Every now and then along comes a food product defying categorization or one preferred culinary use. It challenges. And then it rewards. Nancy Brown, owner of Foodlyn, knows I am searching always for new products of superior-quality, especially those that naturally provide new flavor twists combined with health benefits. So, she sent me a bottle of black vinegar made by Graham Klee Wiles-Pearson. One taste of it and I'm intrigued. The bottle remains on my kitchen counter and experimentation begins.
A winner of the 2016 Good Food Award, Blackstrap Molasses Vinegar is fermented naturally in the Orleans Method for 8 to 12 months. With low acidity, its unique flavor is sweet-tart-salty with a mineral finish. Imagine Italian balsamic vinegar meets Chinese black vinegar. One thing for sure, it possesses multiple personalities. It demands attention. This is a vinegar with attitude, baby, that won't be ignored, so I drizzle it on grilled steak and fish. It works well, a bit of zing that is not too sweet with the proteins.
Does it have a subtle side? Yes. In fact it can be casual and comfy, too. Blend it into burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, marinades, and braised dishes, then share a home-cooked meal with good friends. Just when I think I've figured it out, its softer side surprises by bringing all elements together when finishing a sauce. What happens when different cuisines are combined in one dish? It becomes the diplomat. Combine Blackstrap Molasses Vinegar with Japanese soba, brussel sprouts and mushrooms roasted with extra-virgin olive oil, accented with toasted sesame seeds. It is a marvelous balance of East meets West. Double or triple the recipe as preferred.
4 servings. Roasting time for brussel sprouts and shiitake mushrooms is 30 to 35 minutes.
Roasting Brussel Sprouts and Shiitake Mushrooms:
6 ounces (170 g) brussel sprouts
4 ounces (115 g) fresh shiitake mushrooms or other mushrooms
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons (44 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces (230 g) dried buckwheat soba or sweet potato and buckwheat soba
Shiitake mushroom broth
Blackstrap Molasses Vinegar
Toasted sesame oil, optional
Lightly toasted sesame seeds
Fresh coriander sprigs
1. Roasting Brussel Sprouts and Shiitake Mushrooms: Preheat the oven to 400 F/200 C/Gas Mark 6. Rinse the brussel sprouts and mushrooms under cool running water. Drain. Cut in half each brussel sprout then immerse in a bowl of cool water to add moisture. Remove the mushroom stems from the caps. Reserve the caps. Put the stems in a small pan and reserve for making broth. Drain the raw brussel sprouts.
Arrange the brussel sprouts and mushroom caps in separate roasting dishes. Season to taste with salt, drizzle with olive oil then toss to coat, spread out for even roasting. Pour a spoonful or two of water into the bottom of each dish, just to barely coat the bottom to prevent burning.
Place the dishes in the center of the preheated oven and roast for 15 minutes. Remove the dishes, toss the brussel sprouts and turn over the mushroom caps. Roast for another 15 minutes. Check at this point and remove, or roast for another 5 minutes then remove. When cool to the touch, slice or quarter the roasted brussel sprouts and mushrooms.
2. Mushroom Broth: Pour 1 cup water into the small pan holding the mushroom stems. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes creating a light broth. Remove the stems and discard. Reserve the broth.
3. Soba: Bring lightly salted water to a rolling boil in a pot. Add the soba noodles, a few at a time keeping the strands separate, submerge. Cook the soba according to manufacturer's instructions (usually 3 to 7 minutes depending on ingredient content and brand), or your preferred texture. Drain in a colander, run cold water over to stop the cooking, drain then put into a bowl.
4. Plating: Serve this dish either warm or room temperature. If serving this dish warm, reheat the reserved mushroom broth first. Pour the broth over the boiled soba. Arrange the soba on individual dishes in undulating strands or swirls. Nestle the roasted brussel sprouts and mushrooms in the soba. Drizzle with Blackstrap Molasses Vinegar. (Add a few drops of toasted sesame oil, optional.) Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over, and garnish with sprigs of fresh coriander.
Note: Blackstrap Molasses Vinegar makes a great low-sodium substitute for soy sauce, too. Don't forget dessert…berries and gelato. Or drinks…spike a cocktail or add a few drops in sparkling water along with drops of apple cider vinegar and you're invigorated for the day. Blackstrap Molasses Vinegar makes a fine addition to your culinary repertoire as well as a cherished gift. Purchase it here: