Being a home cook, and foodie I am not afraid to try anything. I adore cooking and many of the recipes I prepare for me, my family and friends can be pretty standard fare or something new. A twist on the traditional is using balsamic vinegar in cooking. These often tasty, saucy, tart, yet sweet concoctions can be used on anything from seafood, to ice cream. The flavors can be anything from traditional to chocolate with every combination in between. At the Monument Market, we carry Texas Hill Country brand olive oils and balsamic, all made in Dripping Springs, Texas.
For those who are new to balsamic vinegar, essentially it is vinegar made from the skin’s of red or white grapes that have been cooked down or their juice reduced and then aged in barrels much like wine or hard liquor. In the US most balsamic are aged at least three years to be labeled as such, though in Italy the vinegars are aged 12 years in wooden casks. The addition of fruit flavorings is fairly new and has made balsamic even MORE versatile in their use. This is simply done by infusing the balsamic with fresh fruit or herbs and allowing steeping for a week or until desired strength then draining off the vinegar, leaving the fruit/herbs behind.
Enhancing flavor, accompanying or complimenting flavors or even showcasing a single flavor profile or theme can be accomplished easily. Below are just some tips and even a mixology list for experimentation.
To make dressing: Simply mix equal parts balsamic and olive oil (plain or infused). Season if needed or desired with salt, pepper, herbs, pepper flake, or honey. Great combinations are:
· Fig Balsamic and Lime Infused olive oil
· Traditional Balsamic and Plain Olive oil
· Blueberry Balsamic and Lemon Olive oil
· Peach Balsamic and jalapeno olive oil
· Balsamic can be made into a glaze just by pouring over meat or vegetables and applying heat through, baking, broiling or grilling. My favorite is taking a larger filet of salmon, placing it in a shallow pan, allowing salmon to cook 6-8 minutes at 400 degrees, removing it and pouring an even coat of any citrus infused balsamic, brushing it on slightly to ensure even coverage, placing back in oven for remaining cooking time. The balsamic will make its own glaze over the fish.
· Same can be done with pork loin, ribs or chops (fig or berry flavors, even apple), chicken breast, shrimp. Just adjust the cooking times.
· Pour pineapple or wild cherry over a head of cauliflower and roast at 425 degrees.
· For desserts: reduce 1 C balsamic to half by gently boiling it in a small sauce pan. Pour over sliced fruit, or ice cream. My favorite is watermelon cubes with strawberry or pineapple balsamic.
· Add 1tsp to drinks like tea, cocktails or Italian sodas making them tart yet sweet.
Finally, balsamic vinegar has been linked to stabilizing blood sugars and is a great way to cut sugar intake. Let alone balsamic has antioxidants, and metabolism increasing enzymes. Plus, it just tastes good.
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