Hidden inside this NYT Magazine recipe for a complicated dessert is a recipe for a relatively simple apértif that uses fresh strawberries and rhubarb, which you can still find at farmers’ markets if you hurry.
The dessert recipe (created by Melissa Perello, chef and owner of Frances in San Francisco) has two parts: a rhubarb-strawberry broth, and a honey-ricotta mousse. The mousse is the tricky part, and you can’t drink it, so we’ll just stick to the broth:
1 pound strawberries (small and sweet), washed, trimmed and sliced
6 ounces rhubarb, washed, trimmed and sliced
3 ounces lavender honey
½ tablespoon red-wine vinegar (can also substitute lemon juice).
1. Place all of the ingredients in a small stainless-steel bowl that will fit appropriately over a double boiler. Add enough cold water to just cover the fruit (approximately 1½ cups), then cover the bowl with two tight layers of plastic wrap. Place the bowl over the double boiler and cook over low heat for at least 1 hour, making sure that the plastic wrap does not break. If it does, remove and replace it. (Alternatively, steep the ingredients directly in a nonreactive pot, covered, over very low heat.)
2. Once the broth has a nice ruby color and the fruit has sufficiently infused the liquid, gently strain through a fine sieve. Discard the remaining fruit. Sweeten with additional honey if you wish. Chill.
Two shortcuts: (1) Any honey will do. (2) Ignore that business about the double boiler and the plastic wrap; steeping the fruit in a pot over low heat works great.
As a “rest stop” between the soup and the mousse, the chef suggested a cocktail made by serving the broth over ice “with a shot of Chinotto and squeeze of tangerine.” I’m pretty sure she meant Campari, which is Chinotto’s alcoholic cousin. Either way, it’s a tasty combination.