It’s fall, so savory, roasted fall veggies are what I’m feeling right now. Not to mention, bitter greens, figs, pears and apples. Oh, and let’s throw in some nuts to really up the earthy flavors of late harvest season. If you drizzle reduced balsamic vinegar over the top, now, you’ve got magic on a plate.
Fine dining, farm-to-table and even casual restaurants the world over have been reducing vinegars and other sauces for decades. It sounds so refined on a menu: “balsamic honey reduction…” It makes you think you’re getting something that perhaps took hours to reach peak flavor, the chef tentatively watching over a pan of dark liquid, simmering it just so, all the while gently stirring it to make sure nothing burns or sticks.
I hate to ruin the mystique, but it’s pretty simple to reduce balsamic vinegar into intense, flavorful, syrupy goodness, and it only takes about 30 minutes total. Drizzle it over a plateful of fall produce or even ice cream, and experience reduction nirvana. Here’s a recipe for a simple salad or an impressive appetizer.
Endive with apples, figs, walnuts, goat cheese and honey balsamic reduction
- 1 cup of decent quality balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup of apple cider
- 2 Tablespoons of honey
- 2-3 heads of endive
- 1 ripe honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
- 8 ripe purple figs, cut into quarters
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
- goat cheese crumbles
- 1 Tablespoon fresh thyme
- freshly ground pepper
In a medium sauce pan over medium high heat, mix the first three ingredients. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a high simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the mixture is reduced by half and beginning to resemble the consistency of syrup. The bubbles from simmering will enlarge and hold their shape longer when it’s getting close to done. Remove from heat and let cool for another 10 minutes. The mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.
In the meantime, assemble the salad. Separate the endive leaves whole and place on individual plates (I use three leaves per serving). Top each endive with an apple slice, two to three fig quarters and walnuts. Drizzle each plate with the balsamic reduction and sprinkle with goat cheese, thyme and pepper. Serve immediately.
You can make the reduction sauce up to a week in advance and store at room temperature in an airtight container. If it thickens up too much so you can’t pour or drizzle it, add a Tablespoon of apple cider or water and heat it up slightly, just until its pourable.