Last week I perused through recipes, and trying to decide upon what to make as a simple appetizer for mum's dinner party this weekend, every tab on my iPad was open to a different chef. The recipe I eventually chose, a simple Mexican staple (at least our idea of it), was salsa, but one sneaky ingredient that I didn't know left me puzzled.
The ingredients list had one unfamiliar vinegar, white balsamic vinegar.
"Just perfect, another thing to buy that I'll never use again."
I though to myself, and scanning the grocery shop shelves, I couldn't seem to find it anywhere.
I was the list girl in the never-ending aisles, wandering endlessly up and down, up and down. I felt like I was five years old again and even started to feel the panic of losing your mum in a big, unfamiliar place.
I almost gave up at that point to regular balsamic vinegar, already tucked in the cupboard, and also, barely used.
However, I really am glad that I double checked the aisles, because next to the Balsamic de Modena, an Italian vinegar, and White Cider Vinegar, and across the teas and coffees (I thought it was an odd location at the time), there was just what I was looking for - a clear glass bottle with a transparent, white liquid, that could only be balsamic vinegar.
As I stood in the aisle, I wondered how the two, with a very similar name, could be so different. And so, on my iPhone standing there facing the shelves, I did my research: It turns out that Italian vinegar production has been going on for thousands of years with a process very similar to that of vineyards in the production of making wine. Sweeter grapes are used, and of a much whiter colour, and are pressed into what is called "must" before being simmered for long periods of time (hours) until they thicken into a caramel-like substance. This syrup-y liquid is then portioned into many barrels, made from different types of wood to give the vinegar flavour and the "character" that its label boasts, and then aged. What is called "authentic vinegar" requires an ageing time of at least twelve years, however cheaper balsamic vinegars are not aged for nearly as long and in much larger quantities. The cheapest brands will be mixed with wine vinegar and be coloured by additives.
The white grape must is blended with white wine vinegar and then cooked at a very low temperature, this is required to prevent any darkening. The flavours of dark balsamic vinegar, the kind I always seem to have plenty of in the cupboard, and white balsamic vinegar are quite similar in flavour, despite balsamic vinegar being sweeter and having a more syrup texture. I found the white to be less rich, and also to have much less of an after-taste, which was really lovely in the salsa!
A huge reason that many use white balsamic vinegar in cooking rather than the regular balsamic is to prevent a discolouration. Since balsamic vinegar has such a strong colour and will change the appearance of the dish, white balsamic is used with lighter coloured foods, such as tomatoes and other sauces or dressings. Regular balsamic vinegar could work in this recipe, if you don't mind a darker salsa.
I know it seems like a summer recipe, this salsa, an odd pair to the start of Christmas festivities and decorations today, however, as we would start a dinner party, we shall start off December's posts with a little chip and dip.
Roasted Tomato Salsa
Print recipe here.
A colourful array of vegetables in this wholesome salsa makes a perfect appetizer to any party. The complementary herbs and spices bring about authentic flavours of the tomatoes and onions, and with only a subtle pinch of chile spice, everyone can enjoy this salsa whether served with chips, crackers, or on gluten-free bread as a bruschetta dish.
3-4 c roma tomatoes diced into large chunks
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 mL corn kernels, sliced from a cooked corn cob, or for a
quicker version, use canned corn kernels
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp chile powder
3 tbsp grape seed oil
1/4 c white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to season
a few chopped basil leaves to serve
Preheat the oven to 375°F and place a large baking dish on the side.
Toss the chopped vegetables, corn kernels, dried parsley and chile powder together in the baking dish.
Drizzle the grape seed oil and white balsamic vinegar over top the vegetables, and mix well.
Place the dish in the oven and cook for 30 - 35 minutes, tossing halfway and adding more chile powder if desired upon tasting (Careful! It will be hot!)
Remove from the oven and set aside until completely cooled, store in an airtight container in the fridge, and serve at room temperature with chopped basil and salt and pepper on top.
Labels: appetizer, baked, chile, chip, Christmas, corn, dinner, dip, kernels, parsley, party, salsa, spice, tomato