Vinegars and Spices.
Vinegar is an essential ingredient in a natural kitchen, especially when the accent is on vegetables. Whether made from apples or raspberries, or from fermented red and white wine, this most sour of ingredients goes generally untouched on the pantry shelf until it is poured over greens with a drizzle of olive oil. I like to steam vegetables in warm vinegar baths to serve them as an appetizer or as a filling for salad. I discovered while experimenting with pickling that vinegar marinades taste better with time. The cooking liquids left over from pickling cauliflower, beets, red onions and radishes become colored vinegars for salad dressing. I make a habit of mixing double recipes of vinegars and spices and save what I don’t use right away in glass jars in the refrigerator. The results of my efforts give a shelf full of interesting colors and flavors readily available for the making of homemade vinaigrettes and jar dressings The following vinegar trio are made in no time at all and make activity in the kitchen just that much more interesting.
Apple saffron vinegar
- 250 ml apple cider vinegar
- 10 threads of pure saffron
Mix the saffron with the vinegar and let it steep in a bottle or a jar. It will turn bright orange. Taste the vinegar after a few days and add more vinegar if the saffron flavor is too strong. Use this vinegar as the basis freshly made mayonnaise and for vinaigrettes made to match Mediterranean vegetables like grilled leeks or fennel. If saffron isn’t in your spice cabinet, make an equally dramatic golden vinegar with a piece of Curcuma root or a teaspoon of finely ground Curcuma with a pinch of finely ground ginger.
Peel persimmons and slice them into wedges. Arrange them in a shallow bowl and sprinkle them with saffron vinegar. Drizzle some organic honey over the cut fruit and lay a cinnamon stick and some star anise on top of them. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour. Make a vinaigrette with the saffron vinegar mixed with walnut oil for a green leaf salad served with pickled persimmons.
White wine red pepper vinegar
- 500 ml white wine vinegar
- 10 small spicy red peppers
Cut a small slash into each pepper or cut them in half and drop them into the white wine vinegar. It will take a few days before the vinegar takes on the spiciness of the peppers. Add some black pepper corns and whole mustard seeds to the batch. Don’t be tempted to add garlic since garlic will spoil the vinegar too quickly.
Drizzle pure red pepper vinegar over steamed Romanesco or cauliflower along with some new harvest olive extra virgin olive oil and toss the vegetables with a bit of sea salt and freshly sliced garlic for a wonderfully easy vegetable side dish. Add some golden raisins and toasted almonds for a Sicilian twist.
Balsamic vinegar and bay leaf
- 250 ml young Balsamic vinegar from Modena
- 6 fresh bay leaves
- 3 allspice berries
- 50 ml honey
Whisk the honey through the balsamic vinegar in a clean glass jar and add the fresh bay leaves. The aromatic bay leaf gives a nice earthy balance to the sweet vinegar. Add a few allspice berries in the fall and winter to this dark rum-colored mixture for a warm undertone reminiscent of the holidays.
Pour some extra virgin olive oil into a small bowl and set a bowl of bay leaf balsamic vinegar next to the oil. Wash bok choy or rainbow chard. Separate the leaves from the stalks. Dip the crisp vegetable stalks into olive oil, followed by bay leaf balsamic vinegar.
Save the leaves of the vegetables for steamed rice rolls.
This is one of four parts of a special edition entitled “Beautiful Food” inspired by Jennifer Tyler Lee’s book entitled “The 52 New Foods Challenge”.