar + 3 Tbsp. (they'll be used separately)
2 rounded Tbsp. agar agar
3 cups diced red fruits (any combination of strawberries diced, raspberries halved, or red currants left whole)
a handful of mint leaves, washed, dried and minced (finely minced, about a tablespoon)
Put the water in a saucepan and bring it to a rolling boil. Now add the sugar, the agar agar, and the hibiscus-rosehip blend to the pot; give it all a quick stir, then turn off the heat.
Let the mixture steep for about 30 minutes to infuse the flavors and cool off. Pour the liquid through a strainer into a bowl and toss the bits of rosehip, hibiscus petals and dried fruits. Refrigerate the clear, pink-red "tea" for at least six hours or overnight.
To finish the soup, combine the diced red fruits with the remaining three tablespoons of sugar and the minced mint. Get it all macerating at least an hour before you want to serve dessert so the sugar dissolves and the fruit gets nice and syrupy.
Meanwhile, plop the gelled "tea" in the blender and blend it for a few seconds (or stick your immersion blender into the gel and blend it right in the bowl)—it will become a smooth but still slightly thickened puree.
Really, the dessert tastes best when it's nice and cold, so I like to stash both the pureed base and the macerated fruit in the fridge for several hours while dinner is made and eaten.
Pile a scoop of the fruit into the center of your soup bowls and pour the cold puree around it. A little sprinkling or sprig of mint can decorate each bowl, or not.
* a citrusy mixture like this is available in herbalist shops all over Spain, and I found something similar called "blood orange fruit blend" in the tea section of my local market in New York. It isn't really tea, you've seen the stuff—it's got dried hibiscus flowers and rosehips, plus chunks of dried oranges, cranberries, and apples.