Though it's not the textbook definition, I like to think of gelato as a perfectly good excuse for grown-ups to eat ice cream. It is, after all, basically the same thing, just with an Italian name. And this subtly flavored strawberry gelato, with hints of balsamic vinegar and black pepper, adds just the right amount of adult savoriness to our favorite nostalgic summer treat.
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar are a classic Italian combination. Adding a drizzle of to a bowl of ripe berries is the lazy host's way to pull together a summer dessert that feels and oh so cosmopolitan - make sure to bust out the good stuff from Modena or Reggio Emilia so your guests know you're making the effort. But turning the classic flavor pairing into gelato (the Italian word for "frozen") takes things up a notch. The agrodolce, or sweet-and-sour, vinegar and the spicy bite of black peppers subtly infuse the creamy dessert. Instead of the cloying sweetness of typical ice cream, each taste of this gelato has a hauntingly satisfying finish.
(Science lesson! The main difference between gelato and ice cream is in the amount of butterfat; gelato contains no more than 8 percent, while ice cream can't contain less than 10 percent butterfat and still be called "ice cream," according to the USDA. When churned and frozen in true gelato-making equipment, less air is pumped into the creamy base than with commercial ice cream equipment, minimizing the size of the ice crystals being formed and making gelato simultaneously denser and softer than higher-fat ice creams.)
Don't bother hunting down an expensive gelato maker to whip up the following recipe; it'll taste just as good in your run-of-the-mill model, though it will be slightly harder than professionally-made gelato after fully freezing. Just leave it out on the counter a few minutes to soften up before scooping.
Oh yeah, and because Italian gelato is traditionally made in small batches, it's meant to be consumed within a few days of its making. So don't feel guilty about how quickly this quart of strawberry gelato disappears!