Tag Archives: balsamic vinegar

Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar

I made it back from my trip to the East Coast safe and sound and will share my experience after it settles and I’ve had time to savor it all.   In the meantime, I have many recipes to share and ideas for more.  I guess there’s nothing quite like time away to clear my mind and realize again that inspiration lies in unexpected places.  I need time to process that as well which makes me envious of those of you who can seize an idea in no time and move to the next while I’m still mulling over the inkling of my first.  It’s a good thing I enjoy process, I suppose.  What is it they say about the sum of parts being greater than the whole?

That would be me.

Speaking of parts, today a book caught my eye that comes as close to my philosophy about food as I’ve seen.  It’s called Culinary Intelligence:  The Art of Eating Healthy and Really Well.  And no, this isn’t a review, because I haven’t read it yet.  But Barry Esterbrook’s review provides me enough information to agree that flavor above all else is what helped me lose weight earlier this year.  Good, fresh ingredients with excellent flavor always work for me.  Long after I’ve enjoyed something tasty, I think about it and realize the satisfaction of a good meal without having to ingest portions well beyond what someone of my age and size should — or anyone for that matter — is perfect.  Cost comes up in this matter, and it should.  My family roots are meager at best, and so the cost of anything will never be taken lightly.  But I’ve learned that when something is just right, when it satisfies without over indulgence, the memory lingers without having to deal with a full stomach.

It sounds like I’m selling something and that isn’t the case.  I just love it when I find a perspective that makes me feel as if I’m not alone.  Doesn’t everyone?

With that in mind, this recipe for Spice-Rubbed Pork Shoulder with Radicchio and Balsamic Vinegar is so very good.  It’s not a challenge to prepare if you spend some time ahead to prepare the pork — but that’s the best kind of recipe.  Do a bit ahead of time for enjoyment later.

And if you’re not familiar with radicchio, then know that it has a lovely bitter taste to it.  I enjoy bitter “greens” quite a bit, but understand that others don’t.  I usually enjoy radicchio in salads — it adds a different flavor and color.  But if you’re not sure, then use red cabbage instead.  The flavor will not disappoint.

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Maple Mousse in a Phyllo Nest with Strawberry and Mango Sauce and a Maple Balsamic Reduction

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After all the years I’ve spent experimenting with recipes I feel I’ve got a decent grasp of which flavors work together, but tend to be a traditionalist — especially in the savory department.  Cilantro goes with onion, tomatoes, spicy peppers, and citrus.  Basil goes with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and olive oil.  Bell peppers go with celery and onions.  Once in a while, I’ll play around with one of the combinations, but not often.

I scan the ingredient list of an accomplished chef’s recipe and think, really? wondering where their inspiration comes from.  I dissect it with my own familiarity of and opinion about each flavor in an attempt to understand how one works with the other, but know that my simple lack of experience is my biggest obstacle.  It’s a slow process, but it works if I’m in the mood to tackle one of the often complicated recipes.   Again — not very often.  And even when I do, the experience is rarely if ever repeated, so my ability to grow knowledge beyond my traditional ingredient choices peters out.  Well, except for that dense, rich, dark chocolate tart I’ve made a few times with cayenne and chipotles in adobo.  But still.

A good example of my semi lack of awareness would be with maple syrup.  It makes me think of breakfast:  bacon or ham, eggs, hash browns.  I think of Fall for some reason because I think of apples.  Apples + maple syrup + walnuts = great with a German pancake.  Chalk this up to someone who grew up about as far as one can get from maple trees and their accompanying “sugaring-off” season which occurs as winter’s cold temperatures wane into spring.  Sasha Chapman’s article “The Sweet Life:  Maple Syrup Season in Quebec” published this past March in Saveur magazine provided an excellent foundation to restructure my thinking about maple flavored anything — authentically, of course.  I was drawn into Chapman’s nostalgic description of how Canadians gather in the “sugar shack” and work within the family to make syrup, waiting for that first taste of the season.

Why use maple syrup as an example to explain my not so edge-cutting ingredient combining ability?  Because it’s what the Daring Bakers were challenged with this month.  Color me surprised.  The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at http://thedaringkitchen.com!

I had to do a bit of reading to get my head out of my maple syrup rut and consider what flavors might work with a mousse.

It’s spring…

There are berries everywhere…

…and mangoes.

Resisting the addition of a chiffonade of basil, a piquant maple balsamic vinegar reduction was added, and voila.

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Pear Gorgonzola and Walnut Rustic Tart


I’m not much of a New Year’s resolution person.  I could blame it on the fact that I often don’t finish what I’ve begun, and to some extent that may be true, but know it’s more about being someone who constantly takes stock, reflects, compulsively evaluates, over-analyzes, sifts, sorts, and thrives on general hair-splitting.  It’s endless, so to some degree  I welcome January 1 each year to think in a more focused way — at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself of.

It’s really more about being able to sigh for the first time after a busy holiday season and quietly celebrate that I don’t have to cook anything too involved if I’m not in the mood.  That for the first day in quite some time, mental lists, menus to plan, groceries to purchase, and errands to run aren’t interrupting a quiet moment, or causing alarm should something important be forgotten.  It’s exhausting, and each year I vow to live through the holidays more graciously, more collected, and more as someone who enjoys and participates rather than orchestrates and delivers.

And so I’m reflecting on our holidays today and remembering some of the delicious food we shared with those we know and love.  It always allows us to pause long enough to enjoy one another’s company, to laugh, clink our glasses in a toast or three, and then smile at the quiet that comes after everyone has picked up their forks and begun to eat.

This beautiful and delicious Pear Gorgonzola and Walnut Rustic Tart was made on Christmas Eve in celebration of a special couple, recently engaged who happen to have a kitchen always filled with music, and often, dancing.  Here’s to you Lisa and Steve!

This year, there will be more music and dancing in my kitchen.  I promise myself.

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“Pasteria” with Balsamic Strawberries and Basil

I love ricotta, but I’ve never had truly fresh ricotta, so I decided to make my own.  It requires very little time, no special equipment, and few ingredients, so I was able to prepare it one evening, then drain it over night for use the next day.  I had no idea what I might make with it once it was finished, but that’s the story of my life right now.  How bad could it be to simply nibble on fresh ricotta sprinkled with sea salt and perhaps a drizzle of fruity extra virgin olive oil?  Of course, sprinkling it over a nice salad could be fabulous as well.  Perfectly simple, right?

Simple seems never to be in my repertoire.

With less than a week until Easter and no real plans for a holiday meal in the works, I decided to look for dessert recipes that included ricotta and almost immediately found quite a few for a traditional Easter Pie, or in some cases, Pasteria.  It’s like a cheesecake, but it’s made with ricotta and grain.  Although the grain is most often wheat, some recipes use rice.  Others are made with a crust and latticed top — but some are completely without either — and leave it to me to make one in the least traditional way possible, lacking crust, wheat, and candied fruit.

This small dessert is perfect for spring, or when berries are at their best.

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Bittman Salad 29: Balsamic Cherries & Bitter Greens

Rainier Cherries

There are any number of reasons I’ve decided to chop and chew my way through the 101 “Simple Salads” Mark Bittman conjured up for the summer season. Julie & Julia has been simmering in my mind since I finished reading the book a month or two ago, and as the movie opening date approaches and the resulting hubbub ensues, I guess I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about not only cooking my way through something to ground myself, but cooking period.  Sadly, my kitchen hasn’t been getting the workout it’s used to.  Does making salad count as cooking? Will Mr. Bittman deem it a stunt and suggest I’m a less than serious salad maker?  Is it possible that food snobs everywhere will comment on my efforts and suggest I’m not worthy of sampling this treasure trove of healthy minimalist fare?

Or, perhaps, there is the real reason I’ve decided to embark on this quest:   I will benefit from all the lovely green things I’m ingesting and could lose weight in the process.  Think about it:  101 salads in 101 days.  That’s a bit of roughage.  It’s healthy, easy and because I’ve scanned all the combinations Bittman suggests, I know I’ll find something new to add to my old standards.

I have some planning to do with organizing the salads into groups with common ingredients to make shopping more manageable, but in the meantime, I’ve begun with #29.  Why?  Because I had  Rainier Cherries in the fridge that were in desperate need of use.  I’m thinking that’s as good a reason as any.

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