Saturday, April 11, 2009

Strawberry Bellini: My Dirty Little Secret

We all have our dirty little secrets. Shameful indulgences that we don't talk about, for fear of being chastised, ridiculed, or branded with a scarlet letter.

Like this: On most Friday nights, after a long week at work, I have a pretty reprehensible routine. It includes Us Weekly, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, a certain pair of saggy sweatpants, and my couch. Some weeks, I even make myself chili cheese fries. Oh yes. Chili cheese fries. With frozen french fries out of a bag, doctored chili from a can, shredded cheddar cheese, and a method that I have spent ten years perfecting, which results in a truly astounding mound of gooey, savory, heavenly junk food.

Today, (the holiday known as Easter Brunch here at Culinerapy) I put off laundry and cleaning the house and instead made a goat cheese and bacon frittata, rosemary potatoes, and strawberry bellinis. Ah, Strawberry Bellinis (which should indeed be a proper noun). The simple joy of pureed fresh strawberries topped off with champagne. A true indulgence, each sip more life-affirming than the last.

So why did I feel a little twinge of guilt as I poured my second one before 1:00 pm on a Sunday? Was it because I knew there was an ungodly pile of laundry threatening to take over the house inside? I had earned the break, earned the bellinis: I worked hard all week, spending a decent amount of time each day doing things I didn't want to do; I woke up early to get errands done, spent eleven hours a day working on a show about kids' pageants, stayed up late to write and finish my taxes and check in with my brand new husband. And all of this made me think about why these dirty little secrets are kept in the closet. Don't we deserve to spoil ourselves every once in a while? In our quest to be a good employee, a good wife, a good daughter, a good neighbor, a good citizen, shouldn't we celebrate the achievement of also being good to ourselves?
(And even more alarming, why do I suddenly sound like Carrie Bradshaw?)

Watching three back-to-back episodes of The Real Housewives of New York on a Friday night in your ugliest sweats with a box of Uncle Eddie's cookies shouldn't be considered an indulgence, it should be part of our maintenance. Do the laundry, pay the bills, take out the trash, and then spoil yourself silly.

So, I thought about all this, and I thought about the things I do to spoil myself, and how many of those things involve food. For me, making, eating or drinking something delicious is a way to stop and enjoy my life, either with my friends, or family, or by myself. There have been many solo chili cheese fries nights that I wouldn't trade for the world. So when I found myself leaning back in the Southern California sun today, with my feet propped up on my husband's lap, a bubbling, frothy, tart, sweet strawberry bellini in my hand, the laundry long forgotten inside, I thought to myself, THIS is my favorite part of the week. I should do this more often. I deserve it. And so do you.

Then I started thinking about the other things I've done to spoil myself. Some more shameful than others, but most revolve around food or drink. This is different than feeding your feelings. This is about taking a moment, an hour, an afternoon, and feeding your soul. And it shouldn't be kept secret... I think the more we acknowledge it, the better we'll feel. So here are some of my secret indulgences, the things I do to spoil myself:

A slow cup of coffee in my bathrobe before work
Brioche French toast or eggs Benedict on Sundays

Homemade hot chocolate
A steamed artichoke with lemon aioli eaten all by myself

A glass of wine and a long hot bath
S'mores made in my fireplace

Maybe the more we talk about it, the better we'll get at not feeling guilty about it. So go ahead. Tell me. What are your dirty little secrets? How do you spoil yourself when nobody's looking?

If you've had a particularly ghastly week (or day or year), a strawberry bellini can go a long way to reverse the damage. Now, traditionally, in Italy bellinis are made out of white peach puree. But since peaches are still a couple months off from being sweet, I substituted strawberries instead, which are everywhere in California right now.

This isn't even really a recipe, it's just a super easy method... I wouldn't want to add to your chores by giving you more work. Now, if your strawberries aren't sweet enough, you can make a simple syrup by heating 1 tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of water until the sugar is dissolved, and add that to the strawberries. But this time of year, the strawberries should be sweet enough. So go ahead. Make yourself one. I promise I won't tell a soul.

Fresh Strawberry Bellini

1 bottle sparkling wine (Prosecco is best, cava is also good, or any brut champagne will do)

1 pint fresh ripe strawberries

Wash strawberries; remove stems and halve. Place strawberries in blender and puree until smooth. (Add optional simple syrup while blending, if needed.) Strain strawberry puree through sieve to remove seeds. Pour 2 - 3 tablespoons in each champagne glass and top with champagne. Gently stir to blend. Garnish with a strawberry on the glass and serve!


  1. hi there! i found your blog through another's and immediately fell in love with your anecdotes, photos and recipes. i would love to remain updated with your posts; do you mind if i add you to my blogroll? :) thank you!

  2. Thanks so much for such a wonderful Easter brunch, my favorite new tradition. I continue to love your blogs and the food needed to create them. - Your hubby.

  3. another great blog. your pictures are awesome too.

  4. Great blog. Thanks for sharing in such a nice, indulgant way. Your blogs remind me of reading my favorite author, Peter Mayle, who's writing makes your mouth water with his descriptions of French cooking. I love bellinis and love Prosecco even more...I will try your recipes!

  5. Oooohhh!! Sounds yummy! Thanks for all the great recipes. I have to get a bit more adventurous to try them. I do love to cook so I'll just have to do it!!!

  6. Wonderful post! (And thanks for following me on Twitter!)

    Here are some of my favorite indulgences. (They stopped becoming so secret once I moved in with hubs):
    -I usually eat at least half the cookie dough before it even makes it onto the pan
    -I regularly eat dessert for breakfast
    -this is a very selfish one, but I often pick off the best parts of a particular food and eat them myself--e.g. just the tops off an entire tray of muffins, puff pastry corners (they are the crispiest), the edge off an entire pie (after I have a slice), and tearing off both crusty ends of a baguette. Poor hubs gets the mangled leftovers.

  7. If it weren't for the fact that I have banned alcohol from my home, this dirty little secret of yours would become my new best friend. It looks absoutely delicious!

  8. Hi, I just had to stop and let you know I so need this link for a Strawberry Thanksgiving post I'm doing on June 7th. I hope you don't mind if I borrow your link. I'm really liking your blog but I will need to return as I really want to get this done. However, I am going to click twitter as a reminder. Also, you might be interested in the The Real Housewives Cocktail Contest going on over @ Coco Cooks. Courtney is a HUGE fan!!!

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