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Vim and Vinegar

  • Chef and owner of Zin restaurant Jeff Mall pours a sherry vinegar glaze over his grilled chicken with mixed greens and grilled lemon vinaigrette and paired with slow cooked collard greens with apple cider vinegar in Healdsburg on Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Many summer dishes pair well with vinegar. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Vinegar is the new lemonade, a refreshing staple of summer showing up in all kinds of fruity “shrub” beverages on hip cocktail lists.

Summer is also the perfect time to add a dash of vinegar to meat marinades and finishing sauces, sauteed greens and blistered padron peppers, potato salads and vinaigrettes.

“When you think of summer, you think of zesty, bright flavors, and you want things to pop,” said Jeff Mall, chef/owner of Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar in Healdsburg. “When used the right way, vinegar really adds just a little pop to most everything.”

Stocking up on acidic and slightly sweet vinegars enables the savvy home cook to create quick but flavorful dinners without spending a lot of time in the kitchen. It can also take the place of salt and other seasoning as a flavor brightener.

“You may taste something bland, and think it needs salt, “ Mall said. “But if you add vinegar, it may not need as much salt.”

Mall likes to add Nana Mae’s Gravenstein Apple Cider Vinegar to slow-cooked dishes, such as sauteed collard greens he serves with Zin’s Sunday Night Fried Chicken dinner.

“We cook them low and slow, with bacon and onions, so it gets really murky,” he said. “It needs vinegar to give it a little life.”

He uses vinegar to finish other tough greens, such as spinach, kale or chard, as well as long-cooked soups that need a lift.

“I did a Roasted Tomato Soup this week, and added a little red wine vinegar at the end, “ he said. “It woke up the flavors.”

As a finishing sauce for grilled poultry, Mall slow-cooks down a Sherry Vinegar Reduction sauce with a little sugar.

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