I have two dishes today – the first is asparagus with My Carolina Kitchen’s homemade vinaigrette using Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar and garnished with local North Carolina strawberries and feta cheese. The second is Italian yellow and red peppers dressed with a combination of Crosby’s Vermont acorn vinegar and Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar, garnished with pickled Vermont acorns and fresh oregano leaves from our herb garden. Both dishes are perfect for those occasions when you need food that can be served at room temperature.
Crosby’s Vermont vinegars first caught my attention on a post here on TW Barrett’s blog Culinary Types. A week or so later Paul Crosby, who makes the vinegars himself, contacted me and asked if I would like to try the acorn and elderberry vinegars. Of course I said yes and soon a bottle of each, plus a jar of pickled acorns, arrived on my doorstep.
I learned from Culinary Types' post that elderberries grow wild where Paul lives in Vermont, but he’s growing his own berries now. A bumper crop of berries was the inspiration for his elderberry vinegar. For the acorn vinegar, Paul forages the acorns in the fall by gathering fallen white oak acorns on his own property. Once they are collected they are dried and stored in a cool dry area away from the squirrels. To start a batch of vinegar, two cups of dried acorns are cracked, sorted to exclude the bad ones and then put in a bath of hot water to release the bitter tannins. That process is done three times usually to release the bitterness. Then Paul tastes to make sure the flavor is right, then the acorns are processed and ready to infuse in a gallon of white vinegar, which takes up to three weeks.
We tasted by vinegars “straight up” and were impressed with the complexity of both. The acorn vinegar is a bit softer on the tongue where the elderberry vinegar was reminiscent of balsamic vinegar. The pickled acorns have a tiny bit of crunch and a nice woodsy-clove flavor.
I served the asparagus and strawberries dressed with the Vermont elderberry vinaigrette to guests one night and not only was it a fun dinner table topic to talk about vinegar made from elderberries, but the asparagus dish was the first thing they ate that night. Crosby’s Vermont vinegars are for sale on line here and here. I hope you’ll give them a try.
Asparagus with Strawberries and Feta Cheese
From My Carolina Kitchen – Sam Hoffer – serves 4
1 lb fresh asparagus, tough lower ends snapped off
2 teaspoons salt
Water flavored with low sodium, low fat beef broth to taste
1 tablespoon Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar or red wine or balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash of hot sauce such as Tabasco
Maldon sea salt or other good sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled, then sliced - more if desired
Sugar to taste
2 to 3 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled, more if desired
Fresh mint leaves, chopped, optional
After the tough ends of asparagus have been removed, peel the remaining ends unless the asparagus is thin; if thin, leave as is. Bring enough water flavored with beef broth and salt to cover the asparagus to a boil in a shallow pan. Add asparagus, turn heat to low and cook for about 4 minutes until asparagus is crisp tender, taking care not to overcook. Immediately plunge the asparagus in an ice water bath to stop the cooking and retain the green color. After a minute or two, remove the asparagus and dry well with a towel. Asparagus may be either wrapped and chilled for about an hour, or served at room temperature.
In the meantime, prepare the vinaigrette by placing all of the ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. When ready to serve, place the asparagus on a platter, shake the vinaigrette well, drizzle it over the asparagus, then garnish with the strawberries, feta cheese (and mint if desired).
Italian Sweet Bell Peppers in Vinegar, Sugar, and Oregano
Adapted from Cucina Fresca by Viana La Place & Evan Kleiman – serves 4
2 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers (or all yellow peppers)
1 tablespoon each of Crosby’s Vermont acorn vinegar & Crosby’s Vermont elderberry vinegar (or 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar)
1 tablespoon sugar
Coarse salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
Vermont pickled acorns for garnish, about 8 or to taste, optional or substitute a sprinkling of drained capers
With a sharp knife, start at the top of the pepper and cut off all 4 sides, starting at the top, leaving the stem and the seeds. Discard the stem and seeds. Slice the peppers into ¾” wide strips. Cook the bell pepper strips in the olive oil in a skillet, covered, over low heat for about 8 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the peppers from browning. The pepper should have some crunch to them. Add the two vinegars, sugar, and salt. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Garnish with fresh oregano leaves and pickled acorns. Serve at room temperature.
Disclosure: The opinions in this post are mine and my husband's alone and we were not compensated for this review other than the samples.
This will be shared with Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm, Miz Helen’s Country Kitchen Full Plate Thursday, and Food on Friday at Carole's Chatter.