Posts Tagged ‘Pork’

Spaghetti with Sicilian Meatballs

January 13, 2013

IMG_9502When we were in Italy, what struck me most is that there truly isn’t “Italian” food. Rather, their food is identified by the region you are in. Spaghetti and clams in the Italian Riviera. Boar in Tuscany. Pizza in Naples. That is why I was so intrigued when I saw a recipe for Sicilian meatballs in Bon Appetit.

The food of Sicily has a Greek and sometimes African influence, making it have more olives, capers and currants than you would find in the “boot.” So when looking at the meatball recipe, at first glance it seemed very traditional. Sausage meat (which was an interesting twist on the typical beef, veal, pork combo), breadcrumbs in milk, garlic, onion, etc. Yet, then they add pine nuts and currants to make it have a bit of nutty sweetness. They are baked, and then smothered in a traditional Italian red sauce.

This dish has that same warm, comforting result as typical Italian meatballs, but they do have an interesting sweetness to them that makes them have a “hmm, what’s that?” factor. It is a great alternative to a typical bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and will be making its way to our dinner table as a great Sicilian (not Italian!) dish!

SPAGHETTI WITH SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Serves 4-6

Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Meatballs:
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried currants

1 pound spaghetti

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices and 2 tablespoons basil; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork, about 1 hour. Mix in 2 tablespoons basil. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Mix crumbs and milk in medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Mix in Parmesan, onion, basil, egg, garlic and pepper. Add sausage, pine nuts and currants; blend well. Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on baking sheet. Bake until meatballs are light brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add to sauce.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Mound in dish. Bring sauce and meatballs to simmer. Mix with and spoon over spaghetti.

Momofuku Bo Ssam

June 24, 2012

I am always up for something different, a challenge if you will, on a Sunday. I have more time than any weekday prior, and I am a rejuvenated version of myself from the Saturday off. I have time to search out unique ingredients, slow roast meat, patiently babysit the evening’s dinner, and do something a little extraordinary. We always open a bottle of wine, watch a movie or the HBO series de jour and enjoy a celebration of the wonderful weekend.

I love Korean food so when my husband and I saw this recipe in the New York Times from Momofuku in NYC, I was intrigued. Essentially, Bo Ssam is a slow roasted pig that is then served with many accompaniments and sauces to be wrapped with rice in a lettuce leaf. A version that serves 6-10 people (like the recipe below) goes for $200 at Momofuku. And for good reason with all of the ingredients, time and love that goes into it. It looked like quite a production – the perfect meal for a Sunday night.

The ingredients are easier to find than you would think, with the exception of kimchi which resulted in a trip to our Asian market to purchase. Could you do without one item? One sauce? One accompaniment? Sure. But do you want to go through all of this effort and be one element short? I don’t think so.

The Bo Ssam was worth every effort I put into it. And, it is quite an impressive feast when spread out on a table. The pork is so tender it falls apart, and has such a deep flavor, despite not having excessive seasoning. And every sauce, every element goes perfectly together in the lettuce. With leftovers the next day, I shredded the pork, mixed in some of the sauces, and we made sliders. Also delicious.

So if you have a Sunday when you are feeling up for something special, I highly recommend this recipe. Because of this size, it also is perfect for entertaining. Although much cheaper than a flight to NYC and $200 to eat this at Momfuku, I officially put that experience on my to do list. I am sure it is worth every penny.

BO SSAM (from Momofuku)
Serves 6-8
Pork Butt:
1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar

Ginger-Scallion Sauce:
2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
1½ teaspoons light soy sauce
1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

Ssam Sauce:
2 tablespoons fermented bean-and- chili paste (ssamjang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

Accompaniments:
2 cups plain white rice, cooked
3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1 dozen or more fresh oysters (optional – I did not include))
Kimchi (available in many Asian markets, and online).

1. Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.

3. Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

4. Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

5. Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

6. When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

Chili-Baked Ribs

January 3, 2012

For years, my husband has continuously asked me to make “saucy ribs.” But for some reason, every recipe I have tried, although good, never really gave me that sweet, spicy, sticky, lick-your-fingers ribs. Until last night.

Thanks to my parents, a bottle of liquid smoke was in my stocking this year (which is apparently available in many specialty food stores or online and can be used in many dishes!). I had heard of the ingredient and was curious about the depth of flavor it would add to items made in the kitchen vs. the grill. So when I found a saucy rib recipe that required liquid smoke, I knew I had to try it.

You need a weekend day for this one, but it is WELL worth it. I will never make another rib recipe again. The sauce is AMAZING and has such complex flavors – layering the liquid smoke, molasses, coffee and cinnamon. Then, it combines that sauciness with a great dry rub along with slow roasting the ribs until they fall off the bone.

The recipe is from Bon Appetit, but I made a few changes based on user reviews. I changed the recipe for a slower roast, and reduced the sugar for the right balance of sweet and spicy/smoky.

As someone who has tried many rib recipes, take my word that this one will be your favorite. And, if you have any doubts, just ask my rib-requesting husband!

CHILI-BAKED RIBS
Serves 8

Sauce (might want to make extra!)
4 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup unsulfured (light) molasses (although I used dark and it tasted great!)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 teaspoons prepared mustard
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Ribs
6 baby back pork rib racks (about 9 pounds total weight)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
4 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
6 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons brown sugar

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until reduced to 3 cups, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

For Ribs:
Score white membrane on underside of ribs. Place ribs in large roasting pan. Mix vinegar and liquid smoke in small bowl; brush over both sides of ribs. Refrigerate 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Mix chili powder, cumin, sugar, onion powder and cayenne. Rub over both sides of ribs. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange ribs, meat side up, in single layer on 2 large baking sheets. Roast 3 hours, covering loosely with foil if browning too quickly.

Remove ribs from oven. Brush both sides of ribs with 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 10 minutes. Brush both sides of ribs with additional 3/4 cup sauce. Roast 15 minutes longer. Remove ribs from oven. Cover with foil; let stand 15 minutes.

Cut ribs between bones into 3- to 4- rib sections. Serve with remaining sauce.

Brazilian Feijoada

February 26, 2011

Due to an upcoming trip to a land of spit- roasted pig and beans, this Brazilian dish felt like a good precursor. It is pronounced fay-zwah-da (my Brazilian friend says it MUCH better than I do!) and is traditionally served on special occasions. Thanks to the lovely invention of the slow cooker, this dish was possible with little hands-on time on a weekend.

At first I was a bit skeptical. There were no spices other than salt and pepper – and just onions, chicken broth, garlic and meat/beans. I felt like it had the potential to be bland, until I realized you sear all the meat in bacon grease before putting it in the slow cooker, add a ham hock for flavor, and let them slow cook for a full 8 hours.

I am still unsure how this dish came from Cooking Light, but I will turn my head in denial because it is AMAZING. The flavor is so rich and comforting. I put orange juice in my rice (since you serve the dish with orange wedges) and it gave a good light citrus flavor to balance out the heaviness of the dish.

I have never been to Brazil, but this dish alone makes me want to take a trip immediately and have this dish in the land in which it was invented. If my slow cooker attempt was this good, I can only imagine what the real thing tastes like!

Bon Appetit!

BRAZILIAN FEIJOADA
Serves 8

2 cups dried black beans
4 slices applewood-smoked bacon
1 pound boneless pork shoulder (Boston butt), trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed (about 2 pounds)
3 cups finely chopped onion (about 2 medium)
1 1/4 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (9-ounce) smoked ham hock
1 tablespoon white vinegar
8 orange wedges

Place beans in a small saucepan; cover with cold water. Bring to a boil; cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Sprinkle pork evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase heat to medium-high. Add pork to drippings in skillet; sauté 8 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Transfer pork to a 6-quart electric slow cooker. Sprinkle ribs evenly with 1/8 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add ribs to skillet; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned. Place ribs in slow cooker. Add drained beans, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, onion, and next 3 ingredients (through ham hock) to slow cooker, stirring to combine. Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or until beans and meat are tender.

Remove ribs from slow cooker; let stand 15 minutes. Remove meat from bones; shred meat with 2 forks. Discard bones. Discard ham hock. Return beef to slow cooker. (if your dish is like mine, the meat had already fallen off the bone and I could just shred in the slow cooker!).

Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon. Serve with orange wedges and rice.

Pork and Pineapple Fried Rice

January 17, 2011

For those who read my blog, you might be wondering where the heck I have been. Did the holidays swallow me hole? Did I bake so much I never want to see a chocolate chip again?

The true reason from my c absence is ironic really. I have been eating take out and going to restaurants the past 2 weeks BECAUSE I love to cook so much. Because I spend more time in my teeny, tiny kitchen than any other room in the house, we finally decided to redo it! Truly my dream come true.

I always try to be positive. There are those without a kitchen, or kitchens smaller than mine (although I have yet to see them). But, the terrible, outdated countertops and dirty linoleum floor had annoyed me to the point of insanity. And although I will still have a small space for my hours of cooking, it will be a pretty space. Which, truly, is all I can ask for!

My dear brother-in-law (thank you, John!) and husband (thank you, Rob!) put in new, gorgeous ceramic tile while I was on a work trip,  then my husband and I put in new trim and threshholds, put in new hardware, painted the walls a beautiful neutral color, and now the kitchen is plugged back in and back in business (no more appliances in the dining room, thank goodness!). The final step is in the beginning of February – new granite countertops.

Instead of boring you with fragments of photos, I will wait until the renovation is complete so I can give full before and afters.

Before the demo of 2011 began, I got one last recipe in – leading the way for many nights of Chinese takeout.

I am actually embarrassed to admit that since I couldn’t find Chinese sausage (does anyone know where I can find it? Findley market perhaps?), I substituted lil’ smokies. Sad, I know, but I figured it would have the same smokiness that the Chinese sausage supposedly has.

Despite my desperate substitution, the dish was amazing! Make sure to use a wok and let the rice sit for a minute to get the crusty edges that will soon become your favorite part of the dish. This one is a quickie, and can be easily done on a weeknight. Thanks to Food & Wine for this home version of take out – much better than any takeout I have had (and now I am officially a connoisseur!).

So, hears to my kitchen being open once again, and a newer kitchen on the way!

PORK AND PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE
4-6 servings

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
4 ounces ground pork
3 small Chinese sausages (5 ounces), thinly sliced
3 scallions, white parts minced and green parts sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 hot red chile, seeded and minced
4 cups cold cooked jasmine rice or other long-grain white rice
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely diced fresh pineapple

1. In a small bowl, whisk the soy sauce with the hoisin and vinegar. Heat a wok or large skillet. Add the oil and heat until smoking. Add the pork and Chinese sausages and cook over high heat, stirring, until the pork is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the minced scallion whites, ginger, garlic and chile and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rice, breaking up any lumps with your hands as you add it to the wok, and stir-fry until heated through and lightly browned in spots. Stir the hoisin-soy sauce, add it to the wok and stir-fry until nearly absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the scallion greens, cilantro and pineapple. Transfer the fried rice to bowls and serve.

Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Apples

October 14, 2010

What I love about the change in seasons, is the smells that come with it. Pine needles, stewed beef and cinnamon in the winter; fresh citrus, tulips and asparagus in the spring; searing steaks on the grill, fresh cut grass and ice cream in the summer; and last, but not least, pumpkin, musky leaves and warm spices in the fall. The seasons not only give you temperature changes and an excuse to mix up your wardrobe, but they give you an olfactory experience like none other. You can literally close your eyes, inhale, and know the month of the year.

And out of all of the seasons, fall is by far my favorite. The smells make me want to rake leaves (did I really just say that?), drink apple cider, pick apples, cook warm meals and dive into red wine season. And when the weather brings the smells of fall, my cooking shifts along with it.

Alas, my seasonal culinary point of view may have “pumpkined out” my husband, who just had pumpkin whoopie pies, pumpkin beer and pumpkin pasta all within one week. So, I had to keep with my fall focus, but stray a bit from the obvious.

So upon seeing a recipe with sauteed apples and fall spices, I knew this would keep me “in the fall spirit” without putting my husband on pumpkin overload.

Thanks to Cooking Light for this fantastic recipe. It was quick, easy, and even could be altered to roast the tenderloin whole if you want (might do that next time!). I served it with a spinach salad with pecans, feta and a simple lemon/olive oil/cider vinaigrette.

So, make this recipe, pour a glass of smooth red wine, look at the beautiful mosaic of colored trees and take a deep “sniff” of this perfect fall dinner!

SPICED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH SAUTEED APPLES
4 Servings

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 12 pieces
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups thinly sliced unpeeled Braeburn or Gala apple
1/3 cup thinly sliced shallots
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Combine first 5 ingredients; sprinkle spice mixture evenly over pork. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan; cook 3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from pan; keep warm.

Melt butter in pan; swirl to coat. Add apple slices, 1/3 cup shallots, and 1/8 teaspoon salt; sauté 4 minutes or until apple starts to brown. Add apple cider to pan, and cook for 2 minutes or until apple is crisp-tender. Stir in thyme leaves. Serve apple mixture with the pork.

Chicken Sausage, Sweet Onion and Fennel Pizza

September 28, 2010

To me, sausage screams pork. Sure, it isn’t the most nutritious thing for you to put in your mouth, but doesn’t the taste make all of that guilt go away? After a few weeks of being in Italy and experiencing their sausage, I will admit this gluttonous ingredient has made its way into many of my dishes – pasta, pizza, and just about anything I think it could complement.

So, when Cooking Light told me there was a healthier alternative, I pretty must ignored that sentence in the article like it didn’t exist. It isn’t sausage if it isn’t pork, right?

Okay, okay, I am not THAT close-minded, but I had skepticism when I read this pizza recipe with chicken sausage. But, it has apple chicken sausage (sounds interesting!), has sweet onions (yum!) and fennel (so fall!). So, my obsession with seasonal cooking took over my fear of non-pork sausage, and I tried this recipe the other night when the crisp air told me it was officially autumn.

Wow. Now, I will admit, it is not the pork sausage you know, so I would never do a comparison. But, for being something different, it tastes great and is a fantastic change of pace. The flavors meld together to really give that fall sense of warm and spice (especially with the fennel).

By buying a pre-cooked crust and pre-cooked chicken sausage, there really isn’t too much to this one. It was on the table in about 30 minutes. One tip, make sure to really cook those onions so it brings out their sweet flavor (and eliminates most of its bitterness).

Thanks to Cooking Light for broadening my horizons a bit. Pork sausage will not be leaving my cooking repitoire anytime soon, but it is good to know that its cousin, pork sausage, is a relative I need to get to know a bit better! And hey, with a healthier sausage, that means you can have one more slice, right?

CHICKEN SAUSAGE, SWEET ONION AND FENNEL PIZZA
2-4 Servings

3 ounces chicken apple sausage, chopped (such as Gerhard’s)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups vertically sliced Oso Sweet or other sweet onion
1 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 small bulb)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (12-ounce) prebaked pizza crust (such as Mama Mary’s)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gouda cheese (I used more like 6 ounces)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Preheat oven to 450°.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan.

Add oil to pan. Add onion, fennel, and salt; cover and cook 10 minutes or until tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Place pizza crust on a baking sheet. Top evenly with onion mixture; sprinkle with cheese, and top evenly with sausage. Bake at 450° for 12 minutes or until cheese melts. Sprinkle evenly with chives. Cut pizza into 8 wedges.

Pork Kebabs (Souvlaki Hirino) and Feta Tart (Alevropita)

August 28, 2010

As if I don’t read enough foodie magazines, I saw the magazine Saveur the other day in Fresh Market and was intrigued. The whole issue was featuring Greek food, and since I love ethnic food, I thought I would pay the $5 to see what it was all about. And, of course, as of last week I now have a 2 year subscription to this fantastic magazine!

I tried this recipe combo first as part something I thought I could easily do, and part something I was scared of. The kebabs looked easy enough as long as I remembered to marinate in advance. And I know how to grill pork. And kebabs are a breeze. But, the feta tart looked a bit scary. It was an egg batter that you pour into a hot pan and bake. Now don’t get me wrong, the recipe itself didn’t look too challenging, but the thought that I would make my own bread did scare me a bit.

I can honestly say this was the best meal we have had in weeks. The pork had a great flavor (and the oregano made it very Greek!) and the feta tart was amazing (and the perfect complement to the pork)! Definitely a wow dish, and it was surprisingly so easy! Don’t be alarmed that the batter spreads really thin, it ends up forming a great, crispy crust.

Thanks to Saveur for giving me a great, new Greek menu. If these recipes are any indication, I will be blogging many more from this magazine!

PORK KEBABS (SOUVLAKI HIRINO)
Serves 2-4

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1⁄4 cup red wine
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp. dried mint
1 tbsp. dried oregano
8 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste
1 bay leaf, finely crumbled
1 lb. trimmed pork shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄4″ cubes
4  9″ wooden skewers
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, wine, lemon juice, mint, oregano, garlic, and bay leaf; add pork and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. Meanwhile, soak skewers in water.

Build a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or heat a gas grill to medium-high. (Alternatively, arrange an oven rack 4″ below the broiler element and set oven to broil.) Thread about 4 pieces of pork onto each skewer so that pork pieces just touch each other. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to the grill (or, covering exposed ends of skewers with foil, put skewers on a rack set over a foil-lined baking sheet). Cook, turning often, until cooked through and slightly charred, about 10 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

FETA TART (ALEVROPITA)
Serves 4-8

6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. vodka
1 egg
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt
1⁄8 tsp. baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18″ x 13″ x 1″ rimmed baking sheet into oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp. oil, vodka, egg, and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.

Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Mexican Feast: Grilled Ancho-Rubbed Pork with Smoky Tomato Salsa, Grilled Corn with Cheese and Lime, and Tangy Cabbage Slaw

July 21, 2010

Sometimes I find myself cooking and grilling in one-offs – I find a great steak recipe then think of a good potato recipe to go with it. I see a kabob recipe that looks good then think of some orzo or rice to go with it. Rarely, I have a cookbook or magazine article that gives me a full menu. And, what I have found is the more I try to cook from full menus, the easier it is to create my own.

This one came from Real Simple on an article about BBQing Beyond the Burger. I like it because it is an unexpected grilling menu, but is a great “theme” dinner and makes a good excuse to have a margarita! It seems like a lot of components, but take the effort to make them all if you can. They all meld together on your plate and complement each other perfectly.

If you haven’t used ancho chile powder, use this as your excuse to buy some. I like to think of it as a milder chili powder that has a bit of smokiness. It is traditional in Mexican cooking, and once you try it you will see why.

I recommend trying this menu on a Sunday night like we did – grill it all outside and enjoy a nice, cold margarita!

GRILLED ANCHO-RUBBED PORK WITH SMOKY TOMATO SALSA
Serves 8

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons ground ancho chili pepper or regular chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
4 tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
3 pork tenderloins (about 3 1⁄2 pounds total)
2 pints grape tomatoes
6 cloves garlic, sliced
2 to 4 jalapeño peppers, seeded and sliced
16 8-inch flour tortillas

Heat grill to medium-high. In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, chili pepper, cumin, 2 tablespoons of the oil, and 1½ teaspoons salt. Rub the mixture all over the pork.

Divide the tomatoes, garlic, and jalapeño peppers between 2 large pieces of heavy-duty foil. Dividing evenly, drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Fold and seal to form 2 pouches.

Divide the tortillas between 2 pieces of heavy-duty foil and wrap.

Grill the pork, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer registers 145º F, 18 to 22 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Meanwhile, grill the tomato pouches, shaking occasionally, for 10 minutes; transfer the contents to a bowl. Grill the foil-wrapped tortillas until heated through, turning once, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve the pork with the tomato salsa and tortillas.

GRILLED CORN WITH CHEESE AND LIME
Serves 8

8 ears corn, shucked
1 tablespoon olive oil
kosher salt
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco (fresh Mexican cheese) or Feta
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 limes, cut into wedges

Heat grill to medium-high. Brush the corn with the oil and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt. Grill, turning often, until tender and charred, 5 to 7 minutes.

Sprinkle the corn with the cheese and cayenne. Serve with the lime wedges.

TANGY CABBAGE SLAW
Serves 8

1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 medium red cabbage (about 1 1⁄2 pounds), cored and shredded – one one bag of pre-shredded cabbage
2 large carrots (about 1⁄2 pound), grated
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, whisk together the orange and lime juices, oil, brown sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper.

Add the cabbage and carrots and toss to combine. Let sit, tossing occasionally, for at least 45 minutes. Fold in the cilantro before serving.

The Culinary Trip of a Lifetime – Part 3 (Tuscany)

June 26, 2010

As we left the Mediterranean behind in Cinque Terre, we were lucky enough to have hired a private driver/tour guide to take us from the coast into Siena – stopping within the Chianti region along the way. If it is in your budget, that is one travel recommendation I would have to make. Although we loved the trains (at first) and driving (although we thought we might not make it in one piece), there is something so relaxing about having someone else worry about it for you. And, instead of having a full day of travel from Cinque Terre to Siena, we had a full day of amazing food, wine and scenery.

Cappuccino in Pietrasanta square - the cup had a painted of the duomo in the background

Our first stop along the way was Pietrasanta. No, it isn’t in most tour books. But, it is the town from which my husband’s grandfather is from, and thus it would have been a shame not to see it, being so close. No culinary memories other than a cappuccino on their town square – but the memories were a bit more nostalgic for us. We found the church his grandfather was baptised in, and spent time in the square he surely played in as a young boy.

We then made a quick stop – and by quick I mean 20 minutes – in Pisa to see the tower, get a photo, then get the heck out of there. It was crowded, and quite overrun with tourists (ourselves included, of course). Then we headed south, past Florence (I know, everyone can add the “you are crazy” here), and to the Chianti region. We told our guide, Alessandro, we liked to go off the beaten path, where we could really experience the culture. So, we ended up in the small village of Lamole, just outside of Greve. I give him kudos for this choice, because I have yet to find a person who has been to Lamole. It was a quaint little town, but what I remember most was, of course, lunch.

After learning from Alessandro the history of Chianti Classico, it only felt fitting to get a split. We were seated at a

Lunch in Lamole - Pork and a Boar Ragu

table for two on a patio, overlooking sweeping views of Tuscany. Blue sky was interspersed with ominous clouds, yet we dined outside without a drop of rain. I started the meal with salumi, but unlike the salumi I had in the past, this was a softer kind. It had lots of pepper to give it a kick, and it was amazing. Rob got a pear ravioli that was so soft, sweet and salty, it melted in your mouth. Then for our main coarse, I got the boar pasta. I was told Tuscany is known for its boar, and you shouldn’t go there without trying it. It was slow cooked, braised for many hours, and added to a ragu over freshly made pasta. It tasked like a slow roasted pork (but a little richer, on the edge of tasting like beef). It was to die for. Rob got a pork that was almost too pretty to eat – until the first bite, then it was gone in a hurry. Dessert was something chocolate, filled with chocolate, then drizzled with chocolate. The perfect end to a perfect meal.

Balsamic vinegar casks at Montagliari Winery

Then, it was time for some wine tasting. Alessandro took us to a very small winery – definitely off the beaten path – for a private wine and balsamic vinegar tour. If you are like me, I knew very little about how they make balsamic, and the patient process that goes with it. We arrived at Montagliari Winery, in the heart of Tuscany, with more sweeping views of valleys and an approaching storm. We got the key to the place, then Alessandro took us into the balsamic vinegar aging room. I learned that the vinegar goes into 5 different casks, all of a different type of wood to give it its flavor – all the wine evaporating and condensing in each step. The result is a small, concentrated amount of 35+ aged balsamic. It is not a wonder, now, why Italian balsamic can cost in the hundreds.

Then, the wine – the cellar was massive, and wine dated back….well, let’s just say we were able to find a

Each cubby was one year of wine - there were many rooms, dating back to the 70s and 60s.

bottle of wine from the year I was born. After seeing the process, it was time to taste, so we went into the wooden paneled tasting room, just as we began to hear thunder threatening in the distance. The winemaker himself, David, joined us to participate in the tasting. We started with the balsamic vinegar, which was like nothing I have ever tasted in the US. Then, the wine, which was so earthy and rich. We tried some grappa (I am NOT a fan!) and some vin santo (I am also not a fan, but Rob is). Apparently, the way Tuscans drink vin santo is by dipping biscotti in it (because it is very strong otherwise). The winemaker even pulled down a good bottle of scotch for my husband, when he mentioned his love for it. We were talking about the winery with David, drinking great Chianti, and now listening to the rain falling just outside the open door. It was one of the most memorable experiences.

After Montagliari, we went to the “Crazy Butcher” of Panzano. You may recognize the name from a special on the Food Network about him – he is good friends with Mario Batali. We briefly met him, but what I really remember is the meat hanging in the fridge/freezer (vegetarians beware!). We were greeted with a glass of complementary wine (in true Italian style), and were asked to try some bruschetta with Chiani

The Crazy Butcher shop in Panzano

butter. Now, I may not speak the language, but when I saw the spread I knew that Chianti butter is the famous lard butter (lardo). I must admit, sounds a bit odd, but if you forget what it is and just pop it in your mouth, it is amazing. If you ever go there, you must try it.

After then a short stop at the Pentecoste e Castellina (a regional wine festival), a tasting at Rocca delle Macie Winery and a visit to the walled town of Monteriggioni, we were dropped off at our hotel in Siena – full and tired.

The next day, we had another tour guide, Nathalie, take us south a bit through the Brunello region. If you learn about Brunello di Montalcino, you will have a fond appreciation for it. The wine HAS to be grown in Montalcino and HAS to be 100% Sangiovese grapes. There was a scandal a while back, where a winemaker was adding grapes other than Sangiovese to his Brunello (making it NOT a Brunello). It was called Brunellopoli by the Italian press. You can tell, Italians take this tradition very seriously. So, if you are ever wondering why Brunello di Montalcino is so expensive, it is because it can only be made in this small town south of Siena. Needless to say, you cannot afford land here, unless you are growing grapes and then selling expensive wine.

We spent some time in the city of Montalcino – a beautiful hill town that truly lives for its wine. Then, we went to the outskirts to a winery called Poggio Antico. The winery had more sweeping views of the cyprus trees, and we went inside to get a private tour with another couple from the US. We then tasted the wines, and had a profound appreciation for the tradition of them, and a bit of sticker shock at the price.

We then visited Mont Antimo, a striking abbey in the middle of the Tuscan countryside, and then headed

Lamb stew (front), chickpeas (back left) and a fresh ragu (back) in Pienza

to Pienza for lunch. The restaurant Nathalie took us to once again had sweeping views of Tuscany (hard to avoid these views since almost all of the towns are hill towns). We sat along the hedge, looking into the valley, and had amazing wine and, of course, amazing food. I had a lamb dish – which may have seemed a bit heavy for the spring, but it melted in my mouth. Lamb is another cucina tipica in Tuscany, so I had to have it. Rob had a ragu that was absolutely amazing. Then we toured the town, which was quaint, filled with flowers and had a romantic vibe. Much to his dismay, I told Rob I want to move here someday. It was the perfect little town.

The atmosphere at Anica Osteria da Divo in Siena

Then back to Siena and for the meal I had been waiting for. On this trip there were only two dinner reservations I made. La Vista in Varenna, Lake Como and Antica Osteria da Divo in Siena. I found this restaurant on TripAdvisor as a “must visit” and then did some more digging to find out it truly is a gem in the city. Although the food is to die for, you go for the atmosphere. The restaurant is actually in ancient Estruscan tombs – so you feel as if you are eating in a cave. Surrounded by history, stone and candlelight, the experience is once in a lifetime. Because it was a “special meal “(which seems silly to say on this trip since every meal was memorable), we went all out. Bottle of nice wine,  primi, segundi and dessert.

For our primi, I got a lasagna and Rob a cannelloni. Amazing. We both got the stuffed pork as our segundi. As you may know, Tuscany is known for its pork, so again, we had to try the regional favorite. We were not disappointed. For dessert we got biscotti and vin santo. We left satisfied and full, then walked around the duomo at night, and experienced the beautiful main square in Siena. What a gorgeous city.

Below are some more food photos from our time in Tuscany:

Pear ravioli and salumi at restaurant in Lamole (Chianti Region)

Chianti with a view at the restaurant in Lamole

Dessert at restaurant in Lamole (Chianti Region)

Did I mention we ate a lot of gelato?

Ragu at the restaurant in Pienza

Cannelloni at Antica Osteria da Divo in Siena

Lasagna at Antica Osteria da Divo in Siena

Stuffed pork at Antica Osteria da Divo in Siena

Biscotti and vin santo at Antica Osteria da Divo in Siena

Our time in Tuscany was something I will never forget – we were able to experience the foods and wines that have made it so famous. We experienced the “must dos” like Pisa and Siena, but also went off the beaten path to places like Pietrasanta and Lamole to experience the Italian culture at its purest. Although Lake Como and Cinque Terre leave you awestruck with their beauty, Tuscany has a different kind of beauty – one that is more real, and in a strange way feels like home.


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