If I were to name one ingredient that influenced me the most, it would have to be balsamic vinegar. If the key to good cooking is to add flavor to ingredients, this ingredient can perform magic.
I have a vivid recollection of the first time I was introduced to it. My friends took me out for my birthday to a restaurant in Cherry Valley, near my home in Stroudsburg, PA. I had an appetizer of portobella mushrooms in a balsamic reduction. It was heaven on a plate.
When I opened my 2Beans Cafe, I used balsamic vinegar in a host of ways, including in our house dressing. Our Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette was the only dressing we served. I never had one complaint. It helped that I lived in Canada and there was a man that came to the Cafe from Quebec to sell me maple syrup by the gallon.
I also made a balsamic reduction to flavor roasted vegetables with goat cheese on Lavash bread. My customers raved! That had me experimenting further. Soon I was concocting an entree I dubbed Tuscan chicken. Raves again. Though I’ve never tried it, I’ve even heard of balsamic vinegar being used with strawberries to flavor ice cream.
There are two ways to make a balsamic reduction. One is to pour about a cup of good balsamic vinegar into a saucepan and let it simmer on medium-to-high heat. Stir constantly so it doesn’t scorch. In about five minutes the liquid should be reduced enough to coat the back of a spoon. Store this in an airtight container in the fridge and use with meat, poultry, fish, veggies, or a Caprese Salad.
Another way to make a balsamic reduction is to add a sweetener like honey, maple syrup, or brown sugar. You do pretty much the same thing but add a quarter cup of whatever sweetener you prefer. It takes a bit longer to arrive at the consistency you want but it is well worth the fifteen to twenty minutes it will take to reduce the vinegar.
Balsamic vinegar has become quite popular and now it comes in a variety of flavors. I’ve used the Alessi White Balsamic Vinegar that’s infused with fig to make a glaze for carrots. It might sound like it would go together but believe me, it works. I’m anxious to try some of their other flavors. The Orange Blossom Honey Balsamic Vinegar sounds really interesting.
If you haven’t tried making a balsamic reduction, treat yourself. You’ll be amazed at how wonderful it is!
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tspn sea salt fine
- 1/2 tspn black pepper freshly crushed black, finely ground
- 1 tspn garlic crused (one clove)
- Whisk all the ingredients together until fully combined either with a hand whisk or hand blender.
- Refrigerate in an airtight jar.
- Shake well before serving.