Once I discovered how to put balsamic vinegar to good use, this vinegar fought it’s way from the depths of rarely used ingredients in my kitchen pantry, to the easy-to-reach shelf, directly in front and right next to the olive oil. It flavors most all my vegetables from Brussel sprouts to carrots to green beans and more.
Balsamic vinegar is produced from white or red grape varieties. The grape juice is cooked down until most of the liquid evaporates leaving a thick syrup called “must.” The must is transferred to wooden barrels where it is mixed with a “mother” vinegar and undergoes a slow fermentation process, followed by a lengthy aging process. The end result is a dark, rich and sweet vinegar. Prices may range from $3.00 per bottle all the way up to $500 per bottle! Traditional balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico tradizionale) is more expensive and uses high quality grapes made in Reggio Emilia and Modena, Italy and aged for a minimum of 12 years. Production must follow strict guidelines and will therefore carry the “DOP” (Protected Designation of Origin) label. Traditional balsamic vinegar is not meant for cooking. Splurge on this higher price vinegar when you wish to showcase it, such as serving over ice cream or drizzling over aged cheeses. Treat it like a fine wine.
The less expensive balsamic vinegars found in grocery stores are mass produced and simply labeled balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico). They are produced with wine vinegar and may be aged for only a few months or years. They may also have added coloring, flavoring or thickening agents. These vinegars are good for making salad dressings, marinating meat, or roasting vegetables. Store vinegar in a cool, dark place. Find the balsamic vinegar that fits your tastes and budget!
Balsamic Grilled Asparagus (Printable PDF)
1 lb. asparagus
½ Tablespoon olive oil
½ Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Wash and snap off tough ends of asparagus. Lay asparagus on a shallow dish. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Using clean hands, toss well to coat. Lay asparagus on hot grill grate and grill 2-4 minutes on each side or until tender-crisp. Transfer asparagus to serving platter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving): 50 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 170 milligrams sodium, 5 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 3 grams protein