Category Archives: balsamic vinegar

Balsamic Glazed Pork Tenderloin w/ Cherry Compote

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

With the arrival of spring in Albania comes fresh cherries.  Small ones have been appearing in neighborhood fruit markets in recent weeks but they are now ripe, juicy and plentiful.  I can eat fresh cherries by the handful but I also like to incorporate them into entrees.  When combined with fresh orange juice and a dab of honey the cherries make for the perfect complement to balsamic glazed grilled meat.  I used pork tenderloin for this recipe but the flavors work just as well with chicken.  I served this dish alongside fresh peas, which are also plentiful this time of year, and leftover pearl barley.  Not bad for a quick and balanced dinner.

BALSAMIC GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH CHERRY COMPOTE

1 pork tenderloin

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted

1 Tablespoon honey

Juice & zest from one orange

Dash of kosher salt

1 Teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1 Teaspoon cornstarch

3 Teaspoons cold water

1 Tablespoon Kirsch

1/4 Teaspoon garlic powder

Salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat.  Stir occasionally until the vinegar is syrupy and reduced by half, about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the honey and orange juice in a small saucepan over medium high heat until the honey is melted.  
  • Stir in the cherries and a dash of salt, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Continue to cook until the pork is cooked, stirring occasionally and crushing the cherries slightly.  
  • Stir in the orange zest, ginger, and Kirsch.
  • In a small bowl combine the cornstarch and the cold water.  Bring the cherries to a boil, add the cornstarch mixture and boil for one minute.
  • While the cherries are cooking pre-heat a gas grill on high.
  • Liberally sprinkle the pork loin with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
  • Reduce the grill heat to medium-high.
  • Grill over indirect heat for 8-10 minutes turning twice.
  • Brush  the reduced balsamic over the pork.  
  • Cook for an additional 4 minutes then baste again.  
  • Repeat basting and grilling until the pork is cooked to your likeness.  The total cooking time will be 16-18 minutes.
  • Remove the pork from the heat and allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes.
  • Slice into 1/4 inch slices and divide onto four plates.  
  • Divide the cherry compote over the pork.

Serves 4

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Butternut Squash & Kale Saute

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Thanksgiving is just a few days away but are you ready? The turkey and all of the traditional sides might be set but what about adding a healthy and colorful dish to the table? My new go-to dish and one that I will be serving is this kale and butternut squash dish courtesy of Simply Recipes. Because it is only lightly sautéed, the kale remains bright and crisp while the butternut squash adds color and a sweet flavor to the dish. And when you add in cranberries and pecans, this side dish practically becomes a meal unto itself.

It is so good that even the non-kale eaters amongst you will love it. And it will be a dish that you make over and over again long after the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten.

BUTTERNUT SQUASH & KALE SAUTE

4 cups 3/4-inch cubes of butternut squash

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups sliced red onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

6 cups thinly sliced kale

1/3 cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/2 cup slightly broken up pecans

Salt and pepper

  • Preheat the oven to 425. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Place the squash in a bowl and toss it with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of the balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Spread the squash on the prepared baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes or until the squash is cooked through and the edges have begun to brown.
  • While the squash is roasting heating the remaining olive oil in a large pot set over medium high heat.
  • Add the onion and toss to coat. Cook for 7 minutes or until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  • Add the remaining balsamic vinegar and the kale to the pot. Stir until the kale and the onions are combined. Let the mixture cook until the kale is just wilted, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in the roasted squash, the cranberries and the pecans.
  • Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
  • Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Caprice Pasta

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion.  If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This quick dish brings together the best flavors of a Mediterranean summer.  Ripe tomatoes pair with fresh basil and mozzarella to make a flavorful Caprice salad. Add this to pasta and you have a complete meal.  The balsamic reduction brings a rich sweetness to the dish making it fancy enough for a dinner party but also simple enough for a casual meal.

CAPRICE PASTA

1/2 cup good quality balsamic vinegar

1 pound ziti or other tube-shaped pasta

8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized pieces

4 ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste

  • Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan and heat over medium high heat until the vinegar boils.  Reduce heat to a temperature that allows the liquid to simmer and continue to cook until the mixture is syrupy and has reduced to approximately 1/4 cup.
  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package directions.
  • Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top of the pasta and toss to coat.
  • Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to the pasta and season with salt and pepper.  Stir gently to combine.
  • Divide amongst four serving dishes and drizzle the balsamic reduction evenly over the top of each bowl.
  • Serve immediately

Serves:  4

 

Pork Tenderloin w/ Blueberry Bacon Ketchup

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I’m a huge fan of using fruit in savory dishes so when I saw this recipe on the Noble Pig website, I knew I had to try it. And when I saw that the blueberry sauce included a hefty dose of bacon, I knew my family would love it as well. After all, everything tastes better with bacon. And it really does.

I’ve increased the amount of bacon and jalapeno pepper in my version of the sauce which results in a richer and thicker blueberry topping, hence the ketchup moniker. With the brown sugar and vinegar the sauce is reminiscent of a chutney; mine is pureed smooth but you can also leave yours in a chunkier form if you prefer. My pork tenderloin is dusted with spices that both enhance the meat and complement the fresh blueberries. If you aren’t a fan of pork, the sauce would also be a tasty topping for boneless chicken breasts that have also been dusted with the spice mixture. However you prepare it, you are sure to love it. So fire up your grill and you are good to go!

PORK TENDERLOIN w/ BLUEBERRY BACON KETCHUP

For the ketchup:

6 slices thick cut bacon, diced

1/2 cup minced red onion

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

2 cups fresh blueberries

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon Dijon stone ground mustard

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the pork:

1 1-1/4 pound pork tenderloin

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • To make the blueberry sauce: fry bacon in a medium skillet over low until slightly crispy; remove bacon to a paper towel leaving the bacon grease in the pan.
  • Saute onion and jalapeno in the bacon grease over medium heat until soft, about 2 minutes.
  • Add the blueberries, sugar, vinegar, mustard, garlic powder, salt, lemon juice and cooked bacon.
  • Simmer until blueberries have split and sauce thickens slightly, about 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the mixture to a blender or food processor; pulse until pureed. Alternatively, pour the sauce into a small bowl and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until smooth.
  • Return sauce to pan so you can warm it slightly when the pork is done.
  • For the pork: coat a grill with non-stick cooking spray and preheat to medium-high.
  • Combine the salt, pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl.
  • Brush the pork with the olive oil and season the pork on all sides with the spice mixture.
  • Place the pork on the grill and cook turning every 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Brush a small amount of the sauce over the meat during the final few minutes of cooking.
  • Remove the pork from the grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes before slicing into 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Serve with the blueberry bacon sauce.

Serves 4

Balsamic Brushed Grilled Vegetables

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If you are anything like my family, you probably grill on a regular basis during the summer months. (We actually grill year around). After all, who wants to heat up the kitchen when the weather is already so hot? And with gardens and markets overflowing with vegetables right about now, grilled vegetables are the perfect accompaniment to any of the proteins you might be grilling. I love the slightly charred flavor that comes with grilled vegetables.

Plain grilled vegetables are nice but when brushed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar they are extra special. You can use any vegetables but the combination of peppers, eggplant, onions and mushrooms are my favorite. If you have a grill basket you can place the vegetables in them before cooking but I find it just as easy to place them directly on the grill. So pick your protein and pick your vegetables and fire up your grill tonight.

BALSAMIC BRUSHED GRILLED VEGETABLES

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 large green bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wedges

1 purple eggplant, sliced into 1/4 inch rings

1 large red onion, cut into 1/4 inch rings

1 large Portobello mushroom cap, sliced

  • Oil and pre-heat a grill to medium-high heat.
  • Combine the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  • Place the vegetables on a large platter and brush on both sides with the oil and vinegar mixture.
  • Place the vegetables on the grill and cook for 5-10 minutes, turning the vegetables over and brushing  with the oil and vinegar every 2-3 minutes. Cooking times will vary depending upon your personal preferences.

The vegetables can be served hot, at room temperature or cold.

Serves 4

Garlicky Flat Bread Panzanella Salad

 

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I love panzanella, the classic Italian bread salad. With ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, basil and crusty bread it is hard not to love it and I’ve been known to eat a bowlful or two as dinner on a hot summer evening. But sometimes even the most classic of recipes needs to be kicked up a notch. And with that you have a garlicky flat bread panzanella that was inspired by the Yankee Kitchen Ninja.

Flat bread is easy enough to make from scratch but my local grocery store carries a fabulous garlic and olive oil drenched one that is just too good to resist. When warm, the bread is perfect for absorbing the juices of the salad. For added color I like to use multi-colored grape tomatoes but feel free to use whatever flavorful variety you prefer. And because the beans add an added burst of protein, with a glass of Chianti, this salad is substantial enough for a light dinner on a hot summer night. Enjoy.

GARLICKY FLAT BREAD PANZANELLA SALAD

2 small garlic flat breads, heated in the oven and cut into bite-sized pieces

Scant 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup pickling cucumbers, cut into coins

2 pints grape tomatoes, halved

1 cup orecchiette shaped fresh mozzarella or other small balls, drained

1 cup cannellini beans, rinsed

1/4 cup sliced green onion

  • Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.
  • Place the flat breads on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting into bite sized pieces.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, cheese, beans, green onion and stir to combine.
  • Add the flat bread, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 3-4

Caprese Chicken Pasta

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It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This dish is fast, easy, and celebrates two of the season’s most flavorful products, fresh tomatoes and basil.  Although I have yet to be able to successfully grow my own tomatoes, they are readily available a markets throughout the area.  And because I always have a container of fresh basil growing nearby, this is one of my favorite, go-to dinners. The components cook in a matter of minutes and taste great both hot and at room temperature so you can either cook it now and enjoy it immediately or let it sit a bit until you are ready to eat.

CAPRESE CHICKEN PASTA

1 pound dried shells, penne, or other small pasta

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces

Salt and pepper

3 cloves garlic, crushed and minced

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, diced

2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Cook the pasta according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Drain and set aside.
  • Generously season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.  When the oil is shimmering, add the chicken and the garlic cloves and stirring occasionally, cook until the chicken is lightly browned on the outside and no longer pink on the inside.
  • Turn off the heat and add the tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and thyme to the pan.  Toss well to combine.
  • Serve the chicken mixture over the reserved pasta.
  • Drizzle each dish with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil before serving.

Serves 4

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