balsamic reduction

With a couple of weeks to ponder New Year’s resolutions for 2014 – and I’m guessing many of them, (mine included) involve the art of reducing, as in – weight, clutter, shopping, stress, texting, loafing, bad habits – I could go on, but I won’t. So, in the name of reducing, let’s start small – meet balsamic reduction, the drizzle juice from heaven, and by any other name – reduction, sauce, glaze, syrup – tastes as other-worldly. And just like many of my recipes, this too is a method – simmer the vinegar until the desired consistency is reached – the more it simmers the thicker it gets – which is pretty much the case with most things that hang over heat – the simple science of reducing. And when you check out the price for a bottle of store-bought, you will wonder why more of us don’t take reductions into our own hands – well, we do now! And if you’re looking for a quick, oh-so-easy hostess gift, this would be it!

balsamic reduction feature

Keep reducing for a thicker syrup headed for meats and vegetables, or stop at thinner for marinating and spooning over roasts. You can simply reduce the vinegar in its pure state or, as I did, add a sweetener and flavours. Flavour up a couple of jars of this culinary antidote to all things blah and you’ll never be caught with your flavour pants down again! Try adding spice to one batch like star anise or cloves and drizzle over salad, vegetables and fruit; simmer another with hearty herbs like sage, thyme, bay leaves or rosemary and use with any meat, poultry or fish. And the best part, in the refrigerator, it has a shelf life on par with freeze-dried space food – so here’s to making out of this world reductions – and when resolutions for 2015 roll around, yes, you did indeed reduce something!

PS – try this method with various wines and flavoured vinegars – keep in mind that the natural sugar content of the wine or vinegar will affect the amount you’re left with and cooking time.

sweet potato gratin with toasted nuts & parmesan

sweet potato gratin with garlic & rosemary

A gratin is a method – so feel free to switch up the root vegetable and the flavours to create a dish to compliment any main you got going!

dukkah

dukkah feature

It’s time to liberate your snacking, seasoning and smack factor of everything that’s coming out of your kitchen – and here’s one way to do it. With its origin in Egypt, and the folks Down Under bringing it to our attention, dukkah is one compelling little concoction. So first a little history lesson – it’s “do-ka” and it means…

chocolate pudding cake

chocolate pudding cake/feature

When does it get any better than when chocolate, pudding and cake run into each other? I rest my case. I’m not sure what the magic is when the top becomes the bottom, and the bottom becomes the top, but it sure is a clever trick!

cauliflower roasted with garlic, ginger & turmeric

roasted cauliflower

Roasting cauliflower is the only way to eat it – the sugars caramelize which means big flavour, add an indian spiced spin and you have never seen cauliflower disappear so quickly.

black olives seared in lemon, garlic & herbs

black olives seared in olive oil feature

Canned black olives get a complete makeover with the simple addition of lemon, garlic and fresh herbs. And it doesn’t stop there – the whole load gets dumped into a ho pan to sear and caramelize, transforming the canned variety to rival the souped up ones from the deli.

flank steak seared with garlic & soy

flank steak

Flank steak is one of the easiest cuts of steak to prepare. Marinate in a little soy sauce, garlic and olive oil, sear over high heat, allow to rest and you have never tasted anything so delectable!

chia seeds

chia seeds 1

Talk about superseding – these babies should be superseding all seeds and be crowned the super seed of all time. But first a little backstory – remember chia pets? If we’d only known we should’ve been eating the seeds instead of growing them, we may be a collectively smaller planet! Chia seeds are like little…

spicy buttermilk pan-fried chicken

spicy buttermilk pan-fried chicken

Spicy buttermilk pan-fried chicken is a true contender when it comes to standing up to the deep-fried variety. The buttermilk does the tenderizing, the spice brings the zing and the pan-frying brings it in without putting it on.

black bean soup with pork & veggies

black bean soup/feature

If you’re not a black bean lover, what are you waiting for? And black bean soup is the perfect place to start to convert you for good! Throw in a ham hock and you’re in smoky hog heaven!