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Foolish Berries: the Dessert that Might Have Been

Although you'd never know it by reading this site, I've been managing to do a lot of cooking even during the crazy writing project. Last night's midnight treat was going to be this wonderful looking Strawberry Ouzo Mock Napoleons that I saw on She Craves the other day. Looks terribly elegant and truly simple: a few sheets of phyllo, strawberries, cream and a shot of booze. What could go wrong?

Good question. But first, a brief digression.

Computer minute: 1. (noun) A variable quantity of time, lasting from a few minutes to an hour or more. A computer minute is created by the time-distortion field generated by a computer. 2. (slang) Sarcastic reference for someone who is often slow to respond when summoned. (usage: person1: "Be there in a minute!" person2: (turning down stove) "Is that a computer minute?" person1 (5-10 minutes later) "Apparently." (origin: early 1990s, Pacific Northwet geeks)

Anyway, back to our story. Late last evening — after a dinner of really yummy chicken and bean enchiladas, assembled fresh with freezer and pantry standbys (flour tortillas, chicken breasts, black beans, crushed tomatoes and some black-label Tillamook sharp cheddar) and the remnants of a yellow bell pepper and red opion from my vegetable bin topped with a bit of sour cream and fresh chives* — the soEarlyInTheSeasonIDon'tWantToKnowWhereTheyCameFrom-strawberries started calling my name. Remembering the delicate flaky layers of phyllo, sumptous billows of cream and verging-on-pornographic berries of Vanessa's dessert, and realizing that all of the necessary ingredients were on hand, the decision was made.

Not having ouzo, I macerated the sliced berries in amaretto while the oven heated and the phyllo thawed. Thawed phyllo was brushed with melted butter, stacked, sliced and put in a 400°(f) oven. Setting the timer for 10 minutes so I could sprinkle a smidge of cinnamon sugar on top for the last few minutes of baking, I returned to my computer...for a minute, well ten. Emerging from Word-land at the sound of the timer — the beep-beep-beep! of which sounds exactly like a truck backing up, something I am sure I'll never get used to — cinnamon sugar was sprinkled, the oven turned down and I went back to the computer...for a minute.

Let's play a quick game of "what's wrong with this picture" with the last bit there. See anything that's missing? Beep-beep-beep!Time's up. Who's got a guess? Yes, you there, snickering in the back row. What's that you say? "beep-beep-beep!" (I see someone brought their sarcasm hat with them.)

I swear it was only a minute (or was that a computer minute?) later when the wave of acrid smoke hit me. (note to self: if smoke is snaking out from the seams of the oven, opening said oven before opening the window and turning on the vent is a bad idea...a very bad idea...) (note to self2:they make timers for a reason, use them!)

Damn.

Confronted with half a dozen blackened phyllo squares, I had a momentary thought of calling it 'blackened strawberry burntcakes' and pretending it was a Cajun specialty. Nah. Too far gone for even that. In fact, the cookie sheet and its contents were now residing on my rainy side porch. Gets even yummier sounding, doesn't it?

By now it was late and I was still craving those bright red berries. Laughing at myself for making such a stupid mistake, I pondered how to quickly create something that was yummy and foolproof. Foolproof was high on the list.

Aha! Fools. Have you had a fool? (No dating one doesn't count) It's a simple, dare I say near foolproof, dessert that comes from England. Fruit puree and stiffly whipped cream are combined. That's it. This I could handle, even with distractions and an apparent inability to set a timer.

Adding the merest smidge of vanilla sugar to the cream as it was whipped provided just the right amount of sweetness to go with the almondy, alcohol-laden berries. After whipping the cream with my handy immersion blender, the cream was set aside long enough to briefly puree the berries with the same device. Half the whipped cream was gently folded into the fruit, followed by the rest. Spooned into wine glasses, topped with a whole berry, and briefly refrigerated, it was delicious.

No pictures. The light in my kitchen at 2 am is not a pretty thing to photograph. Go look at Vanessa's pictures if you want to see gorgeous food.

* I live to digress. See?

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