Just a drizzle of Saba on dressed field greens finishes this winter salad.
– by The Olive Oil Source Kitchen
Have you ever found that something in your spice cabinet actually prompts a spontaneous desire to invent new ways to use it? Or that you want to try including it in everything from ho-hum breakfast mainstays like oatmeal and yogurt to a simple bowl of chocolate ice cream? This month’s recipe is not so much a structured list of ingredients and instructions, but an invitation to play in the kitchen with this trendy new culinary accent. While putting in a kitchen category is tough, using it as a part of your pantry repertoire is easy.
In a nutshell, Saba is a simple syrup made from boiling down the must of Trebbiano grapes until it is caramelized and rich with flavor. It will remind you of the intensity of balsamic vinegar, but without the tang and pungent kick that fermentation creates. To get your creative juices flowing, first take a whiff. The familiar aromas of figs, raisins or deeply rich strawberry jam will come to mind. Next, take a sip. Your first taste will confirm that this intense syrupy ingredient brings all kinds of possibilities to mind.
So, first, let’s talk drinks. As a sweetener, Saba has a few distinct advantages. It’s not just straight sugar, it imparts a subtle, wonderful flavor while it adds sweetness. Saba is not as thick as honey or maple syrup, so it mixes as easily into cold drinks as hot. I tried it with iced and hot tea. I tried it with iced and hot coffee. I even tried it with hot chocolate just to see if my guess was right – and yes, it’s a natural to enhance the flavor of chocolate, much like adding espresso to a chocolate cake recipe. And some evening when inspiration strikes, I’ll be trying it in some new cocktail invention, too.
Next, I moved onto breakfast and pushed the maple syrup to the back of the cupboard. It is now my “go to” treat on everything from yogurt to oatmeal to waffles to fresh fruit. Saba is not as sweet, nor as thick as maple syrup, so somehow I feel a little more righteous that I’m doing something good for my diet (whether this is true, though, is up to a dietician to decide).
When I think about dinner possibilities, adding a little Saba as a finish to a demi-glaze first comes to mind. Then, my imagination wanders to a new ingredient for Chinese stir-fry, instead of the heavier flavor of plum sauce.
Finally, think dessert. As a new and elegant twist on an old classic, drizzle it over fresh strawberries and ricotta cream. Blend it into a sabayon parfait. Mix it with chocolate sauce to up the flavor intensity. Most importantly, use your imagination. This is one case where it’s perfectly alright to play with your food.