Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and today’s Food Trends

14 Mar 2019

The food trends of 2019 are officially here, and it won’t come as a surprise that organic, natural and healthy products are on the menu.

Fermentation, alternative, non-alcoholic beverages, sour twists in cocktails and a heap of oriental flavours is what awaits you this year. So, prepared to see a decline in fast trends and a spike in healthy eating habits.

Acid and umami act as seasonings, taste boosters and contrast creators which perfectly fit into the food trends of the moment. Umami is the sixth taste and is derived from the Japanese word ‘exquisite’. It is perhaps best represented by seaweed, anchovies and Parmigiano Reggiano while acid is represented by many trendy foods like the Japanese citrus yuzu, but as far as Italian cuisine is concerned, the balsamic vinegar of Modena is the epitome of acid.

 

Combining Italian fermented flavours with today’s food trends

So, let’s start with a couple of examples starting with vegetables. Vegetables are becoming increasingly popular among famous chefs with some, like Alain Ducasse, offering authentic, 100% vegetarian cuisine that is enhanced by new textures and cooking techniques. It doesn’t come as much of a surprise as vegetables are a staple food for a growing number of people and if they are eaten in varied and creative ways, they can be the perfect combination of taste and health that is often so difficult to find.

 
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Vegetables (and their seeds)

Pumpkin, onion and radicchio are probably the three vegetables that pair best with the classic balsamic vinegar of Modena as well as being the ones that we can easily indulge in thanks to the strong, aged flavours and the alternative aromas of balsamic dressings. The bittersweet combination of the balsamic cream and pepper or, to be a little less mundane, the leek is always a winner too!

And if among these new trends, you find seeds, why don’t you try to play around with textures a little? Combine some crunchy pumpkin, sunflower, flax, sesame and poppy seeds with a smooth balsamic cream for the perfect appetiser or nibble! Seeds are, after all, becoming more and more appreciated especially for the vast number of varieties that are out there.

 

Leavened products and edible flowers

Now, it’s impossible to ignore these two well-established trends in contemporary cuisine, these two food trends that hold a certain prestige: leavened products and edible flowers. Daisies, violets, primroses, roses and many other flowers that come from the flowers of fruit plants like myrtle and lemon are being used more and more as ingredients to add aroma or even decoration to dishes. It has long been thought of as an element of ‘haute cuisine’ that could only be found in the most refined (or indeed, ambitious) of homes.

However, if you are brave enough, you could combine the two decorations of the moment: balsamic cream and edible flowers. Keep in mind that many flowers add a bitter taste to the dish so be sure to taste them before serving and perhaps add a dash of flavoured cream to combat this. What about a pomegranate flavoured cream with some white daisies to add a striking colour contrast?

Now, the other increasingly popular trend is the art of leavening (both professionally and domestically) with the help of yeast. Yeast is the basis of the whirlwind gastronomic rise of panettone, pandoro, regional leavened products in general and, above all, bread with its large air pockets and thick, crispy crust. With the addition of a few drops of traditional balsamic vinegar or some balsamic pearls, little spheres filled with a liquid centre, will make this bread even better. It is the perfect addition to a meal or even appetiser which unites the poorest and richest of foods beautifully.

 

Traditional dishes: Italian and more

But let’s not forget the success of the regional dishes which have had us reaching for our recipe books as they have made a comeback in recent years. The combination of dishes that are traditionally from Emilia Romagna and the traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena is almost too easy so instead you should try it with recipes from other regions. A drizzle of vinegar on the tripe, that is traditional in Rome, will help to reduce the fattiness of the raw meat or you could follow a Friulian tradition and add a dash of vinegar to a plate of pasta and beans.

It's also true that ethnic foods, particularly the Asian ones, have been the real food trends in recent years (and probably will still be in years to come). Think of how delicious a balsamic cream could be with a bao, a typical Chinese, steamed dumpling or if you want to be even more original, try the Japanese technique of marinating fish in vinegar. Just remember that it’s better to use a very greasy type of fish!

 

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