Barmy about balsamic
LEGENDARY Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan took to Facebook when recently irked by a food writer’s suggestion to splash balsamic vinegar on freshly picked tomatoes.
‘‘There is no taste more exciting than that of a good tomato, and sometimes you want nothing more with it than a pinch of sea salt,’’ she wrote.
And while Hazan notes she occasionally dresses tomatoes with crushed garlic, a touch of salt and red wine vinegar, she wrote: ‘‘Not balsamico.’’
Balsamic vinegar, the sweet-tart gift from Italy, has become a go-to condiment— showing up even in ice-cream.
You’d think people in Modena, Italy, would be delighted we love one of their culinary goodies.
Dos and don’ts
Do: Chop cherries and marinate them in balsamic vinegar, then use to brush meat in the final cooking process. Also serve as a side dish to roast or grilled lamb.
Do: Prepare a balsamic vinegar combination with greens or stone fruit, adding a little white pepper or grated ginger, grated lemon zest and even a touch of spring onions. It’s savoury and sweet, with just enough acidity to elongate the flavour in your mouth.
Do: Sear a pork fillet wrapped in bacon and finish the dish with a complementary balsamic vinegar sauce. Wrap the fillet in the bacon and sear it. Then take it out of the pan and wrap in foil to keep warm. Add a minced shallot and some balsamic vinegar to the pan juices, plus a dash of concentrated beef broth and a sprig of thyme. Let flavours simmer together a few minutes. Return the pork to the pan and baste with the balsamic pan juices before serving. Don’t: Heat balsamic excessively. Don’t: Drench a dish in balsamic vinegar. A few drops of extra old balsamic on a salad or over risotto adds depth and character to the dish without being too obvious or invasive.
Don’t: Use it in more than one dish at a meal. ‘‘If I am serving one course with balsamic vinegar, I keep it to that — never a repetition of plates using the vinegar, ’’Hazan says. ‘‘That is, unless I have an extra-old 30-year balsamic vinegar around to sip from a teaspoon as a digestive after a meal. You can never overdose on that elixir.’’
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