Flavor Profile: Balsamic Cherry

It took a bit longer than expected but we finally reached fall! A season of some of the best scents and flavors the earth has to offer. One of the new flavors I've been experimenting with is balsamic cherry. Yep, you read that correctly. Balsamic vinegar does wonders for sweet stuff by adding its own sugars and that tangy zip only attributed to vinegar. I mixed 4 ounces of dried tart cherries with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar in a saucepan and let is simmer on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. It will initially let off some overwhelming vinegar fumes that will singe your nose hairs if you're not careful. Once the mixture has thickened I removed it from the heat and placed it in a small ramekin for safe keeping. I'm not sure how long it will keep for in the fridge but I used mine within a week and that seemed to be OK.

I used the cherries a few different ways, the first was on a flatbread. On a Trader Joe's frozen pizza crust I spread a generous layer of ricotta topped with caramelized onions, sliced smoked duck and apple jack brandy sausage (one of the many fine products at Oscar's Smokehouse of the Adirondacks) and dotted it with spoonfuls of balsamic cherries. I would like to think that any chicken apple sausage would be a decent substitute for those not lucky enough to visit Oscar's. A nice combination of flavors and textures, this flatbread is easy enough to pull off on a weeknight but seems way more elegant and complicated than it appears.

The second way I used the cherries was in brownie mix. I use the Food Network fudgy brownie recipe (rave reviews every time) and stirred in 1/2 cup of the balsamic cherry mixture, mixing until sufficiently incorporated. I brought them to school to share with coworkers with a little trepidation that they might not go over as well as my other baked goods. Well, I couldn't be more wrong. They disappeared by noon and a handful of people complimented my creativity and two asked for the recipe. I love when I make something that inspires others to say, "Wow, I never thought of that combination." It makes me feel like a culinary pioneer even though I'm more of a nomad.

Balsamic cherries would also be a nice base for sauces meant for pork or game meat. I even stirred a few extra spoonfuls into some yogurt for a pleasant burst of acidity to cut the dairy. The possibilities are finite but boy, are they delicious. Until the next dish, ciao!

Chipotle Sweet Potato and Quinoa Cakes

The last post of the year is taking a bit of a different approach. You see, my feeds from various social media sites are clogged with sweets and indulgent foods galore. The problem is I'm full. Honest to goodness full. I don't want to see another cookie until next fall...or at least next Wednesday. I decided to end the year with a healthy post because I know y'all will come scrambling, looking for something healthy to start your year off with. My simple sweet potato and quinoa cakes are a great base for anything: eggs Benedict, a burger, eaten plain, etc. They also help you get all sorts of protein, fiber and vitamins, which, given how you partied on NYE, you will probably need to restore as soon as possible. 

All you need is a medium cooked sweet potato, a 1/2-2/3 cup of cooked quinoa (I like Trader Joe's tri color), a teaspoon of garlic powder and 1/2 a teaspoon of chipotle powder. Mash everything together in a bowl like so,

Shape them into patties and place them on a lightly oiled tray

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Dunzo.

Of course I made an eggs Benedict out of mine. If you back up a couple of steps and add in some cooked onions and peppers you could probably call this a burger. Well, a vegan burger.

The greens you see happen to be the Kale and Broccoli Slaw Salad from Trader Joe's. It's got sunflower seeds, dried blueberries and a light buttermilk type dressing that doesn't strip the salad of all its benefits. Told you this was a healthy post.

Wishing you all the best for a happy, healthy, and of course tasty New Year! Until the next dish, ciao!