If the only time you think of pulling that jar of balsamic out of the cupboard is when it's time to make a salad, you are missing out. This sweet and tangy vinegar is one of my favorite secret ingredients, and I have found all sorts of ways that its presence will liven up my everyday cooking.
To Finish Soups and Sauces: Balsamic and ripe summer tomatoes have a well-known affinity for one another. From that easy summer salad, it is not overly hard to make the leap to tomato-based soups and sauces. I add a splash of balsamic to these dishes at the very end of cooking to make the flavors together.
In Braised Dishes: While balsamic added at the end of cooking adds a splash of brightness, using even a little balsamic as part of the liquid in a braise gives the whole dish a deep, rich, slightly sweet flavor, like this dish for braised French Onion Chicken or this particular one for braised spring radishes. Think of it like wine and add it along with the broth or other liquid utilized f
Reduced into a Syrup: I adore reduced balsamic syrup drizzled over a spoonful of vanilla ice cream. Especially if strawberries are included. If you have a very good old balsamic, then reducing it is often not necessary. But if you are working with a basic balsamic, throw a cup or so in a small saucepan with some sugar. A stick of cinnamon can also be fine. Let it reduce until syrupy, then chill before using.
For Marinating Meat and Tofu: With some sliced shallots and a dollop of mustard, balsamic is just one of my favorite vinegars to utilize for marinating. It's great with steak and other read meats, but I also use it for tofu and large portabella mushrooms.
In Soda and Cocktails: Vinegar-based shrubs are having their day, for certain. Given its candy character, balsamic has a very similar flavor profile and I've used it in substantially the same way. You can dilute balsamic in soda water for a very grown-up fizzy drink -- try this recipe for a Strawberry Balsamic Soda! Additionally cocktails, I enjoy balsamic blended with liquors like bourbon and rye, as in this Fig Old-Fashioned.