Lighten up spring salads

We’ve added a new player to our salad-making team this spring.

White balsamic vinegar. Specifically, grapefruit infused white balsamic vinegar.

It’s a lighter, sparkling cousin to the dark balsamic that has become a pantry staple. It has such a fresh, yep, intoxicating taste that makes it a perfect addition to spring salads.

The other night, I dressed a big ‘ol salad featuring fresh strawberries with a simple mix of grapefruit balsamic and an expensive olive oil that is used just for dressings, salt and pepper – a perfect game.

White balsamic is thicker than wine vinegars, but not as syrupy as dark balsamic. It doesn’t add that distinctive dark color to food, keeping spring salads light looking.

The two varieties of balsamic are produced almost the same way. Crushed, fresh white grapes, including seeds and skins, are cooked down to a syrup, mixed with a vinegar starter and aged in barrels. The difference is that white balsamic cooks on a lower heat so it doesn’t darken, then is  mixed with white wine vinegar. It can be aged in wood barrels or steel tanks.

The resulting vinegar is practically drinkable. In fact, I’m going to experiment using the grapefruit balsamic with some gin and club soda. Could become this summer’s signature drink. I’ll let you know.

But for those more interested in its culinary uses, try drizzling it over fresh strawberries, peaches or pineapple and topping with a natural partner – fresh mint.

And while the berries are ripe, you can make this:

Strawberry Feta Salad

Serves four

Salad:

Two bunches romaine hearts

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 red onion, sliced into thin strips

1 quart fresh strawberries, capped and cut in half

6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

2 avocados, diced

Dressing:

1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grapefruit white balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

Tear the romaine into bite-sized pieces into a large bowl. Toss gently with remaining salad ingredients. Thorougly mix dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Toss again and serve immediately.

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