To me, “white balsamic vinegar” is a bit of a misnomer as one of the things that gives balsamic vinegar its particular flavor is the succession of barrels it goes through over time. The white balsamic version is lighter and subtler than regular balsamic vinegars, and makes a nice dressing or sauce when you want to complement more delicate flavors.
1 peeled clove garlic
1 pinch each salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/8th teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 small shallot, peeled and minced (½ teaspoon)
1 teaspoon sweet-hot mustard (a.k.a. honey-mustard, Ingelhoffer and Beaver both make excellent versions)
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoons grapeseed oil or other neutral flavored oil
Rub a non-reactive bowl with the garlic clove, smearing the inside with garlic oil.
Add the salt, pepper, thyme and shallot to the bowl, then add the vinegar. Wait 5 minutes for flavors to meld.
Add the mustard and whisk to mix thoroughly.
Stream the oil slowly into the bowl, whisking vigorously all the while to incorporate the oil. You may not need all the oil as the mustard thickens the dressing also. Add the oil until the dressing is thickened or you run out of oil. Taste for balance. If the dressing is too sharp, add a little more oil.
Keeps 1 week or more in refrigerator.
YIELD: ½ cup
This dressing is featured with the Escarole, Arugula, Almond, and White Peach Salad, but is also nice with Little Gems or romaine lettuce with almonds and Gorgonzola Dolce and some peaches scattered around. It can also be drizzled on crostini topped with Gorgonzola and arugula.
1/4 cup good quality sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons white peach, peeled and diced finely
1/2 tablespoon shallot, minced
1 teaspoon sweet-hot mustard
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup mild flavored olive oil (reserve the peppery Tuscan oils for another time)
Place all ingredients except the oil into the blender, and leave for 10 minutes for flavors to marry.
Turn on the blender to low and work up to high. Purée on high until smooth. Remove the plug in the center of blender cap and slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin steady stream until is all is used and the dressing is emulsified.
At this point, the dressing is ready to use. Use or store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
YIELD: 1 cup
This versatile dressing is featured with the Arugula Cherry Salad, but it works very nicely with roast chicken or duck, charred hanging tender steak, pork chops or roasts, or grilled salmon or swordfish. The cherry syrup used in the vinaigrette is a tart or sour cherry syrup produced in Eastern Europe and is used for drinks (sodas and cocktails), but has other applications. Use it like you would pomegranate syrup or molasses. You can find it at the Corralitos Market and Sausage Company or other specialty grocery stores.
1 minced shallot
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, parched* and crushed
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme, or ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons cherry syrup
6 tablespoons grape seed oil
Put the shallot, pepper to taste, salt, and thyme into a non-reactive bowl, then add the vinegars and allow flavors to marry for 20-30 minutes.
In a thin steady stream, whisk in the cherry syrup, and then the oil. Be sure to add the oil gradually so the dressing emulsifies.
Taste for balance — you might need to add a little more cherry syrup. If dressing is too tart, add some agave or sugar to balance the flavors.
Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Dressing can be made in a blender as well, just follow the instructions as above, but stream in the syrup and oil one after the other into the blender while it is running on high.
*Parching peppercorns takes off some the heat from the peppercorn while showing off the fruity qualities black pepper possesses. To do this, heat a small pan over medium heat and when the pan is hot, add the peppercorns and dry toast them, shaking them to prevent burning until they are very aromatic. Remove from the heat and taste one after it has cooled. The peppercorn will still have some heat, but it should not be as spicy as it was, and it should have some fruity notes to it. If not, return to the heat for a little longer and taste again. Some pepper, depending on age and type, will be fruitier or hotter than others.
YIELD: 3/4 cup dressing