Ah, Jared's Java. Pleasant taste. Slight Monsterism.

Welcome to the home of my mind, where I brew my intellectual and spiritual joe. Sit back and let me pour you a cup or two. I promise not to cut you off, even after you get the caffeine jitters.

Friday, August 03, 2007

A Liquid of Love

As many of you already know, I'm quite a picky eater. I get lots of flack for that everywhere...even at my house church. We share a meal before we study, and they are forever asking "Jared, will you eat...?" Oh, bugger.

One thing I love is balsamic vinegar. It is so versatile, complex and flavorful. I tend to have a strong disdain for vinegary flavors. Balsamic is different. It is made from the pressings of the white Trebbiano grape. It is never fermented into wine, but made straight into vinager, which is what gives balsamic it's characteristic hallmark sweet note (which means it is not a true vinager, which is the combonation of the two french words "vin" which is "wine" and "aigre" meaning sour). It is aged in barrels of different kinds of wood such ash, cherry, oak, juniper, and chestnut, which all impart different aspects to its complex flavor. Depending on the quality the manufacturer is focused on producing, this process can take between 6 months and 12 years.

I get a "middle of the road" balsamic. The Kirkland brand at Costco is my mainstay. It is a great product, and you get enough to last a couple years for the same price you'd pay for a three to six month supply at a regular grocery store. I have yet to have a really high end balsamic, and I'm afraid to. I don't want get ruined for the quality I'm currently using.

My guilty pleasure is getting a fresh sourdough bagette from a local store bakery, slicing off some rounds, toasting them up (you do have a toaster oven, don't you?), topping them with a little olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, and then dipping it in a small ramekin with some balsamic in it. That accompanies any pasta dish really nicely. You could also dip garlic bread and it would go nicely.

It cooks well, too, outside of making salad dressing (though it does that really well). Giada de Laurentiis made a barbeque sauce that works well for steak or chicken out of it in a recent episode of Everyday Italian (however, I'd cut the amount of balsamic to 3/4 of a cup; it's just too strong if you do a full one). Everything in the recipe are on hand items that are stock in most kitchens. I tried it, and it's great. However, the recipe calls for one cup, and I'd cut that down to 3/4 of a cup. It is way too strong if you add the full one cup. I always buy way more chicken than I know what to do with (being married without kids), so it is nice to have another "what else" to do with it.

What else can it do? How about portabello burgers with roasted pepper pasted and smoked mozzarella? I could go on and on.

How about you, fair reader? Do you ever use balsamic vinegar? What do you do with it? I'm anxious to hear what ideas you might have.

(Bonus tip: I know a lot of y'all are coffee drinkers. I buy way more coffee at Costco than I can drink before it would generally go stale {one month shelf life under general circumstances}. I get their fresh roasted coffee in 2.5 lb {or 1.15kg} bags. I seal the beans in individual zip-loc sandwich bags, and then I seal all but the first one I will use inside a gallon size zip-loc storage bag. I further put all of those, including the one I'm going to first use, in an extra-large gladware plastic container. It takes me well over a month to get to that last bag, and it still tastes as fresh as the first one I opened. Just make sure to squeeze all of the air out of the gallon size zip-loc bag every time you remove another sandwich bag. They love you long time, tee-hee)


Ames said...

Oh man, oh man. I LOVE balsamic vinegar. I just have a cup of it with every meal. Okay, so not that much. I make my own salad dressing with it sometimes. Dipping it in bread is good, too. Tragically, there is a person in our household who does not share this passion with me. He'll remain nameless as I would not want to smear his good reputation.

R said...

I use balsamic vinegar when I grill vegetables. I am not sure how much of it I use, I just drizzle freshly chopped zucchini, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, etc with olive oil, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar. I even put in a bit of cayenne and crushed red pepper. Cilantro or parsley would work well too. Then I skewer them up and grill.

I do the same thing with my coffee!!!:)

I did not know you were picky? Are you joking? Dear Sir is picky. When he branches out he will sip a coffee of mine. And that is me begging him over and over to do it just to see if his taste has changed.

I made homemade tacos last night (I even fried the taco shells) and Dear Sir came home and grilled himself a burger. Yes, it's that bad.

clumsy ox said...

I cook with balsamic vinegar, as the masses---er, most people---like it; but I personally despise the stuff.

Chelf said...

I don't much like Balsamic. I suppose it is because of the grape part. I don't like wine, I despise grape juice (I have to take that one little cup every Sunday, and it is horrible!). I will eat a grape or a raisin, but that is because it has not been abused by additions.

I prefer to eat my toasty bread with Herbs and a drizzle of Olive Oil. Carrabba's has the best blend of fresh herbs, and they have a really good, crusty yet soft bread. Yummy!

Niki said...

I'm with Chelf...Carrabbas herbs/oil blend rocks! That's why we ate there for my b-day last week. ;)

I love balsamic vinegar. We make salad dressing, marinades for grilling...and you'd have to ask Benny what else since he's the one who usually cooks with it. Thanks for the cooking tips. I'll be sure to pass them along to Benny. ;)

uberstrickenfrau said...

Ok, I see I must advoid you on Fridays, the food talk is torture! I love to eat but hate to cook, but I love the balsamic, too, on bread, ahhhh-heavenly. The recipe sounds very good too.

Gwen said...

Clumsy: Cretin.

Balsamic vinegar is the nectar of the gods. I, too, haven't yet purchased the really, really good stuff, as I generally opt to pay the mortgage instead. But a decent mid/high range can do anything - dressings, veggies, dipping breads, even in desserts (try a couple drops in sliced strawberries to bring out the flavour). My word, I'm getting hungry.