Making balsamic syrup out of lemons

As a thank you gift, one of my personal chef clients gave me a bottle of balsamic syrup. I had surprisingly mixed feelings upon receiving it. Of course I was grateful to be acknowledged with such a thoughtful gesture. I was also excited to incorporate the syrup into my cooking. Though I love balsamic vinegar and use it liberally in sauces, dressings, marinades, chilies, stews and soups, I was looking forward to experimenting with the concentrated sweetness and thick texture of the syrup.

The next feeling was a complex one. I remembered an electrifying dish using balsamic syrup I learned to make about 15 years ago. Simultaneously, I began to get a stomachache. Not because I didn't like the dish, but because I abhorred the woman who taught me to make it. She was the owner of this new little fancy Caribbean-influenced restaurant and had just come from "the City" to make her debut in our funky college town in Western Massachusetts.

I'd only been working about a week as her pantry chef, making sauces, dressings, garnishes and finicky things like homemade, hand-cut, fish-shaped saltines. She liked to come in around 11 am, after I'd been working about 3 hours, to drink a Bloody Mary to cure her daily hangover. She would fight loudly with the sous-chef (who used to be her boyfriend) in front of everyone. These things I could attribute to the interesting flaws of a talented foodie (which she was), but it was the way she treated her underlings that I could not accept.

First I witnessed her telling a cheerful Hispanic dishwasher not to "ever, ever" talk to her directly. Within a few days, I overheard her call a waitress stupid to a customer <em>right in front of her</em> as if she wasn't there for not knowing how to use the tare button on a scale. Though I loved the work and the break from evening saute work at the previous restaurant I'd been at for five years, I couldn't stand this woman so I gave my notice and left.

But not without learning to make this incredible eggplant sandwich with balsamic syrup, which I vow to start making again, now that I've remembered it. First you've got to make a balsamic reduction recipe. Take about 3 cups of good balsamic vinegar, bring it to boil in a heavy sauce pan, then simmer it till it's reduced to 3/4 of a cup and thickly coats a wooden spoon. Next take an Italian eggplant and slice it as thin as possible (with a meat slicer or a sharp cheese slicer or even a carbon steel y-shaped veggie peeler). You'll have a tall stack of papery slices.

Heat a flat top grill or large cast iron pan on medium. When it's good and hot, cook the slices on the dry surface till they start to float off. Gather them with a pair of tongs and put them in a bowl. Repeat with the rest of the slices. When they're all done, add enough syrup to coat and stir them well. You'll have a sticky wad. Using tongs, stuff this into a loaf of ficelle sliced along the length but not all the way through. Let sit for one hour and then eat. A fascinatingly good sandwich!

Though she was just about the worst employer I've ever had, that woman gave me a culinary education on two fronts: the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in and the chance to try that taste bud-expanding balsamic syrup. For this I am grateful.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            1 Program(s) Found

            Baker College is the largest independent college in Michigan with the most focused approach to education and training available. Our mission is to prepare you for meaningful employment.

            1 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Lets undergrad students try classes before paying any tuition.
            • Has an average class sizes of 18 for undergraduate and 13 for graduate-level courses.
            • Offers numerous scholarship opportunities that can help students save up to $750 per term on their tuition.
            • Tends to educate degree-seeking online and campus-based students who are adult learners with families and students who work while pursuing higher education.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Online Courses
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            3 Program(s) Found
            L'Ecole Culinaire , Kansas City
            • Offers educational opportunities for the aspiring, career-minded chef.
            • Students are trained by professional chefs and spend the majority of their final term working in the campus restaurant to learn all phases of the culinary industry.
            • St. Louis campus offers new Food Truck Entrepreneurship courses.
            • Has a student-run food truck that tours around St. Louis.
            • All campuses have a public restaurant where food is prepared and served by students.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]