Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Garlic With Balsamic Reduction and Dried Cranberries

3 pounds Brussels sprouts
About 30 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar Essence (recipe follows)
1/2 to 2/3 cup dried cranberries

Trim and halve the Brussels sprouts. Place them in a large bowl, along with the peeled, whole garlic cloves; toss with the olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Divide vegetables between 2 baking sheets. Roast in a 375-degree oven until browned, for about 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove sprouts from oven and drizzle with the Balsamic Vinegar Essence; toss to coat, then sprinkle on the dried cranberries and toss again before serving. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

BALSAMIC VINEGAR ESSENCE: In a medium-sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine 2 cups balsamic vinegar (no need to use the good stuff!) with 1/2 cup coarsely chopped yellow onion, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar and 10 to 12 peppercorns. Bring mixture to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until mixture has reduced to about 1/2 to 1/3 cup and is thickened and somewhat syrupy. Strain through a fine sieve (press onions with back of a wooden spoon to squeeze out all juicy balsamic syrup). Let mixture cool (it will thicken a bit more when chilled) and store reduction in a tightly closed jar or squeeze bottle with a slender spout. It will keep for months and months. Drizzle it over tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, polenta, grilled chicken and sauteed or roasted vegetables. Makes about 1/2 cup.

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