Sunday, 6 January 2013

Maple Balsamic Dressing

As I have mentioned before balsamic vinegar is, hands down, one of my favourite flavours on the face of this earth.   There’s just something so complex about the taste of balsamic.  It’s a vinegar but it’s got this sweetness to it that, paired with certain foods, brings out more flavours in the food than you thought possible.  A veritable nirvana for your taste buds.

When Brad and I travelled to Italy for our 10th anniversary almost 6 years ago one of the highlights for us was visiting a red wine and balsamic vinegar tasting in the stunningly beautiful city of Florence.  I was more than a little excited at the thought of trying various aged balsamic vinegars.  Brad, on the other hand, was more than eager to try the red wine.  He completes me. 

On that wonderful trip you’d think that we’d come home bearing bags and bags of Italian designer clothing from Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Vesace and Gucci.  But Brad and I are not typical people.  We do not follow the latest fashion trends but listen to the voice within our ... stomachs.  Yes, we are gastronomically driven.  That's how we roll.

The only souvenirs that we brought back from 14 days en Italia were a few bottles of red wine, a bottle of Monk Hooch (ie lemoncello made in a monastary by silent monks) and a bottle of 21 year old aged balsamic vinegar.  Booze and vinegar.  Viva Italia! 
The balsamic was twenty-one years of aged acidic perfection in a little bottle.  In a word, it was my bliss -- bottled.   It was slightly thicker than the balsamic vinegar you get here and absolutely amazing.  I coveted that bottle and only used it sparingly as I drizzled it over strawberries and salads.  Truly divine.
Since then I’m always on the hunt for a new use for balsamic.  One of my favourite store bought salad dressings is President’s Choice ‘Maple Balsamic’ dressing.  It is a fabulous dressing but I wanted to make it from scratch.  Homemade is always better, right?
With a little trial and error I came up with this dressing and it rocked my socks off when I drizzled it over a baby spinach/leafy green salad that included the sweetness of sliced strawberries (if you can find them this time of year), mandarin orange segments, red onion and little dabs of creamy goat cheese.  I loved it so much that I've eaten this salad every day for three days straight.  It's that good! 

It's a truly impressive salad and a delight for your taste buds.  Paired with some simple grilled meat and a crusty baguette and you've got yourself a great, yet simple meal.  Buon appetito!

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (the best you can find, if possible)
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp REAL maple syrup
2 tbsp + 1 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 cup grapeseed or olive oil
salt and pepper - to taste

Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl.  With a whisk, briskly combine.  Serve over a salad containing: baby spinach, leafy greens, strawberry slices, mandarin orange segments, red onion slices, goat cheese and sliced almonds (optional).

Store leftover dressing in a sealed container in the fridge for up to one week.  Stir well before using.

Note: the balsamic vinegar that I typically use is by President's Choice

I've linked this recipe to the following parties:
  Totally Tasty Tuesdays

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