Balsamic dressing is a condiment which is made with balsamic vinegar. The simplest version of this condiment is simply a blend of oil and vinegar, but a range of permutations and variations can be found. There are a range of uses for balsamic dressing, ranging from salads to roast pork, and this dressing is easy to find in the grocery store or to make at home.
Before delving into the story of balsamic dressing, it may help to briefly address the product known as “balsamic vinegar.” Traditional balsamic vinegar is a product made from the juice of Trebbiano grapes. The juice is cooked to reduce it and bring out the natural sugars, and the resulting liquid is aged in specialty barrels, sometimes for years, producing a very rich, flavorful product which can be quite costly. The product marketed as “balsamic vinegar” in many grocery stores is actually balsamic vinegar of Modena, a product made with regular wine vinegar which has been adulterated with colorants and sweeteners so that it resembles traditional balsamic vinegar. Most balsamic dressings are made with balsamic vinegar of Modena.
The term “balsamic” means “restorative” or “health giving,” and balsamic dressing is often regarded as a healthy choice of condiment for food. Olive oil is considered a “good fat,” making it a good addition to the diet in moderation, and both forms of balsamic dressing are also viewed as reasonably good for human health. Added ingredients like herbs, honey, fruit, mustard, salt, lemon, and pepper can create a distinctive flavor or texture without making the dressing unhealthy.
Some people like to make balsamic dressing as they need it, blending small amounts of oil, vinegar, and other ingredients as desired. When made with traditional balsamic vinegar, the dressing is rich and slightly sweet, with a very complex flavor, while balsamic vinegar of Modena creates a more acidic, flat-tasting product. Some people temper their dressing by heating it briefly to blend the ingredients, and balsamic dressing may be used as a marinade or sauce for grilled, roasted, and broiled foods, developing a caramelized flavor along the way.
In addition to being used on salads and various cooked meats and seafood, balsamic dressing can also be used as a bread dip. Dressings made with traditional balsamic can also be used as dessert sauces; a balsamic and fig dressing, for example, can be superb on vanilla ice cream. Traditional balsamic vinegar can be obtained from importers and Italian specialty stores.