Balsamic vinegar 101: From drinks to desserts

A good balsamic vinegar is like a fine wine, and there are many different ways to enjoy it. But most folks aren't aware of the possibilities and use it in only one way. Italian chef and “Today” contributor Giada de Laurentiis shares a range of dishes using this staple of Italian cooking.

Balsamic Drink
Servings:

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 5 cups sparkling water
    • 1/4 cup good quality, aged Balsamic vinegar
    • 4 lemon twists, for garnish
    • Ice

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Place the ice in 4 tall, pint-sized glasses. Pour 1-1/4 cups of sparkling water and 1 tablespoon of Balsamic vinegar into each glass and stir. Top with a lemon twist and serve.

Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup
Servings:

Yield: Serves 6

Ingredients

    • 1-1/2 cups Balsamic vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 6 (5- to 6-ounce) filet mignon steaks (each about 1 inch thick)
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Boil the Balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet. Crumble the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the Balsamic sauce around the steaks and serve.

Roasted Chicken with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Servings:

4 main-course servings

Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar
    • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 lemon)
    • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1 whole cut-up chicken (about 4-pounds; giblets, neck and backbone reserved for another use)
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    • 1 teaspoon lemon zest (from about 1 lemon)

Preparation

Baking Directions:

In a 13x9x2-inch baking dish, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to blend. Whisk in the oil. Add the chicken pieces and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Roast the chicken uncovered until just cooked through, about 45 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Carefully pour the cooking liquid into a small heavy saucepan and spoon off the excess oil from atop the cooking liquid. Boil until the liquid reduces by about half and thickens slightly, about 8 minutes.Pour the sauce over the chicken. Sprinkle the parsley and lemon over the chicken, and serve.

Tips:

If the chicken gets too dark too quickly, cover it with aluminum foil, and take the foil off and bake uncovered for the last 10 minutes.

Orange Segments and Berries with Balsamic Cream
Servings:

6 servings

Ingredients

    • 4 navel oranges
    • 3/4 cup inexpensive Balsamic vinegar
    • 1/3 cup crème fraîche
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • 12 ounces fresh strawberries, quartered

Preparation

Baking Directions:

With a very sharp knife, cut the peel and white pith from the oranges. Cut between the membranes to release the segments. Whisk the vinegar, crème fraîche, and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until it thickens and resembles chocolate sauce, about 8 minutes. Arrange the orange segments and strawberries decoratively on dessert plates. Drizzle the warm balsamic sauce over the fruit and serve. Alternately, the Balsamic sauce can be served at room temperature and spooned over the fruit.

Penne with Beef and Arugula
Servings:

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

    • 1 pound New York strip steak
    • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
    • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tablespoons
    • 1 pound penne pasta
    • 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup chopped basil
    • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
    • 2 cups chopped arugula

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Season the steak with salt and freshly ground black pepper, herbs du Provence, and minced garlic. In a skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Cook steak about 7 minutes per side. Remove the meat from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the steak. Set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.In a small bowl, whisk together the Balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, fresh herbs, and 3/4 cup olive oil. In a large bowl toss the pasta with one half the salad dressing and the reserved pasta water. Set aside.In a large bowl toss together the pasta, arugula, and steak. Add more dressing, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. Toss, pack for the picnic, or serve.

Olive Oil & Balsamic Cake with Citrus Fruit
Servings:

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • Cake

    • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 2 teaspoons orange zest
    • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
    • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons whole milk
    • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted, coarsely crumbled powdered sugar, for sifting
  • Citrus Compote

    • 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
    • 3/4 teaspoon orange blossom water
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 3 oranges, segmented and juices reserved
    • 2 pink grapefruits, segmented and juices reserved

Preparation

Baking Directions:

To make the cakePreheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8-inch-diameter cake pan. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs, and zests in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the milk and the vinegar. Gradually beat in the oil. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Stir in the almonds. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto a platter and let cool for 5 more minutes. Sift powdered sugar over the cake.To make the citrus compoteStir the orange peel, blossom water, honey, and 2 tablespoons of accumulated juices from the segmented fruit in a small bowl to blend. Combine the orange and grapefruit segments with the blossom water mixture in a medium bowl and toss gently. Cover and let stand 15 minutes for the flavors to blend.

Serving Directions:

Cut the cake into wedges and spoon the citrus compote alongside.

Ravioli with Balsamic Brown Butter
Servings:

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

    • 18 to 20 ounces home-made or store-bought ravioli (cheese, mushroom, or squash)
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/3 cup toasted, chopped walnuts

Preparation

Baking Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the ravioli and cook 4 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally. Drain ravioli onto a large serving platter.Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan cook the butter over medium heat stirring occasionally. When the foam subsides, and the butter begins to turn a golden brown, about 3 minutes, turn off the heat. Let cool for about one minute. Stir in the Balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper. Drizzle the Balsamic brown butter over the ravioli, sprinkle with walnuts, and serve.

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