I'm as adventurous an eater as just about anyone, but some foodie trends leave me scratching my head and wanting nothing more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But sometimes the trends become trends because they're, well, brilliant.
Such is the case with strawberries, and their new best friend, according to many gourmet chefs: black pepper.
If it sounds gross, you're not alone in that opinion. But black pepper is actually the secret ingredient in bringing out the flavor of strawberries; it does to them what salt does to meat.
If you add pepper to strawberries, it transforms their flavor to that of candy. They become sweeter, richer, and more vibrant. Unless you put on an enormous amount of pepper, you don't actually taste the pepper or even anything spicy; there's a slightly hot aftertaste (which is glorious), but the pepper merely serves to enhance the strawberry, not to bring its own flavors to the party.
Even perfectly ripe strawberries have a little tartness, but unlike lemons or grapefruits, that tartness doesn't really contribute to the flavor of the fruit. The pepper serves to neutralize the tartness, which allows the inherent sweetness of the strawberry to shine through stronger than ever. The pepper also balances the sweetness, which keeps it from tasting only like sugar, and allows all of the subtle fruity flavors to come out.
My favorite way is the simplest way: cut a strawberry in half, grind a little pepper on it, and eat it plain. But if you want to break out your inner chef, you can make strawberry pepper jam, ice cream sauce, or even popsicles.
Or, if you want to add some complexity to the equation, you can add balsamic vinegar to your strawberries as well, to incorporate more sweetness and some saltiness.
If you needed further evidence that the culinary world is unpredictable, I think black pepper being the secret to perfect strawberries serves as that proof.
Want another way to make your strawberries stand out? Try Pop Rocks. Are your nectarines, kiwis, and blackberries tasting a bit underwhelming? See how to pick perfectly ripe fruit every time. Tired of working your away around the centers of apricots, plums, and other stone fruits? Here's how to pit them like a pro.