Sunday, January 25, 2015

Field to Fork: When local is 5,974 miles away


From page A8 | February 26, 2014 |

What form of twisted reasoning can I employ to permit the topic to be balsamic vinegar?

Customarily, “local” in the food sphere means up to an hour or two on the road for a pickup truck heading to the Davis Farmers Market. Or, it means within 100 miles, as supermarkets sometimes say. Or, grown in the state of California, as the same supermarkets also tout.

But balsamic? We have to stretch “local” unconscionably to mean inside of 5,974 miles. That’s the distance from downtown Davis to Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy, the only places on the planet authorized to produce traditional balsamic vinegar.

Yes, today I sin. This space is regularly about locally sourced food. My writer’s dilemma is, locally grown food is so easily enhanced by a tiny pour from a bottle of balsamic vinegar in one’s pantry. My sin, then, is hopefully on the side of the angels.

I first encountered balsamic vinegar on a trip to Italy about 15 years ago. It was our first time in Europe, and we were sightseeing in the Tuscan countryside.

We saw a sign and pulled into the Castello di Verrazzano — yes, ex-New Yorkers, the family’s ancestry includes the Verrazzano for whom the suspension bridge between Brooklyn and Staten Island is named. The castle is in Tuscany, not Modena, but they make a notable balsamic vinegar that compares well.

We were hooked. Balsamic vinegar is a syrup, really, created by fermentation and evaporation using the sweet Trebbiano grape. It ages in wood. It has a complex sweetness, with a faint tang of vinegar. And it’s a game-changer when used on the various fresh produce we have available.

By now, you’ve almost certainly had at least salad dressing with balsamic vinegar. It’s common in restaurants. As with many things, there is the traditional, authorized balsamic vinegar protected under Italian designation, aged 12 to 25 years, and very costly. And then there’s the more common stuff for the masses. In this case, it’s the balsamic vinegar of Modena, minus the word “traditional.”

If you’re buying balsamic vinegar for the first time, the store offerings can be daunting. Some of it is very pricey. Some is second-rate. As with tequila, there are grades that go low (mixto) or high (anejo).

A noted chef shared his culinary school trick with me about balsamic vinegar. Buy a bottle of Costco’s Kirkland Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. It’s about $10 for a liter. It’s aged in wood, certified and won a taste-test of medium-level balsamic vinegars on a tasting panel at the Orange County Register. For a more intense, syrupy, intense flavor, let it simmer on the lowest heat for a long time until its volume is reduced by half.

— Dan Kennedy, a Davis resident, has a long history with the bounty of gardens and small farms. Reach him at

The recipes

Below are some good applications of balsamic vinegar to enhance the fresh produce available locally.

* Balsamic salad dressing: Ideal for heartier green salads, such as arugula, spinach and baby kale. It can be too heavy for the feathery “spring greens.”

The ingredients:
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, finely minced (optional)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Putting it together:
Whisk together in a bowl all ingredients but the olive oil. Then drizzle that in, slowly, while continuing to whisk. Consider multiplying the recipe and storing the extra in the refrigerator for the days ahead.

* Balsamic for grilled vegetables: Grill peppers, squash, onions, sweet potato, zucchini, eggplant or other favorites that have been salted and tossed lightly in olive oil. Remove from grill, drizzle and toss with a tablespoon or so (to taste) of balsamic vinegar. Consider making extra vegetables for another day, as grilled vegetables reheat reasonably well. When reheating, apply a light drizzle of balsamic just before serving.

* Balsamic glaze for salmon: Really fresh, wild salmon deserves to stand on its own for flavor, but with farmed or previously frozen salmon, a glaze adds welcome personality.

The ingredients:
1/4 cup each of balsamic vinegar and water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 teaspoons light brown sugar

Putting it together:
Whisk together. After cooking salmon fillets in a hot pan, hopefully getting a crust on the skin side, remove fish and immediately add this tangy sauce to the hot pan. It will bubble immediately. Reduce heat, stir while it reduces by half through evaporation, just a minute or two. Pour on salmon fillets and serve.





Bridges of Yolo County: Wear, tear … repair?

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Four days of unusual, adventuresome music

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Spanish police arrest 4 suspected members of a jihadi cell

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Rockets kill 30 in Ukrainian city as rebels launch offensive

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abe ‘speechless’ after video claims IS hostage dead

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

GOP presses state bills limiting gay rights before ruling

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Abortion opponents express renewed hope at California rally

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Share your love (story) with us

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Sip wines at St. James’ annual tasting

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Fake schools draw federal scrutiny

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Winter produce available at Sutter market

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3

Vote for your favorites in Readers’ Choice poll

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Donations to be distributed during homeless count

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A4

Speaker will share computer security tips

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Logos Books celebrates 5 years, offers language groups

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Australian olive oil company opens U.S. headquarters in Woodland

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Explore at the YOLO Outdoor Expo

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Pedal around Davis on weekly bike ride

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Yolo animal shelter seeking rawhide donations

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A5

Woodland Healthcare employees take Great Kindness Challenge

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

At the Pond: Nest boxes give birds new homes

By Jean Jackman | From Page: A6 | Gallery

California ranks worst in nation for guidance counselors

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Davis, Woodland are saving water

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A12

Words and Music Festival events

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12



Family isn’t keen on relationship

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: A8

Caring for the aging mouth

By Samer Alassaad | From Page: A8

Big utilities’ nightmare begins to play out

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

Mayor’s Corner: Let’s renew Davis together

By Dan Wolk | From Page: A10

We have the right to choose

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

We don’t have to suffer

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

City helped immensely

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

Rick McKee cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

When measles spreads from Disneyland, it’s a small world after all

By New York Times News Service | From Page: A11

From innovation parks to innovative buildings and planning

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11



Wildcats’ inaugural kids development league exceeds expectations

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Aggies get top 2015 gymnastics score, but fall short

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Loud crowd sees DHS boys win

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Lady Devils hold off Pacers, stay perfect in league

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

UCD men take two tennis matches

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B8

Watney in ninth at Humana Challenge

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8







Davis man focusing on cannabidiol business

By Will Bellamy | From Page: A9

Marrone Bio’s Regalia approved for new uses in Canada

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

UCD grad makes insurance ‘hot 100′ list

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

Yolo County real estate sales

By Zoe Juanitas | From Page: A9





Comics: Sunday, January 25, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B8