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They weren’t the most perfect-looking strawberries in the world, and truth is, some were a little overripe. Still, it was the end of the day, and I was amazed the farm stand had any left. Plus, after a few hot, sunny days in the field, they smelled like summer—and just what was needed after a supper that was going to consist mainly of the first local corn and snap beans with bacon.

Consternation ensued when I discovered we were out of heavy cream and goats’-milk yogurt, our two default embellishments, but that didn’t faze Sam in the least. He rummaged around in the pantry and emerged triumphant, holding a bottle of aged balsamic vinegar (a Christmas present that keeps on giving) and a box of light-brown sugar.

Strawberries drizzled with the very best balsamic is a classic in the city of Modena, in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and birthplace of the tenor Luciano Pavarotti, car-company founder Enzo Ferrari, and aceto balsamico, which is called “liquid gold” for good reason. Made from the “must” (freshly pressed juice) of Trebbiano grapes, it’s been aged and reduced over decades in an increasingly smaller series of wooden barrels, each imparting a subtle flavor depending on the type of wood—cherry, chestnut, oak, or mulberry—that’s used. The result is a syrupy elixir, with an intriguing, lush balance of sweetness and acidity. You get what you pay for, in other words, and once you get a taste for the real thing (Zingerman’s has a carefully curated assortment), you’ll find that supermarket balsamics are either too harsh or have a one-note caramel sweetness that palls quickly.

So there you have it: not just one of the easiest and most delicious things you can do with strawberries, but a great example of the blend of sumptuousness and restraint that is particularly Italian. I suppose you could argue that a bottle of fine balsamic should be saved for company, but what the hell, it’s summer! Here’s to the good life.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Brown Sugar

This is more of a guideline than a recipe, for much depends on the sweetness of the strawbs and the quality of the vinegar. In general, though, for a pint of berries, use about one tablespoon balsamic and about half a tablespoon brown sugar. Light-brown sugar is preferable here; it’s more delicate than dark-brown sugar, which is deeper, more molasses-y, in flavor. You want the suave complexity of the balsamic to shine through, and “you just want to tease out the sweetness that’s in the berries,” Sam said. If you are inclined to gild the lily, serve with unsweetened whipped cream or crème fraîche.

Ripe strawberries, rinsed, patted dry, hulled, and halved lengthwise (quartered if large)

The best aged balsamic vinegar you can get your hands on

Light-brown sugar

Put the strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle with vinegar and sprinkle with brown sugar. Gently toss and let sit about 30 minutes.

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