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Top Pick Of The Week

October 25, 2005

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Chinese Chicken Salad

An infused vinegar makes a plain salad exciting, an exciting salad memorable. This fusion dish is a Chinese Chicken Salad (great with Boyajian Plum Vinegar and Sesame Seed Oil vinaigrette), accented with Mrs. T’s Cheese Pierogi Bites.

Infused With Flavor: Boyajian Vinegars

 

When we first started to cook, before balsamics gained popularity beyond Italy’s borders, we had a shelf of standard vinegars: red wine, white wine, cider, malt, rice, sherry, Champagne, and our favorite, a bottle of raspberry-infused white wine vinegar we had brought back from Paris.  It made salads dance; when a spoonful was added to sauce reductions for chicken or for calves liver, good recipes turned divine. The richness of ripe raspberries added virtually no calories, so it was a marvellous recipe enhancement during dieting stretches. We even drank tiny bits of it as a digestif.

But beyond the occasional bottle of raspberry, infused vinegars have not taken off in the U.S., the way infused olive oils have. While you can readily pluck basil olive oil, rosemary olive oil, and habañero olive oil from store shelves, the vinegar line-up has not changed in the decades since we donned our amateur toque, except for the action in the balsamic category.

That’s why we were thrilled to come across the Boyajian line of infused oils and vinegars. For the past 24 months we have been easily reinventing recipes, to the delight of ourselves and our friends. In a NIBBLE newsletter last year, we wrote effusively about Boyajian’s infused olive oils. Then so many other products crossed our path, we got side-tracked: it has taken far too long for us to return to discuss the vinegars.  But, they are worth waiting for.

True to our observation, it is difficult to find the vinegars at retail. Thankfully, they are available from the manufacturer’s online store, and you will want to try them all: Garlic, Ginger, Maple, Raspberry, and Sweet Plum.

Vinegar, which is French for sour wine, is created when special bacteria, Acetobacter aceti, are introduced into wine, converting it into acetic acid. The acetic acid provides vinegar’s unique, tangy taste, but the quality of the wine gives the vinegar its specific character. The better the wine, the better the vinegar. That’s why vinegars made from the cheapest wine taste like they will scour your insides, and vinegars made from quality wine are so mellow, they can be drunk after meals as a digestif.

Boyajian creates excellent all-natural vinegars from premium ingredients: fine imported vinegars, pure fruit juices, fresh herbs and spices. Don’t think of them as additions to the vinegar line-up, but as unique seasonings, adding a bit of tang and a lot of fruit or spice flavor. Just as you have oregano, celery seed, chile powder et al to spice up dishes as needed, a spoonful of Boyajian infused vinegar will take any dish from the blahs to the ahs. We use them all, all the time, in:

  • Salad dressings, marinades, glazes, reductions, barbecue sauces, pasta sauces and other sauces
  • Green bean salad or other vegetable salad or marinated vegetables (great for pickled beets!), cole slaw, and potato salad
  • Hot and cold soups (you can flavor the same gazpacho five different ways)
  • Meat and fish salads—chicken salad, tuna and seafood salads
  • Main courses—any stewed meat or vegetable dishes (wonderful with stuffed cabbage!)

For those who think it strange to add a spoonful of vinegar to a pasta sauce, we must reiterate: think of these as flavor-boosters for anything that needs a lift.  Look at product labels and see how much sugar and salt are used to enhance the foods you buy. Here, all it takes is a spoonful of good-for-you infused vinegar.*

*Vinegar was prescribed by Hippocrates as a palliative and was drunk by Caesar’s army as preventative medicine.

With a set of Boyajian’s vinegars and flavored olive oils, you can mix and match to produce a different salad every day of the month (using an unflavored oil of your choice also works perfectly well with the flavored vinegars). And as noted above, they all do treble, if not quintuple, the duty:

  • Garlic Vinegar. A complex garlic flavor made with both fresh and roasted garlic. It’s a great way to add subtle tang and garlic notes to any dish. Try it in chili and in black bean dishes.
  • Ginger Vinegar. White wine vinegar infused with fresh ginger is both spicy and sweet. We use it in Asian chicken salad, Asian cole slaw, seafood salad, and to perk up cold cucumber soup. Mix it with soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds and toss with cold noodles.
  • Maple Vinegar. Made with pure Vermont maple syrup, we love this in a vinaigrette (with plain oil, or spiced up with Boyajian Garlic Oil or Black Pepper Oil), in a glaze for salmon or chicken, and as a marinade for pork.
  • Raspberry Vinegar. The ripe raspberry sweetness (pure fruit—no added sugar) accents anything—we even splash it on chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
  • Sweet Plum Vinegar. Infused with the juice of ripe plums, this beauty mixes with Boyajian Toasted Sesame Oil for an Asian-style salad dressing or marinade, or with Boyajian Garlic Oil for a Mediterranean touch. It makes a great marinade for tuna and salmon, a reduction for chicken, and yes, we drink it as a digestif. If you like the plum wine at Japanese restaurants, this is its tangier brother.

Alas, since the price of vanilla has rocketed, the company is no longer making its wondrous Vanilla Vinegar. Perhaps a write-in campaign, assuring them that a premium of one or two dollars per bottle for such a heavenly treat, will get the product back into the line.

Flavored Vinegars
Boyajian’s flavored vinegar family includes five infused vinegars, a balsamic and two vinaigrettes.

The labels are attractive, making the bottles appealing host and hostess gifts, thank-you presents, and stocking stuffers. They can be paired in tandem with other gifts like cookbooks; we enjoy slipping a bottle or two into a silicon oven mitt. We also give them as dinner party favors: guests who invariably exclaim over a recipe are ecstatic to take home a bottle of Sweet Plum or Maple Vinegar.

As gourmet goes, Boyajian infused vinegars are affordable, plus they have few to virtually no calories. We hope that your travels with these tasty companions will prove as rewarding as ours have been.

—Karen Hochman

BOYAJIAN FLAVORED VINEGARS

Garlic, Ginger, Maple, Raspberry, Sweet Plum

  • 8-Ounce Bottle
    $6.00
  • Vinegar Sampler Box
    1 Ounce Each of Garlic, Ginger,
    Raspberry and Sweet Plum
    Vinegar
    $6.95

Purchase online at BoyajianInc.com.

Shipping and taxes additional. Prices and flavor availability are subject to change.

  • Click here to read our overview of Vinegar 101, originally published in the June 2005 issue of THE NIBBLE™ online magazine.
  • Coming in the November issue of THE NIBBLE™ online magazine: all about olive oil!

vinegars

Above, 8-ounce bottles of Boyajian’s infused vinegars. Below, the sampler box with one-ounce tastes of four of the five flavors.  Maple is not included—but it is one of our favorites and it should not be overlooked.

vinegar sampler

Some of our favorite books about flavored vinegars and oils:

Flavored Vinegars Flavored Oils Sensational Salads
Flavored Vinegars: 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Vinegars, by Michael Chiarello. How to make your own infusions plus recipes for herbal, fruit, spice and balsamic vinegars. Click here for more information. Flavored Oils: 50 Recipes for Cooking with Infused Oils, by Michael Chiarello. As with the vinegars, instructions on how to make your own infusions (or use products off the shelf), plus recipes. Click here for more information. Sensational Salads, by Barbara Scott-Goodman. Seventy unique and imaginative recipes for low-calorie, high-flavor dishes like Savory Warm Duck, Orange and Olive Salad; and Thai-Style Beef and Mint Salad. Click here for more information.

Toss Your Salad in Style:

Pfaltzgraff Salad Bowl Tree Spirit Salad Bowl Portmeirion
Pfaltzgraff Pistoulet le Saladier. This 10-1/4" hand-painted stoneware bowl has French country charm, with cherries, oranges and lemons dancing around the lip. Toss in style with matching servers. Click here for more information. Tree Spirit Solid Wood Bowl. The Scandinavian minimalism of this 14" solid hardwood bowl lets it double as a fruit bowl or popcorn bowl. Click here for more information. Portmeirion Botanical Garden Serving Bowl. Elegant enough for a formal table but also right for everyday use, this hand-painted earthenware has matching salad plates and other serving pieces. Click here for more information.

 

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to your vinegar-loving friends, gourmets, cooks, dieters, and to people who buy gifts for them.

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