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Balsamic vinegar (Recipe: my favorite green salad, with tomato, cucumber, nectarines and olives) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

Green salad

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.

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Mango-mint gazpacho
Chipotle-balsamic salad dressing
Grilled peaches with balsamic and granola
Asparagus, nectarine and tomato salad
Penne with roasted red pepper pesto

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

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I love balsamic vinegar, although I've never had any of the really good stuff except a small bottle that Ilva sent me from Italy (which I used up long ago!) Love the addition of nectarines to the salad.

my favourite balsamic is the whole foods 365 version. One day when i am rich and famous i am going to buy the real thing which if and thats a BIG if you can find it in NJ goes for more than $100 for a tiny bottle. Rumour has it that the real stuff is amazing. My signature salad or the one i eat nearly every day is romaine with scallions and a bit of vinaigrette

It is easy to see why this salad is one of your favourite things Lydia.

I've been loving stone fruit in my green salads as well, but have going with a citrus squeeze. Balsamic of course would be the perfect acid! I have yet to try the white balsamic but am thinking that it may be work the price, just to have tasted it. Sadly, no aged balsamic for me, need to find some (but fear that is all I will want to drink, I mean eat!)

This looks great, Lydia. At first the olives threw me off, but on second thought---I love their inclusion. My signature recipe with balsamic? Balsamic strawberries (a recipe I received from a B&B). It's amazingly delightful!

I love Balsamic Vinegar! It is my new secret ingredient for French Onion Soup!!

Kalyn, nectarines really play well with the crunch of cucumber and the sweetness of summer tomatoes. And with balsamic of course.

Milton, treat yourself some day to Zingerman's tasting samples of real balsamic. They are tiny, but somewhat affordable, and at least for me, it's the closest I'm likely to get to the real thing.

Valli, it's become the "house" salad around here during the summer.

Kirsten, one thing I love about the Rubio (which is a condiment, not a tradizionale) is that it stands on its own and tastes delicious used in all the ways you would use tradizionale balsamico. I hope you'll try it.

Sandie, I love canned olives in this salad because they don't overpower the balance of flavors. And I love balsamic strawberries; I make them often, in season.

Crystal, what a great idea to add it to onion soup! I'm going to try it.

I really love the lemon balsamic vinegar from Trader Joe's. Only, the cork stopper is allowing it to evaporate some, I think.

A favorite salad is mandarin orange segments, chopped scallions, red and green leaf lettuces, and a light citrus vinaigrette.

Need to add: a splash of balsamic vinegar really perks up sauteed sweet onions to top a burger or steak! Or, wrap whole sweet onions in foil and add a drizzle of balsamic, then wrap completely and bake until soft.

I have an apple balsamic vinegar in the pantry right now, and I've been trying to come up with the right salad. Apples seem so obvious, but clearly some kind of fruit is in order.

This salad sounds so refreshing- I love the addition of nectarines. Brilliant with balsamic. Lately I've been diggin' fig balsamic. Sweet and tart. I just discovered that Trader Joe's is up the street, not too far from our new apartment. I'll have to run up there and grab some TJ's balsamic.

nectarines are a really cool idea. I bet you could add a bit of cooked pasta to bulk it up without adding meat.

Yummmm, it looks so colorful and pretty and delicious all at once.

I have enjoyed perusing your site! I've taken a few recipes to try in the next two weeks. I was surprised to read my Balsamic Vinegar isn't the real McCoy. I use Monari Federzoni's balsamic Vinegar, now I know it's a "condiment". Here's my Balsamic Marinade made with the "fake" stuff, ;)

1/3 c olive oil (Extra Virgin!)
1/2 c balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp parmesan bread dipping spices
1/8 tsp each onion powder/granulated garlic
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 Tbsp Lea & Perrins Marinade for chicken
5-6 squirts of I Can't Believe it's not butter spray (really!! doesn't taste right without it!)

Mix together, marinate chicken breasts 1-3 hours, grill.

If I could just figure out exactly what's in the parmesan bread dipping stuff so I could make my own. I order Dean Jacob's Bread Dipping Seasonings in Parmesan Blend and Rosa Maria blend as a pantry staple. Use them in and on many things, not just to dip my bread in(but that works, too!)

Hey, thanks for the link, which led to me discovering your blog! I'm totally loving your "other people's pantries" feature.

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