A few weeks ago, a friend emailed me, saying that grapefruit is one of his favorite fruits, and wondered if I had any recipes using this fruit. On one of those aforementioned evenings, when the refrigerator was looking rather bare, I did happen to have a bag of baby spinach, a grapefruit, and a red onion. What began as three ingredients tossed together to serve as the requisite vegetable on the dinner plate has morphed into a go-to winter salad in our house.
Since I have one son who is not a grapefruit fan, I also include oranges when I make this salad. Avocado and a variety of cheeses and nuts provide complimentary flavors and textures if you have them on hand. What brings this salad together is a simple drizzle of real balsamic vinegar.
True balsamic vinegar is a product of Modena, Italy. It is aged in oak barrels and is concentrated as it ages, creating thicker and sweeter vinegar than the typical grocery store bottle. This single, syrupy ingredient is a deliciously easy option to salad dressing. However, a good 10-year-old balsamic can easily cost 20 dollars for an 8-ounce bottle. While this is a special treat, you can mimic the real thing with the inexpensive bottle that may be lurking in your pantry.
- 1 cup balsamic vinegar (the inexpensive kind)
- 1 -1 ½ teaspoons honey
- Baby spinach
- Red onion, slivered
- Oranges and/or grapefruit, peeled and sliced
- Optional: sliced avocado, crumbled feta, pistachios or slivered almonds…blue cheese and chopped walnuts would be a nice combination, too
For the balsamic reduction: Simmer the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced by about half. If you cook until the vinegar looks thick and syrupy while still hot, it may very well taste burned. It will thicken as it cools. Better to stop cooking too early. If the vinegar is too thin once cooled, simply simmer for a few additional minutes. Once it reaches room temperature, you want a consistency similar to that of maple syrup. Precise simmering time will vary depending on pot size and stove type.
When cooled slightly, taste the vinegar, and if the flavor is still a touch too acidic for your liking, add the honey, to taste. This will replicate the sweetness of a true balsamic. Stored in a glass jar in your pantry, the vinegar will keep for months. After you try the technique once, you may wish to double future batches.
For the salad: Assemble the spinach on serving plates. Top with the citrus, onion, and any of the optional ingredients. Drizzle with the balsamic reduction.
This recipe is featured on Recipes for my Boys’ Thursday’s Treasures.