Ditto for the strawberries...but I personally think that a freshly picked heirloom tomato, its acid and sweetness intensified with a sprinkling of the best balsamic, can be sublime.
Also try a sensational perfumed puree of fresh chestnuts flavored with balsamic that demands none of the usual work to peel the nuts. They are halved, shells and all, and simmered in red wine until tender. Then the pulp is simply scooped out and sieved to make a perfect marriage with a few spoons of balsamic and some cream.
Casanova’s Chocolate Sauce
Try this sauce with poached pears or as a fondue for dipping strawberries, bananas or biscotti. Boil ¼ cup balsamic vinegar until reduced by about half and very syrupy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Stir in ½ pound finely chopped dessert (semisweet) chocolate and 1 cup heavy (whipping) cream, place over low heat and heat gently, stirring frequently, until chocolate melts. Then increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. The sauce should coat the back of a spoon; if necessary, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces. Serve the sauce warm or at room temperature. The sauce will thicken as it cools and may need thinning with cream. Makes 1½ cups sauce and serves 4 to 6.
The reason for such a high cost: Only a tiny proportion of balsamic production is the real thing. Less than 3,000 gallons of genuine Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale are released each year, all of it made in Modena, or in nearby Reggio Emilia. Traditizionale is made from freshly pressed juice ("must") of the Trebbiano grape that is boiled down by more than half to a dark syrup laden with sugar, which leads to the distinctive sweetness of the finished vinegar. The syrup is transferred to oak casks to ferment in the open air and then starts the long evaporation and aging process that makes artisan balsamic vinegar unique.
Over the years the vinegar mellows and intensifies by evaporation as it is transferred to ever-smaller casks of various woods, ending with one of juniper. Measure for measure, prices of the best balsamic match those of a top Bordeaux or Pinot Noir wine. When buying balsamic, the key word on the label is tradizionale, the guarantee that it was made and aged in Modena by traditional methods. Balsamic vinegar does not deteriorate after opening as oxygen is part of the aging process, so treasure your best bottle and use it on special occasions. To subject such nectar to heat would be an insult.
Happily for us cooks, more modest and affordable everyday versions of balsamic vinegar, costing $20 and up, are also made in Modena and elsewhere. These are the vinegars that are so valuable as marinades, as flavorings in sauces and dressings and that can be simmered a short time without serious damage to their character. There are a lot of bad balsamics out there, too, at their worst made simply of white vinegar and caramelized brown sugar. On the whole you get what you pay for, so be sure to read the label.
«Money talks. Chocolate sings. Beautifully.»
«Just Give Me Chocolate and Nobody Gets Hurt.»
«Coffee, Chocolate, Men ... Some things are just better rich.»