Move over balsamic, there are other vinegars on the block: wine vinegars. Wine vinegars are used in cooking and baking, in salad dressings and marinades, and can transform milk into a buttermilk substitute. (And while you are in the kitchen, mix some with salt and clean your copper or your chrome water faucet.)
Wine vinegars (red, white, Champagne, Sherry) are my first choice for vinaigrettes and are delicious when added to braised dishes (like my favorite chicken with vinegar — one of the great poultry dishes from the area around Lyons, France). I also add it to sauces and marinades for chicken, beef and lamb.
Try a splash over root vegetables before roasting, along with olive oil and seasoning, to give them an extra zing.
A good wine vinegar can elevate every dish it touches. By good, I mean made according to the traditional method. These vinegars cost a bit more than the usual supermarket variety, but I think they are worth it.
Wine vinegar starts with wine that is allowed to ferment in wooden barrels, sometimes for a few years and sometimes longer in order for the taste to become more complex. The flavor of the vinegar mellows the longer it is allowed to age before bottling.
Red wine vinegar is best used with heartier flavors and foods, like beef, pork, and vegetables. White wine vinegar is softer than red wine vinegar but can be used interchangeably in recipes, depending on the flavor you desire or in recipes where you don’t want to change the color.
Champagne vinegar has a lighter, fresher taste than other wine vinegars and is best for dressing lighter foods like pale greens, chicken, and fish.
Sherry vinegar is made from sherry wine, which is produced in the Jerez region in southwestern Spain. It’s aged for at least six months in oak barrels before being bottled and has one of the most complex flavors of all the wine vinegars. Its slightly sweet sharp taste works well in a vinaigrette as well as for cooking.
All vinegars should be stored tightly closed in a cool, dark place. They will last for about a year after opening; after that time, the flavors will diminish.
Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Almond Anchoïade
Adapted from “Kitchen Gypsy” by Joanne Weir, Oxmoor House ($35)
Roasting is a unique way to prepare cauliflower. Served with this delightful blend of parsley, almonds, and anchovies, this side or first course is simple enough for a weeknight dinner. A crisp, bright, acidic wine like as a Groth 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($21) combines beautifully with the cauliflower and balances the acidity in the tart sauce.
1 head cauliflower
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup blanched almonds
5 salt-packed whole anchovies, or 10 oil-packed anchovy fillets
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
11/2 teaspoons aged red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon red chile flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a rimmed baking sheet.
Remove and discard the leaves from the cauliflower. Core the cauliflower, leaving the head intact, and discard the core. Place the cauliflower, core side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle the oil over the top of the cauliflower and sprinkle with the salt.
Roast the cauliflower until tender when pierced and golden on top, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly.
To make the anchoïade, toast the nuts in a small frying pan over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until they are fragrant and have taken on some color, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour onto a plate and let cool.
If using salt-packed anchovies, fillet each anchovy, discarding the spine. For both types of anchovies, soak the fillets in cold water for 5 minutes, rinse under cool running water, and pat dry with paper towels.
In a food processor, combine the almonds, anchovies, garlic, and butter and pulse until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and gradually whisk in the oil and vinegar. Stir in the parsley and chile flakes and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
To serve, cut the cauliflower into wedges, place a wedge on each individual plate, and spoon the anchoïade around each wedge.
Yield: Serves 4 to 6