A meal at an Italian restaurant is never complete without bread and its usual partner, the olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip as starters. With the dip so easy to make, many people have it at home too. After all, all you need to do is to mix the two ingredients together, and maybe add some pepper and dried thyme.
Recently, I discovered another way to enjoy bread — whether you’re having Italian cuisine or not. And — it’s so easy! It’s having bread with a balsamic vinegar reduction dip. Reduction is simply boiling any liquid to thicken it and intensify its flavor. Now, a “reduction” may sound intimidating, but this one isn’t. Boiling the balsamic vinegar removes its sour taste and strong smell, and what’s left is just pure sweetness. I have to say that I just can’t get enough of it.
I used two cups of balsamic vinegar, which yields about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of reduction. Use your best balsamic vinegar. Many would argue that the best balsamic vinegar is from Modena in Italy.
Pour the vinegar into your non-stick pan or sauce pan. Keep the heat at low or medium. Add three tablespoons of sugar. Make sure to use a non-stick pan for it will be difficult to get the reduction out if you use an ordinary pan.
Allow it to boil, stirring constantly. The goal is to thicken the vinegar until its syrup-thick. Once you get your desired thickness, you are practically done. By the way, the boiling process is very fast. You’ll be done in about 5 to 7 minutes. And if you use an induction stove, you’ll be done even faster than you can say, ciabatta and balsamic vinegar reduction!
I add about 3 to 4 tablespoons of water just in case the reduction gets too thick. I also make it a point to add some water because it keeps the reduction fluid enough. From my experience, the reduction hardens if you don’t put water, which would make it difficult to dip bread into. So yes, you’ll really need to add water.
Serve it with your favorite toasted, crusty bread. You’ll never go wrong with ciabatta or baguette. I lightly brush them with olive oil when I toast them. These two breads also absorb the dip very well compared to just using bread sticks.
PS: The balsamic vinegar reduction is also good with strawberries. And it’s also a good salad dressing. I can imagine the reduction now with arugula, pancetta or prosciutto, kalamata olives, and freshly-grated parmesan cheese. Yum yum!