A while back a dear friend gave me a bottle of Caramelized Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar that was so luscious I wondered how I had gotten through life thus far without it. I used it in salad dressings and marinades, and added it to chilled sparkling water for a tangy, sweet, and refreshing drink. Then one day I had the idea to try it drizzled over vanilla Greek yogurt. Oh. My.
It became one of my favorite quick desserts, an easy breakfast when I added chopped nuts and fresh fruit, the astoundingly simple yet somehow decadent dish that was both healthy and comforting on rough days.
While using Greek yogurt straight out of the tub is perfectly acceptable for this dish, I like to make it extra special by draining the yogurt in cheesecloth for an hour or so to make it especially thick and creamy. I also like to start with plain Greek yogurt then add my own sweetener and flavoring. I stir in fragrant vanilla extract and a spoonful of real maple syrup, or puree canned peaches or apricots and whisk them in. I also love it with almond or hazelnut extract. The nuttiness blends so beautifully with the tangy yogurt and warming sweetness of the real maple syrup. It's also lovely sweetened with runny honey, a spoonful of your favorite jam, or, if you want something a little more grown up, a drizzle of a coffee or chocolate liqueur.
Caramelized balsamic vinegar can be purchased in rather expensive bottles in specialty shops, but you can easily make it at home and keep it stored in a bottle to use whenever the craving for the creamy deliciousness of this dish hits you. Simply add 1/3 cup of brown sugar to 1 cup balsamic vinegar and simmer about 10-15 minutes until the liquid reduces and you’re left with a gorgeous dark brown syrup that is both sweet and tangy.
Experiment with flavors of caramelized balsamic vinegar by stirring in a spoonful of strawberry, blackberry, or peach jam when you add the sugar. If the flavor isn't strong enough, stir in a teaspoon of extract after it cools. You can even spice it up during the cooking process with a whole star anise, clove bud, or cinnamon stick. Just be sure to remove it before storing. The caramelized balsamic vinegar is lovely poured over vanilla ice cream or crème fraiche.
Assembling this dessert is simplicity itself. Spoon a generous portion of flavored Greek yogurt into each bowl, drizzle with 1-2 teaspoons of caramelized balsamic vinegar, decorate with a fresh mint or pineapple sage leaf, and serve. It's also nice topped with chopped toasted almonds, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts, fresh berries, canned lychees, or mandarin orange segments.