Veg Box Newsletter 16th May: Vinegar

In the Veg Boxes This Week

Subject to last minute changes

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The Nice Bit

Vinegar isn’t nice. It’s the thing we use in aphorisms to mean something unpleasant, the opposite to sweet and gentle honey when it comes to catching insects. But acidity is a key taste building block, and trying to cook without it is like trying to write a newsletter without the letter “f”: you can certainly do it, but there’ll be something missing, even though you might not be able to spot just what it is. Vinegar is by no means the only, or even necessarily the best, way to include acidity in your cooking: lemons and limes, tamarind, yoghurt, and lactobacillus pickles will all do the trick. But while all these brilliant sharp things need recognition, so does vinegar, in its strange bottles on the cupboard-top, getting a little dusty. 

Vinegar comes in a million varieties: balsamic, sherry, champagne, malt, rice, red wine, apple cider, white wine, black, cane, raspberry, even delicious non-brewed-condiment. I think I have six or seven kinds on top my own personal cupboard, but I know some reading this have twice that, three times. Or maybe you have one bottle, the kind you like best, and that’s good too. Vinegar is a great thing to experiment with, there’s not much that doesn’t get better with a little vinegar. One of the easiest things is a vinaigrette, and you can use Nora Ephron’s recipe, or you can make it up on the spot, adding garlic or minced shallots, chillies, herbs, a little sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Lately, I’ve been steaming broccoli or green beans and serving them warm with vinaigrette over them: it’s the simplest way to add a vegetable to a meal. I think this trick works very well with roasted veg too. Naturally, vinegarette can dress a salad, in any guise: pasta, grain, greens. 

Going beyond the dressing, vinegar can be used as a glaze, like in this balsamic-glazed beetroot. You can do a quick pickle with almost any veg, but here are three easy ones to begin with. And then it’s really up to you and whatever you’re cooking, because any soup or stew or almost anything can be improved with a little vinegar.