I know that most of you could probably figure out how to sauté asparagus, but can you figure out how to get the diacritic known as an acute accent over the “e”? The answer is at the bottom of the page.
Several years ago, I had the good fortune to visit Modena, Italy. This little industrial town just North of Bologna is known for three treasures: Ferrari, Pavarotti and Balsamic Vinegar. Unfortunately, I was not there to pick up my new Ferrari, but I was there for Pavarotti (Michael Kamen was conducting the “Pavarotti and Friends” concert, so I got to hang with the maestro) and since I was already in the area, why not buy some of that amazing, drippy sweet delight.
There are many grades of balsamic vinegar. They are usually determined by the amount of age: 4-8 years is your entry level stuff; 20 is getting pretty thick and sweet; 45 is the best, as evidently it stops aging at this point. The oldest is so sweet that the Italians in that area eat it on ice cream, as I found out at the big dinner after the concert. Pavarotti rolled his eyes at eating balsamic vinegar on ice cream, but actually it was really good.
On the way out of town I bought a small bottle of 45 year old and another 25 year old one. If I remember, the total cost was about $200. I do remember that the 45 was 100 british pounds, about $160 at the time. Since it’s so sweet and dense, you only use it a drop at a time on salads (and ice cream) and would never cook with it. That little bottle lasted me about 3 years.
Today, you can buy good balsamic at gourmet groceries, wine and cheese shops. Make sure that it’s from Modena. Also make sure you have some of the less expensive stuff around to make this dish.
- 1 Bunch Fresh Asparagus
- 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
- 1 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- Large Bowl
- Sauté Pan
- Chef’s Knife
- Cut or break the hard end off of the asparagus stalks. (This next tip is worth keeping this recipe) Fill a large bowl 3/4 full of ice cold water. Add ice if your tap water is not bracingly cold. Soak the asparagus for about 20 minutes. This brings the vegetable back to life.
- Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in a little olive oil. Do not burn the garlic.
- Cut the asparagus into bite sized pieces and add to the pan.
- Toss with salt and pepper.
- Sauté for about 10 minutes.
- While the asparagus is still bright green, add the balsamic and let reduce for a few minutes. The exact amount of vinegar will depend on the acidity. They vary widely.
And the acute accent: Hold down the alt (option) key and press “e” which will insert the accent, then press “e” again to get the letter underneath the accent.