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Greens and Vinaigrettes: Part Two

June 10, 2014 - Radio Kitchen - Greens and Vinaigrettes: Part Two

We're going to be in salad season for quite some time now.  Two weeks ago we talked about the wide variety of greens that are grown here in Maryland.  For the next few months they're going to be available in abundance.  And we could spend a whole show talking about one of the most important components of a salad, and that would be vinegar.

There is a two phase chemical process required for making vinegar.  The first is simple alcoholic fermentation, the second is acetic acid conversion facilitated by the famous bacteria "acetobacter."  The acetobacter translate the alcohol into the acetic acid, which blends with the other flavors to create vinegar.

Vinegars are classified according to their base liquid, and cover a range of intensity from pleasantly mild to intensely pungent and sour.

Working our way down the scale we have:

Distilled White Vinegar - Powerful and pungent, it is not often called for in cooking, but it is the go-to household cleaner, according to Hints from Heloise.

Champagne Vinegar - Truly made from low grade champagne, it is a very pungent vinegar with a distinctive earthy flavor profile.

Red Wine Vinegar - One of the must-have ingredients in your cupboard.  This is pretty strongly flavored  with good sharpness, but it has enough mellowness to avoid blowing you away.  Great for acid adjusting in a soup, stew or sauce.  It is the backbone of many salad vinaigrettes.

White Wine Vinegar - Many of the same attributes as its red cousin, but a little milder and clear.  When you want to make a vinaigrette with little color, this is your choice.  All of the wine vinegars are good choices to work with strongly flavored greens like arugula and kale.

Apple Cider Vinegar - How long before we start seeing vinegar made from Maryland apples?  Apple cider vinegar is a mellow, middle of the road choice.  It does have the tang of apples, and it does work well with fruit.    

Sherry Vinegar - Made in Spain where it is oak aged.  This is a very complex vinegar, and is so tasty that you might want to cut back on other ingredients.  Because it is so complex and mellow, it is the perfect accompaniment to a simple mesclun mix.  One of a very few vinegars that can be the star of the show.

Rice Wine Vinegar - One of my favorites, it is quite mild and often shows a touch of sweetness.  Building a dressing around this would be a good choice for the milder lettuces and more delicate greens.

Balsamic Vinegar - Darling of the Food Revolution, unknown 40 years ago, indispensable today.  A product of Italy, it is aged to mellow perfection.  An ideal supporting actor, balsamic blends so well with so many things.  And now we're starting to see balsamics that are infused with different flavors like Black Mission Figs, lavender, and cranberries.

White Balsamic Vinegar - Lighter in color and flavor, and sharper than its darker brother.  This relatively mild vinegar can be a stand-alone dressing, especially when infused with slightly sweet fruits like Meyer lemon.  A marvelously versatile ingredient, it is superb on grilled veggies, especially beets.

Our go to resource for vinaigrettes is Liz Nuttle of EN Olivier, whose store specializes in superior quality olive oil, infused balsamic vinegars, specialty salts and peppers and gourmet jellies.  Here is Liz's basic recipe for a tasty, tangy vinaigrette:

EN Olivier Vinaigrette Dressing

3 tbs Oro Bailen extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs champagne vinegar
1 tbs Edmund Faillot Moutarde
1/2 tsp Tishbi Apricot-Riesling jelly
pinch of salt to taste

1.  Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and thoroughly mix.  Taste and adjust ingredients.  The dressing should be balanced with good tanginess, good acidity, good flavor and a touch of sweetness.

**The Radio Kitchen Featured Buy of the Week**
Tomato plants  are now available for planting at home.  Not only are the old standards around, but many of the popular heirloom varieties are there for your growing pleasure.  Farmers will bring good sturdy young plants to the market so you can buy them with confidence, take them home and nurture them all summer long.

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.