Balsamic vinegar (Recipe: my favorite green salad, with tomato, cucumber, nectarines and olives)
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens,
brown paper packages tied up with strings,
these are a few of my favorite things.
When the film version of The Sound of Music came out in 1965, I would sing along in my most Julie-Andrews-like accent while twirling around my very pink bedroom with my tween-aged friends.
Today, whenever I write about my favorite things -- things like red Birkenstocks and bookstore cafés, Hitchcock movies and balsamic vinegar, my low-tech molcajete and high-speed iPad -- I hum a little, and sometimes I do a little twirly jig, too.
I have three or four different balsamic vinegars in the pantry; my favorite of all is Rubio, a balsamic condiment perfect for salads, sauces and fruit. I also have some from Trader Joe's, bargain priced and great for cooking, and a very small tasting sample, the size of a thimble, of aged tradizionale balsamico.
I'm saving the tradizionale for a special occasion. Perhaps a screening of The Sound of Music, a spin around the kitchen in my red Birks, and my favorite salad, dressed in balsamic.
Do you have a favorite balsamic vinegar, and a signature salad?
What is balsamic vinegar?
There are two types: tradizionale, made from 100% Trebbiano and Spergola grape must, aged in barrels for 12 years (and up to 70 years), certified authentic by the Consorzio Aceto Balsamico; and balsamic condiment or commercial balsamic, a blend of must (50% or less) and red wine vinegar.
How/where to store:
In the pantry, at room temperature, indefinitely; after opening, it will keep in the pantry for up to two years.
More facts about balsamic vinegar, and ingredient photos, in The Perfect Pantry:
Balsamic vinegar (Recipe: strawberries in balsamic)
My favorite green salad, with tomato, cucumber, nectarines and olives (and a bit of cheese)
A few of my favorite things, tossed together in one bowl, topped with a bit of crumbled feta or mild blue cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Everyone should have a signature salad, and this is mine. Proportions are not at all important; add more or less of whatever you like best. And if you want to bulk it up for a main course, add some steamed shrimp or shredded rotisserie chicken. Serves 4 or more.
1 small head romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2-3 very ripe tomatoes, cut into cubes
2 nectarines, cut into cubes
1-2 small cucumbers (Kirby or seedless), cut into cubes
20 small black pitted olives (from a can)
1/4 cup crumbled feta or mild blue cheese (optional)
A few Tbsp of the best balsamic vinegar or balsamic condiment you can afford
A pinch of fresh black pepper
1-2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Add the lettuce, tomatoes, nectarines, cucumbers, olives and cheese to a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with your best balsamic vinegar, and toss. Add black pepper, and toss again. Add olive oil, if desired, and toss again. Serve immediately.
Other recipes that use balsamic vinegar:
Vinegar chicken with mushrooms, from Blue Kitchen
Fennel, cherry tomato tartlets on balsamic crust, from La Tartine Gourmande
Grilled chicken with balsamic vinegar, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Strawberry balsamic truffles, from Brownie Points
Mashed potatoes with balsamic vinegar, basil and figs, from Cafe Liz