I absolutely LOVE Balsamic Vinegar, there's just nothing else like it in the whole wide world.
That said, it can be expensive, but so worth it. Still, the really good stuff isn't always available, so I'm going to let you in on a secret. When you have a Balsamic that is just ok, but missing that deep flavor of the better brands, you can reduce it!
Simply put it in a pan over a low heat till it just comes to a bare simmer, then let it go for anywhere from twenty to forty minutes. It should thicken considerably, concentrating the flavor. Put it back in the bottle and refrigerate and voila! you have nectar.
Of course, if you can find (and afford) the better stuff, do so, but this sure works in a pinch.
Now then, you have this wonderful ambrosia, what do you do with it?
My favorite is a simple Caprese salad.
First, you need real ripe tomatoes. Not those things you buy in the market, but fresh from your garden, or if you can find them, a good local Farmers Market. If your tomatoes aren't sweet and ripe, this really doesn't work. Then you need a good fresh mozzarella cheese, preferably a soft buffalo cheese. Then fresh basil and a little olive oil. And of course, Balsamic.
This is all it takes for a basic Caprese salad.
Slice your tomatoes and your cheese, layer them on a plate, tomato, cheese then a leaf or two of fresh basil. When your plate is full, simply drizzle a bit of olive oil, then drizzle your balsamic. If you've reduced the balsamic, it should be thick enough to be decorative, if you're so inclined.
And while a basic Caprisi is heaven, there are a lot of variations.
I like to add a tiny bit of thinly sliced garlic (paper thin, it should melt in your mouth). It's also nice if you have some sun dried tomatoes, chop them very fine and spread those over the salad (or you can mix them in with the olive oil prior to dressing). A few chopped pine nuts are also a nice addition.
Our local Farmers Market opens tomorrow,
I can hardly wait.