A Focus on Rare Balsamic Vinegar

by admin on October 6, 2010

Balsamic vinegar is one of those products that, while exotic, appealing, and sometimes very pricey, many of us aren’t quite sure exactly what to do with.

Here are two lovely Mediterranean-style recipes we’ve selected to showcase our rare 19-year-old balsamic vinegar, which we’ve sourced from a tiny artisan producer in Modena, Italy for the past 15 years. The first is an escabeche of white fish, the second a simple dessert of figs, almonds, and ricotta. Exquisite vinegars like this one should be savored in drops, not spoonfuls. In each of these recipes only a slight drizzle is called for to finish.

For more information on all things balsamic, go to let’s chat.

All recipes make 4 servings
Escabeche of White Fish
A delightful warm weather dish, escabeche is simply a poached or fried fish that is then marinated before serving — in Spain, chicken, rabbit, and pork are also prepared in this fashion.

Our version, which emphasizes sweet and sour flavors, actually uses three of our vinegars: 19-year-old balsamic to finish, and Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon red wine vinegar and 6-year-old balsamic for the marinade. For maximum flavor, we suggest allowing the fish to marinate for one day before serving.

4 fillets of white fish (use a firm-fleshed fish such as snapper)
½ cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup St. Helena Buona Volontà Napa Valley extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 garlic gloves, thinly sliced
½ cup dried currants
1 small sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
2/3 cup St. Helena Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup St. Helena 6-year-old balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Fleur de sel
A drizzle of St. Helena 19-year-old balsamic vinegar

Dredge the fillets in the flour, shaking off any excess, and set aside. Place ¼ cup of the olive oil in a large skillet, and heat over medium-high heat to approximately 350°. Fry the fish in batches, approximately five to six minutes per side. Transfer to a plate covered with paper towels to drain excess oil, and sprinkle on both sides with fleur de sel.
Wipe clean the skillet, discarding any leftover oil, heat the remaining oil over medium-low heat, and sauté the onion and red pepper flakes for approximately ten minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the rosemary, garlic, and currants, and cook for a few minutes more. Now add the vinegars, bring to a boil, and return the fish to the skillet. Cook for one scant minute and turn over for another. Remove skillet from the heat, grind over a twist of black pepper, taste the marinade, and adjust seasoning to taste.

Transfer the mixture to a baking dish and allow to cool. Cover and place in the refrigerator for one day. Bring back to room temperature, and sprinkle with a few drops of 19-yeard-old balsamic before serving.

Figs with ricotta, almonds, and balsamic
8 ripe Mission figs
½ cup sheep’s milk ricotta
16 roasted, unsalted almonds
A drizzle of St. Helena 19-year-old balsamic vinegar

This is one of those gloriously simple desserts that rely completely on the quality of the ingredients to reach its fullest potential. Choose ripe, heavy figs whose skin is splitting and on the verge of bursting with sugar, a high quality sheep’s milk ricotta, which is generally lighter as well as more complex than cow’s milk, and freshly roasted unsalted almonds.

Slice the figs in half, lengthwise. Place them in a bowl with a few spoonfuls of the ricotta, add the almonds (chopped or whole, depending on your aesthetic preference), and finish with a drizzle of our 19-year-old balsamic vinegar. Heaven awaits!

{ 1 comment }

Pat McDonald October 28, 2009 at 10:59 am

I was not brought up on pickles and strong flavors as a kid so the Escabeche of White Fish was a little strong for me but I liked the background flavors….so I replaced the red wine vinegar with a dry red wine and it was perfect…..will make this again and again as a first course or part of a buffet.

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