Cooking and wrapping gifts at home sans the shopping-mall purgatory?
Count me in.
For decades my humble attempt at making edible presents has included everything from mason jars of creamy caramel sauce to decorative boxes filled with herds of gingerbread, moose-shaped cookies.
Rosemary jelly, coconut granola, hot chocolate mix and watermelon pickles? Yep, my friends and family have received them as “gifts of love,” too.
While I lived in Jacksonville, we had a pecan tree loaded with nuts so what the busy little squirrels didn’t get, I captured for spiced pecans to give away.
And when my friend Larry Brooks confided months ago that while traveling he had sampled an irresistible dipping sauce of chocolate and reduced balsamic vinegar, I rubbed my hands together with gifting glee.
The sauce sounded interesting and uniquely giftable.
Larry described its deep, rich, gorgeous chocolate goodness with a fair amount of acidity. “Oh how will you use this?” I thought. Hmm... Let me count the ways.
So I found a recipe online and made some.
First I paired it with ice cream. It was ridiculously good.
Try sparingly drizzling it over vanilla, chocolate or coffee ice cream – and don’t forget the whipped cream.
Or you can simply drizzle over fruits, including berries, bananas or pineapple for an easy, yet decadent dish. It would seem to go nicely dressed on a citrus or strawberry salad, too.
Try adding a touch of the chocolate balsamic vinegar to your mole sauce to give it a little punch. And since I’m a sucker for cheesecake, I bet it would be amazing on that, too.
Like many other delicious things in jars, it’s pretty good licked straight off the spoon, too.
Gifts of food mean a trip to the grocery store and a stop at the local craft store for containers. After that the worst is over. While your neighbors are dodging long lines at the mall, you’ll be in the kitchen with Johnny Mathis.
Lynn Kessel is a freelance food columnist. For more of her recipes, visit southshore.tbo.com and enter the search words Lynn Kessel.
Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
2 cups balsamic vinegar
Reduce the vinegar by half from 2 cups to 1 cup over low heat. This will take approximately 20 minutes, stirring often. The vinegar will thicken and coat the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool, once reduced. If you start with a better balsamic vinegar, you can skip this step and simply use 1 cup of balsamic straight from the bottle.
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dissolve the sugar and salt into water. Bring to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat to low and add cocoa, stirring until a syrup begins to thicken. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Set aside to cool.
Once completely cooled, mix the vinegar and chocolate syrup thoroughly and divide among four, 4- ounce sterile bottles. I used two, 8-ounce jars. Depending on your bottle, seal with a cork or twist lid. Hand print labels on adhesive strips to attach on each bottle for gift-giving.