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Making this zataar tomato and balsamic reduction with mushrooms gave me a real cozy feeling. It brought many different flavors together and filled my kitchen with a sweet and warm smell. Making a reduction is easy and very satisfying. It is done by liquid by rapidly boiling a liquid in an uncovered saucepan. This process thickens the liquid and intensifies the flavor. Sauces, glazes and gravies are traditionally made this way.

Zataar is a Middle Eastern mixture of dried savory herbs, sesame seeds and salt. It’s typically sprinkled on top of hummus or mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread. The very cheap zataar shop I went to in Montreal during my university years pretty much saved my life, so I have fond associations with zataar. There I would get a flatbread covered with zataar and filled with vegetables and yummy sauce.

Savory, I had, but this reduction needed some sweetness. Tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar stepped up for the challenge, and boy did they work it out.

It’s got a slightly sweet and tangy flavor making it a perfect accompaniment to savory or meaty foods. Being a reduction sauce, it is rather bold. It has it’s own ideas about life and where it belongs. It much prefers being placed loftily atop a piece of meat or a bed of couscous than trivialized by many other flavors. It will not be eclipsed and will happily sabotage your meal if you try anything funny. Somehow, I survived my first attempt at using this reduction in a soup (but just barely). The soup was a hearty blended thing that was nice and mild on it’s own, and needed an extra kick to be interesting. I should’ve known better. The reduction does not accept such insolence. The soup was ruined. It was too complex and in the end my taste buds were retching.

Respect. That’s all the reduction wants. To be recognized for the zing that it brings to a meal. All it asks is to be complimented for complimenting so well. So, respect it received. On top of beef burger it went, as if it were on a meaty throne. The reduction reigned mightily… also briefly as I ate it.

Step 1: Ingredients and Directions

Ingredients

1 large (or 2 medium) tomato, chopped

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup chopped yellow onions

½ cup sliced mushrooms

2 tbsp zataar

1 tsp brown sugar

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper

Directions

Heat a saucepan on medium high heat and add some cooking oil.

Lightly brown the onions. Then add the tomato, vinegar, sugar and spices.

Once simmering, add the mushrooms.

Reduce heat to medium low when the mushrooms have released their juices (you will know that this has happened when suddenly it looks more like a sauce).

Let the sauce simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

Eat and love.

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Bio: I am an experienced cook, avid adventurer and diligent student of the culinary arts. I have dedicated much of my time and creative energy honing ... More »
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