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TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Balsamic Vinegar, Beyond Vinaigrette

Balsamic Glaze Salmon
[1] Salmon with balsamic glaze. Here’s the recipe from courtesy Cooking Classy.

Carrot Soup With Balsamic
[2] Carrot soup with garnishes, including a splash of balsamic vinegar (photo courtesy Sid Wainer & Sons).

Balsamic Ice Cream Sundae
[3] Balsamic syrup tops a sundae of vanilla ice cream and strawberries. Here’s the recipe from Whole Foods Market.

Pan Sauce

[4] Add some balsamic to pan sauces. Here’s a recipe from Mom 101.


Balsamic is our vinegar of choice with salad. We have 10 other vinegars, but when we want rich flavor and low acidity, we always reach for the balsamic. We currently have different ages of traditionale balsamic, condimento balsamic, plus industriale flavored balsamics in blackberry, chocolate, fig and pomegranate (there are numerous other flavors to be had).

With so much balsamic on the shelf, we’re always looking for new ways to use them. The latest is reduced chocolate balsamic syrup on vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but here are classic uses:

Use balsamic vinegar as you would use wine, to finish dishes or reduce into glazes and sauces.

If you reduce balsamic vinegar into a syrup, you get balsamic glaze, also called creme balsamica (balsamic cream). It’s a luscious condiment for drizzling over savory or sweet dishes. With its complex flavors—sweet, sour, fruity—at its simplest, it can enhance anything grilled or roasted, including panini and other grilled sandwiches. Even nachos!

Balsamic syrup is a dessert syrup, too: on ice cream, pound cake, puddings and more.

Here are dozens of ways to use balsamic glaze, and a simple recipe.

Braising involves searing the food over high heat, then stewing it in a liquid (in a covered pot at a lower temperature).

Whether you’re braising proteins or vegetables, add a tablespoon of balsamic to the braising liquid. It creates a rich layer of flavor with a hint of sweetness. It waves a magic braised fennel, braised radishes and other veggies.

It also waves a magic wand over caramelized onions and mushroom ragout.

Balsamic vinegar is a known tenderizer. It imparts a rich, sweet flavor to meat and a cook’s “secret” to tenderize meats. It’s also a star with portabella mushrooms and tofu.

You can make as simple a marinade as you like. We like this combination:

  • 2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

    The simplest sauce is made from the pan juices that result from sautéing a protein: fish, meat or poultry (photo #4).

    When you deglaze the pan to make the sauce, add a splash of balsamic to the wine, broth or other liquid.

    Many soups, including gazpacho, get a touch of glamour from balsamic vinegar. Stir a a half or whole teaspoon per serving at the end of cooking. It adds brightness and a sophisticated layer of flavor.

    Or, splash or drizzle some balsamic on top of a thick purée (photo #2).
    6. DRINKS

    Tell your inner mixologist to get out the balsamic vinegar and add some (or more) sophistication to drinks.

    You can add balsamic vinegar to soft drinks and club soda to make shrubs. Or, layer more flavor into cocktails.

    This works best with bourbon and whiskey, which have heavier flavors than white spirits and are more adaptable to the balsamic.



    This Pomegranate Negroni from Sid Wainer & Sons (photo #5) will have guests wondering what the “special ingredient” is.

    You can use any flavor of balsamic, or even plain balsamic; but we like fall flavors here, such as fig, ginger, pear and pomegranate balsamic.

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 1.25 ounces gin
  • 1.25 ounces Campari
  • 1.25 ounces sweet vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
  • Ice
  • Garnish: orange peel
  • Optional garnish: pomegranate arils

    Pomegranate Negroni

    [5] A Pomegranate Negroni: Just add pomegranate balsamic. The recipe is below (photo courtesy Sid Wainer & Sons).


    1. COMBINE the ingredients including ice in a shaker. Shake and pour into a chilled glass.

    2. GARNISH with the orange peel and optional pomegranate arils.

    The Negroni is one of the classic cocktails of the 20th century, dating to 1919.

    As the story goes, the cocktail was invented at the Bar Cassoni* in Florence, Italy by bartender Fosco Scarselli. He created it for a regular patron, Count Camillo Negroni, who had asked for an Americano cocktail strengthened with a dash of gin instead of the usual soda water.

    Scarselli switched the garnish of the Americano from lemon peel to orange, and presented his client with a “Negroni.”

    The cocktail took off, and the Count’s family quickly founded Negroni Antica Distilleria in Treviso, producing Antico Negroni, a ready-made version of the drink.

    But the cocktail was unknown in the U.S. until 1947 when Orson Welles, working in Rome, wrote about it, creating a rush to try it.

    *Bar Cassoni became Caffè Casoni and is now called Caffè Cavalli.




    TIP OF THE DAY: Have An Oktoberfest Party

    This story comes to us from, the website for fans of American craft beers.

    Prior to the advent of electricity, brewing was of necessity relegated to specific times of the year: spring and fall. In order for brewing to take place, the environment needed to offer up the right temperatures for brewing and lagering—the step where beers are aged—often in caves in the era pre-electricity.

    Fall, which brought both ample ingredients from the harvest and the right temperatures, was considered the best brewing season.

    For several generations, we’ve had temperature-controlled brewing systems. Today’s brewers have on-demand ingredients from anywhere in the world. Overnight air freight can deliver the yeasts that allow brewers to create the recipes they want.

    So why do we drink March beer—Märzen (MARE-zen, sometimes spelled Maerzen in English)—in the fall?

    In 1553, Bavarian Duke Albrecht V decreed it illegal to brew beer in Bavaria between April 23rd and September 24th. These months are typically too warm for brewing without risking bacterial growth that spoils beer.

    Thus, brewers ramped up production in March to have enough supply for the next five months. These March beers, Märzens, were brewed stronger and lagered so they would keep throughout the summer.

    A Bavarian Märzen is copper-red in color with a full-bodied maltiness—a little spicy and dryish. It has what is described as a rich bread-crust-like malt flavor.

    The term “Oktoberfest” did not have a connection to Märzen-style beer for another 300-plus years, 62 years after the first Oktoberfest.

    The first Oktoberfest celebration began with the Royal Wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the royal event.


    Marzen Beer
    [1] Märzen beers have reddish hues (photo courtesy Craft Beer).

    Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest Beer

    [2] Oktoberfest beer from Sierra Nevada.

    According to legend, a brewer ran out of the then-traditional fall beer, the Dunkel—a group of malty, dark German lagers that range in colour from amber to dark reddish brown (Dunkel means dark).

    Instead, he served a beer similar to Märzen.

    The first named “Oktoberfest” beer is a Märzen-style beer that was brewed for the Munich Oktoberfest in 1872 (it seems to have taken a long while for marketing to take over).

    The celebration became an annual festival in Munich, running from the third week in September through the second week in October*.


    Oktoberfest/Märzen beer has become a very popular style for U.S. brewers to produce. If you’re a lover of malt, look at your local selection of American craft brews for examples. Just a few examples:

  • Anaheim Brewery | Oktoberfest Lager | Anaheim, California
  • Cape May Brewing | Oktoberfest | Cape May, New Jersey
  • Chuckanut Brewing | Old Fest | Bellingham, Washington
  • Due South Brewing | Oktoberfest | Boynton Beach, Florida
  • Enegren Brewing Co. | Oktoberfest | Moorpark, California
  • Lumberyard Brewing | Oktoberfest Marzen | Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Meadowlark Brewing | Festbier | Sidney, Montana
  • Pedal Haus | Oktoberfestbier | Tempe, Arizona
  • SanTan Brewing | Oktoberfest | Chandler, Arizona
  • War Horse Brewing | Rolling Storm | Geneva, New York
    Pull together as many selections as you like, and call the crew over for your own little Oktoberfest*. Also scan the shelves for Dunkels to compare.

    And if you have as good a time as we think you will, plan another tasting next month, with pumpkin beers and ales.

    How To Plan An Oktoberfest Party

    Oktoberfest Foods

    Oktoberfest Burger With Pork Schnitzel & Beer Cheese Sauce


    *The 2017 Oktoberfest in Munich runs from September 16th through October 10th.



    TIP OF THE DAY: An Edible Delicata Vase

    Delicata Squash
    [1] Turn a delicata squash into an edible vase (photo courtesy Good Eggs).

    Delicata Squash Bouquet
    [2] An edible delicata squash vase from Olmstead | Brooklyn.

    La Quercia Speck

    [3] Domestic speck from La Quercia in Iowa.

    La Quercia Prosciutto

    [4] Domestic prosciutto from La Quercia (photos #3 and #4 courtesy Murray’s Cheese). Prosciutto and speck look almost identical in photos. The difference is in the flavor and aroma. See why below.


    Olmstead, in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, New York, is one of two New York City restaurants that was named to the list of James Beard Award-winning restaurants of 2017 (the other is Le Coucou).

    These delicata squash vases are one of chef Greg Baxtrom’s favorite seasonal dishes. Multiply this recipe by the number of servings you’d like.

    For a vegetarian course, substitute thin curls of a hard cheese like parmesan or aged gouda for the prosciutto/speck.

    Ingredients For 2 Servings

  • 1 delicata squash
  • 2 ounces sliced prosciutto or speck
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 bunch sage
  • 3 tablespoons ricotta
  • 1 smallish green pear
  • 1 bunch mustard greens
  • 1 head lettuce (we used butter lettuce)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry vinegar

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Cut the bottom off the squash so it has a level base, slice it in half and scoop out the seeds. Then slice it in half horizontally, to create two “vases” (you’ll have four pieces, and will use two pieces to make one vase). Season with salt and pepper and roast for 30 minutes or until tender.

    2. REDUCE the heat to 325°F and bake the prosciutto/speck on a baking sheet until crispy.

    3. HEAT the cooking oil to 300°F and fry the sage for 20 seconds. Remove and set on paper towels to drain.

    4. SEASON the ricotta with olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Clean the lettuce and mustard greens. Slice the pear thinly on a mandoline. Dress the lettuce greens and pear with salt, pepper, olive oil and sherry vinegar

    5. ASSEMBLE: Stand up two halves of the squash and fill it halfway with ricotta. Build the vase, adding lettuces to make the bouquet. Decorate the lettuce bouquet with strips of crispy ham, pear slices and sage.

    The delicata is a winter squash, a cream-colored cylindrical shape with green stripes. It is a member of the genus/species Cucurbita pepo, which also includes pattypan squash, pumpkin, yellow crookneck squash, yellow summer squash and zucchini.

    Delicata refers to its delicate rind, which can be eaten. Along with its creamy texture, delicata makes a perfect edible vase. It is often stuffed with meat or vegetable mixtures.

    Delicata squash is most commonly baked, but can also be microwaved, sautéed and steamed. The seeds can be toasted and eaten.

    Indigenous to North and Central America, squash were introduced to early European settlers by Native Americans. References to the delicata date to 1856. While the standard delicata is grows on vines, sweeter bush varieties have been introduced and sold with proprietary names such as Honey Boat and Sugar Loaf [source].

    Delicata is not as rich in beta-carotene as other winter squashes, but is a good source of dietary fiber and potassium, with smaller amounts of vitamins B and C, magnesium and manganese.

    Delicata is also known as Bohemian squash, peanut squash and sweet potato squash. They are easy to grow, mature roughly 105 days after germinating. After harvested, you’ll need to cure them for approximately a week in a warm, dry place, protected from frost. A garage works.


    Prosciutto and speck are very similar hams, both made from the hind leg of the pig, rubbed with salt and spices.

  • Prosciutto is cured by air-drying.
  • Speck is air-dried, then smoked as a final step in the curing process.
  • The result: speck has a smoky flavor, prosciutto does not.


    TIP OF THE DAY: Potato Latkes, Root Vegetable Latkes

    The Jewish new year, Rosh Hashanah, begins tonight, and we’re having latkes.

    Potato latkes are a Chanukah tradition*, but they are enjoyed year-round.

    The popular potato latkes of European Jewish cuisine descend from Sicilian ricotta pancakes that appeared in the Middle Ages. They traveled north to Rome, where the Jewry called them cassola.

    Here’s a recipe for ricotta latkes. Traditionally sweetened, you can make a savory version with herbs instead of sugar.

    Potato latkes (meaning “fried cakes,” i.e. pancakes, in Yiddish) are an Ashkenazi invention that gained popularity in Eastern Europe during the mid 1800s. The Hebrew word, leviva, is found in the Book of Samuel.

    While the ricotta pancakes, a cousin to cheese blintzes are delicious, our bet is that more people would rather have fried potatoes!

    Here’s a longer history of latkes.

    For centuries, potato latkes were the rule. Toward the end of the 20th century, cooks went so far as to make sweet potato latkes.

    Then, anything was possible: latkes from beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips…. If it’s a root vegetable, it can be turned into latke. You can also use non-root vegetables, like summer and winter squash.

    Food trivia: Potatoes themselves are not root vegetables, but stem vegetables. They grow on underground stems, called stolons.

    Potato tubers are actually thickened stems: They have buds that sprout stems and leaves; roots don’t. Here’s more about it.

  • You can use sweet potatoes or purple potatoes—anything you can grate.
  • You can turn latkes into a main course with the addition of a protein: from sliced steak to fried chicken (the Jewish chicken and waffles) to pickled herring or smoked fish.
  • You can serve it as a salad course, atop a plate of mesclun.
  • You can provide three or four different toppings.
  • You can serve mini-latkes with a beer or glass of wine.
  • Latkes don’t have to be round or oval. If you have pancake or egg molds, make whatever shape you have: diamonds, flowers, hearts, stars, etc.

    Don’t use anything with detail (Mickey Mouse ears, animals, etc.), since the latke batter is chunky, not smooth like pancakes or an egg.

  • Most importantly, you can make latkes any day of the year. Think of them as you would hashed browns.

    You can serve more than one topping or garnish. Our mom always served sour cream and her homemade applesauce, as did her mom. (For Rosh Hashanah, the latkes accompanied roast chicken; for Chanukah, a brisket.)

    We improved on her toppings, by adding a hit of nutmeg to the applesauce and minced chives, and separately, horseradish, to the sour cream.

    While applesauce and sour cream are perfect latke partner, this is a new century. Try fusion seasonings, go crazy (within reason) with toppings like cardamom applesauce, curried Greek yogurt or 3-herb sour cream.

    Some ideas:


    Potato Latkes
    [1] Classic potato latkes with sour cream, enhanced with dill. Here’s the recipe from Najwa Kronfel of Delicious Shots.

    Potato Latkes
    [2] Latkes, modernized with Dijon mustard (photo courtesy Maille).

    Potato Latkes

    [3] Latkes made with scallions instead of conventional yellow onions (photo courtesy Shaya | New Orleans).

  • Dairy: crème fraîche, herbed goat cheese or ricotta, Greek yogurt, sour cream with chives, dill or scallions
  • Fish and seafood: caviar/roe, herring in cream sauce, salmon pastrami, smoked salmon, smoked sturgeon, smoked whitefish
  • Fruit sauce: chutney, cranberry sauce, flavored applesauce
  • Gourmet: smoked salmon and salmon caviar (or other roe) with crème fraîche or dilled sour cream
  • Poached egg: for a main or first course
  • Salsa: corn, corn and bean, peach or mango, pesto, roasted tomato)
  • More: Dijon mustard, kimchi, pickled beets, pickled onions and other pickled vegetables, pomegranate arils

  • Chopped fresh herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, thyme
  • Slaw: Asian slaw (no mayo), purple cabbage cole slaw, root vegetable slaw.
  • Vegetables: grilled or roasted, ratatouille or other vegetable medley
    Our personal favorite latke garnish is gourmet-traditional: creme fraiche with dill, smoked salmon and caviar.

    We would gladly accept a latke trio: three different preparations, as in photo #6.


    *Latkes are traditionally eaten by Ashkenazi Jews during the Chanukah. The oil in which the latkes are fried is another tribute to the miracle of Chanukah. The history, in brief: In ancient Judea, the Syrian king Antiochus ordered the Jewish people to abandon their religion and worship the Greek gods. Judah, leader of the band that called themselves the Maccabees (Hebrew for hammer), drove the Syrians from Israel and reclaimed the Second Temple in Jerusalem, removing the Greek statues. They finished their work on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, and wanted to light the eternal light (N’er Tamid), present in every Jewish house of worship, to rededicate the temple. Once lit, the light should never be extinguished. But there was only a tiny jug of lamp oil—enough for a single day. A miracle occurred: the light burned for eight days. This is the origin of Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, which is celebrated for eight days. The word Chanukah means “rededication.”


    Carrot Latkes
    [4] Carrot and scallion latkes (photo courtesy Elana’s Pantry).

    Celery Root Parsnip Latkes
    [5] Celery root and parsnip latkes. You can make beet latkes or potato latkes, too.

    Gourmet Latkes

    [6] Gourmet latke trio: lobster and white truffles, caviar and crème fraîche, smoked salmon and crème fraîche, all with a quail egg garnish (photo courtesy Duet Brasserie).



    This recipe for quick, light and crisp latkes is from Andrea Watman, Creative Director at New York City’s legendary Zabar’s. The recipe is Andrea’s grandmother’s

    This simple adaptation uses a food processor instead of hand grating, and potatoes that are not peeled. It should only take minutes to prepare.

    The latke recipes of Grandma Bertha’s time required labor-intensive peeling of the potatoes, then grating them on a four-sided metal grater—which invariably ended up scraping one’s knuckles as well.

    The hand grating took so long that the potatoes would start to discolor. Only the enjoyment of the delicious finished latkes made one forget the travail of making them.

    Andrea improved upon the recipe by tossing the potatoes, peel and all, into the food processor. She also uses a coffee scoop to measure the batter. She finds that it makes latkes that are “just the right size.”

    If you don’t have a coffee scoop, you can use a 1/4 cup measure, which makes larger latkes.

    Latkes freeze really well and can be reheated in the microwave; but they are best when eaten right after cooking.

    Ingredients For About 30 Latkes

  • 4 Idaho potatoes, washed but not peeled
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • ½ tablespoon fresh-ground pepper
  • Oil for frying (Andrea uses half olive oil, half corn oil)
  • Garnishes of choice

    1. CUT the potatoes and onion into quarters. Place in the bowl of food processor, using the “S” blade or knife blade. Grind until finely ground; pulse if necessary.

    2. ADD the eggs, salt and pepper. Grind until mixed. Remove bowl from food processor and stir in the flour. The mixture should be the consistency of thick oatmeal.

    3. HEAT 1″ of oil in a deep frying pan. Be patient and wait until it heats fully or the latkes won’t get golden brown. (Andrea uses an electric frying pan set at high heat because she finds it provides a more consistent heat than the stovetop.)

    4. SCOOP the batter into the frying pan using a coffee scoop. You should be able to fry 6-8 latkes at a time. The latkes will begin to bubble, just like regular batter pancakes.

    5. TURN them when brown. Try not to turn them more them once. The less you turn them the crisper they will be. Remove all the pancakes that have been cooking before adding new batter. In this way, way you can control the temperature of the oil and keep track of cooking time.

    6. PLACE the cooked latkes on paper towels to drain.


  • Butternut Squash Latkes With Harissa & Tahini Crème Fraîche
  • Potato, Onion & Cauliflower Latkes
  • Vegetable Latkes: carrots, leeks, parsnips, potatoes, white onion

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Ice Cream Without An Ice Cream Maker

    You need only four ingredients to make ice cream—and NO ice cream maker.

    There may be an extra ingredient, such as lemon juice with fruit flavors.

    Just whip the cream, fold it into the sweetened condensed milk with the other ingredients, freeze in a loaf pan and voilà, ice cream!

    The other ingredients are sugar or other sweetener (use Splenda for sugar-free ice cream), and flavor: coffee, cocoa, peanut butter, strawberry, vanilla, etc.). With some recipes, other ingredients substitute for the sugar; for example, a box of cake mix for cake batter ice cream.

    Then, of course, there are optional mix-ins: brownie chunks, chocolate chips, crushed Oreos, fruit, M&Ms, nuts, sprinkles, etc.

    Traditional ice cream starts with a sweetened base—usually a combination of heavy cream, milk and sugar and sugar (add eggs for a French custard base).

    The custard and added flavors are churned in an ice cream maker, which incorporates air and breaks up ice crystals as they form, creating a creamy texture. The mixture is then frozen.

    No-churn ice cream uses sweetened condensed milk as the base. The whipped cream adds the air and produces the creamy texture.

    The result is very similar, with a few minor differences:

  • If you have a sensitive palate, you may taste the sweetened condensed milk. It’s a rich, slightly “cooked” flavor that many people don’t even notice in dulce de leche, Key Lime Pie and other favorite sweets. Some of us even eat it straight from the can, with a spoon.
  • The density of the sweetened condensed makes slow-churn more scoopable. It doesn’t get rock hard like conventional ice cream can.

    For most no-churn recipes, prep time is less than 10 minutes, plus 4-5 hours freezing time.

  • No-Churn Cake Batter Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Chocolate Ice Cream with Brownie Chunks
  • No-Churn Coconut Peach Ice Cream (substitute banana)
  • No-Churn Fresh Blackberry Ice Cream (substitute any berry)
  • No-Churn Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Snickerdoodle Ice Cream
  • No-Churn Vanilla Ice Cream

    Chocolate Brownie No Churn Ice Cream
    [1] Chocolate brownie ice cream, made in a loaf pan. Here’s the recipe from Wonky Wonderful.

    No Churn Blackberry Ice Cream

    [2] Blackberry ice cream (here’s the recipe from Baked By An Introvert).

    There are vegan options as well. Just search for “no-churn ice cream” and you’ll be overwhelmed by the choices.

    Alas, we could not find the origin of no-churn ice cream. This bugs us, because it is a relatively recent recipe—no reaching into the distant past required.

    Our best guess is that it is Eagle Brand Borden sweetened condensed milk, which is constantly testing new recipes for its product.

    There are no-churn recipes on their website, but we hadn’t heard back from them by press time. We’ll update this when we do.

    Borden and Eagle brand, the two big names in sweetened condensed milk, merged and are now owned by Smucker’s.

    Here’s the history of sweetened condensed milk.


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