Tag Archives: balsamic

Cherry Balsamic Shrub

14 Jul

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Have you ever tried a shrub? Not the woody plant shrub, but the “drinking vinegar” shrub?

A shrub is a drink made of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Some shrubs also contain alcohol. The sugar, acid, and optional alcohol preserve the fruit, which was one of the original purposes of a shrub. Prior to the invention of refrigeration, a shrub syrup was a means of preserving fruit long past its picking. Shrubs were popular in Colonial America, mixed with cool water to provide a pick-me-up on hot summer days (source: Serious Eats).

I first saw shrub on the menu at Astoria’s The Queens Kickshaw about a year ago, and I finally went back to taste one.

After an exciting bike ride from West Harlem through Randall’s Island and finally into Astoria, I took a pit stop at The Queens Kickshaw to scarf down a grilled cheese and a strawberry shrub (they also have golden raisin shrub available now). The shrub gets served with seltzer, and tastes like a homemade vinegary soda.

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To make a shrub, you need a hefty amount of sugar, but you also need a hefty amount of vinegar. The sugar is really there to preserve the fruit and mute the vinegar sting. If you are worried about the high sugar content, a small amount of shrub goes a long way in a drink, so you only need a little bit of concentrate to reap a lot of flavor.

To make a shrub at home: Combine fruit with sugar, let it sit, macerate, let it sit. Two days later, add some vinegar. Store at room temperature for about a week, shaking or stirring at least once a day. After a week, strain it, refrigerate it, drink it.

I now have Cherry Balsamic Shrub at the ready in my fridge for a sweltering summer day refreshment. This shrub has a strong balsamic flavor, so if you are not a big balsamic fan, use more cider vinegar in your ratio.

To drink a shrub, you can:

-Mix it with seltzer and ice. About 1 part shrub to 4-6 parts seltzer, depending how strong you want it.

-Make a shrub cocktail. I did cherry balsamic shrub + gin + seltzer. Bourbon and cherry would work, too.

-Cook with it. I added a tablespoon of cherry balsamic shrub to my clafoutis batter. Would go nice in a roast chicken, too. Or drizzled over ice cream or in oatmeal. 

 -Drink it straight up (super concentrated and strong that way). 

I am still new to the slightly fermented vinegar drink thing, but I am happy with my first batch. Of course, you can experiment with different fruits and different vinegars.  I recently tasted a cucumber serrano chile shrub at a bar that was both crisp and fiery.

Don’t forget your re-usable stainless steel straw!

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Cherry Balsamic Shrub

recipe from Carey at Reclaiming Provincial 

makes about 1- 1 1/2 cups

1 cup cherries, halved and pitted

3/4 cup granulated sugar

5-10 black peppercorns

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl or jar, stirring to evenly coat the fruit. Allow mixture to sit for about 1 hour, then macerate until everything is nice and broken up (I used my cocktail muddler). Cover and let sit for 24 hours. (At room temperature is fine, but feel free to stick it in the fridge too.)

After 24 hours, macerate the mixture again, crushing the fruit as much as possible. At this point, you can add the vinegars immediately, or let it sit for another 24 hours. (Carey recommends giving it the additional 24 hours, as she think this extra fermentation time does nice things for the final flavor. I agree!)

When ready, add the vinegars and stir well. Store at room temperature for 7–9 days, giving it a good stir (or light shake if using a jar) each day. When finished, pour the mixture through a fine sieve (you can use cheesecloth but I didn’t have any so I just used the sieve) then transfer to a clean jar or container. Store syrup in the fridge.

To mix: Add 1 part syrup to 4-6 parts seltzer. 1 part gin or bourbon optional.

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Tomato Blue Cheese Tarte Tatin

24 Aug

I’ve been busy enjoying life on a beautiful island in the Pacific Northwest, in a petite rustic cabin with no running water and no electricity. For 4 days, I was peeing in the woods and not taking showers. I wore a headlamp and lit candles to see at night. The days were filled with hiking and bushwhacking up mountains and through meadows, and the evenings with melting marshmallows by a fire on the beach. It was totally dreamy to be out in nature, to be one with the biting bugs and scurrying animals and calm waves of the ocean’s tide coming in and out.

It’s amazing what one can miss with just a week absence of internet. The moment I had access to my computer again, I started plowing through, trying to catch up on all the blogs I read.

Heidi’s tomato tarte tatin immediately caught my eye, especially since I had a pie crust in my freezer just waiting to be used.

I made a big trip to the farmer’s market today, where I found heaps of gorgeous tomatoes, onions, green and yellow beans, cucumbers, melon, and white peaches. I even bought my lunch at the farmer’s market–whole wheat focaccia with eggplant, spinach, and goat cheese.

This tarte tatin is basically an upside down pie. Filling on the bottom, crust on top. I sautéed onions and combined them with fresh tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Into a pie plate and sprinkled with blue cheese. I think blue cheese and honey are a swoon-worthy combination, so I squeezed a bit of honey over everything for good measure. Pie crust on top. Egg wash. Salt. Oven.

The blue cheese melts right into the tomatoes, the juices so rich they give off hints of a beefy French onion soup.

Real talk: I used the cap of my canola oil to cut out the circles in the center of the pie crust.

Also, I like to place the pie plate onto a baking sheet. It just makes it easier to take in and out of the oven.

Tomato Blue Cheese Tarte Tatin

adapted from Heidi, of 101 cookbooks

serves 6-8

**NOTE: Use whatever pie crust you like. I think Heidi’s rye crust sounds great. I used David Lebovitz’s recipe (see below) that can go into a savory or sweet pie. 

1 extra large (or 2 medium) onion(s), chopped

1-2 tablespoons canola oil

1 1/2 pounds (24 oz.) small tomatoes

scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1-2 tablespoons flour

2-3 tablespoons blue cheese

1 teaspoon honey, for drizzling

1 pie crust

1 egg (for egg wash), whisked

flaky salt, for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 400F / 205C.

While the oven is warming, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium and saute the onions. Cook, stirring regularly, until the onions are deeply golden and caramelized, 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat.

While the onions are cooking, cut any larger tomatoes in half. You can leave the small cherry tomatoes whole. Add the tomatoes to the caramelized onions along with the sea salt and balsamic vinegar. Transfer to a deep pie dish. If you get the sense that your tomatoes are quite juicy, and might release a lot of liquid, you can toss the mixture with a tablespoon or two of flour at this point. Sprinkle mixture with crumbled blue cheese and drizzle with a touch of honey.

Roll out your pie dough, cut out 3 circles around the center, and cover the tomato mixture – tucking in the sides a bit. Brush the crust with the beaten egg wash and bake in the top third of the oven until the crust is deeply golden and the tomatoes are bubbling a bit at the sides, 25 – 30 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes, then serve.

Prep time: 10 min – Cook time: 45 min

Pie Crust

from David Lebovtiz’s Ready for Dessert

makes 2 rounds

**NOTE: You only need 1 round for the Tomato Blue Cheese Tarte Tatin. You can keep the other round in the freezer.

2 1/2 cups (350 g) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (8 ounces/225 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch (3-cm) cubes and chilled

6-8 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl using a pastry blender, in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, mix together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the chilled butter cubes and mix just until the butter is broken up into rough 1/4-inch pieces.

Add 6 tablespoons of the ice water all at once and continue mixing just until the dough begins to hold together. If necessary, mix in the additional 2 tablespoons ice water.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disk about 1 inch thick. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 1 hour.

STORAGE: The disks of dough can be refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen for up to 2 months.