Spiced Cherry Glaze over Grilled Porkchops

My mom says, "What do you want to have for your early birthday dinner?" 
And the first thought that popped into my mind was "Cherries."   Why? Because they are tart and sweet and luscious and rich and scream "Celebration!" with every bite!!

So I made this sauce, and Mom grilled up some AMAZING porkchops - still not sure how she's so good making really good food, and we added steamed asparagus and a salad with romaine, baby spinach, and ripe gorgeous yellow/rose Bartlett pears (made fabulous with some fantastic sharp salty gorgonzola for those of you not in the Whole 30 right now)

I intended the sauce for the chops. 

I maybe poured it over everything on my plate. :ahem:

Spiced Cherry Glaze
Into a small saucepot on medium low heat, add:

1/2c water
1/2c dry red wine
3/4c dried tart cherries
1/4c Polaner all fruit seedless raspberry (they don't use any added sugar)
1/2tsp each: cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice

Bring the mixture to a low simmer.  Stir every 5-10 minutes to make sure it's not sticking to the bottom.  Add a little water and wine (equal parts) if you need more volume, or let the sauce reduce down until it is thick enough to coat the spoon for a glaze. 

I followed the above recipe and simmered until the cherries were rehydrated- soft and plump.  I then took all the liquid and used it to marinate about 2lbs of porkchops for 30min before my momma grilled them to perfection.  I then added the all the same liquids and spices to the rehydrated cherries to make a second batch of sauce with them and it came out fantastic - so one could probably use as little as 1/4c of tart cherries for this and it would do beautifully. 

I think fresh fruit would also work well, but I would reduce the water by 1/2 and leave the wine at the same volume.  Cherries, blackberries, raspberries or peaches would be best I think, and you could try brandy instead of wine. I would strain the mix if using blackberries since they are so seedy.  Experiment and let me know how it turns out!


Happy Noodles

Happy Noodles!

I love noodles. I love that slurpy, soft-yet-substantive, dances in my mouth texture. I love that they sop up flavors and hold court with the delicate and down-home alike. I love that each form tastes different than its brothers - a thin wide ribbon so unlike short grains of risotto or fat springy spirals! 

...Did I mention I love noodles?  Oh yeah, and I'm Italian. And I've realized it's not the wheat I'm in love with when it comes to these delicious noodley bits - its the noodleyness! And we can Absolutely make amazing noodles out of vegetables.  I hate calling it zucchini "pasta", or cauliflower "rice". It feels like a cop-out. Like I'm attempting to substitute for the real and better thing. It makes me miss "real pasta" and "real rice" - except I don't! Truly I don't - wheat pasta doesn't float on the tongue the way a well cooked zucchini noodle does, white rice doesn't hold a candle to the texture and flavors I can build with grains of cauliflower!

All this little burst of inspiration hit me when I was home, thinking up something to cook for me and my mom. So I made noodles. Happy noodles. :)   Enjoy!

Ingredients: (serves 2, easily made for more)
1 sweet bell pepper, pith and seeds removed. Julienned or chopped.
1/2c sweet grapes, chopped
1/2c sweet tomatoes, chopped
1/2c baby spinach
1/2c onion or shallot, diced - or pearl onions halved
1/4c cashews, chopped (if salted you may not need to salt the dish)
1tbsp olive oil
2 zucchini, peeled then stripped with a veggie peeler into noodles

salt, fresh cracked black pepper, garlic to taste
(If using fresh garlic saute in pan with the rest. My mom has this amazing spice grinder of roasted garlic flakes that you grind up right onto your food - amazing flavor for dried!)

Into saute pan on med-high heat: olive oil, onions and garlic if using until fragrant. Add all ingredients except zucchini and spices. Saute until they blacken a little and release their juices. Stir only every 6-7 minutes to allow that caramelization to happen, about 15 min total.

Meanwhile, strip your zucchini into noodles. Don't include the outer peel, and stop when you reach the seedy middle. Save that part for roasted veggies later - seedy noodles are not so good and break apart easily in the pan. This is so easy! I love the wide flat texture, they cook up so slippery and noodley and hold onto a good amount of sauce mmmmm

Once your spinach is wilted and veggies are sufficiently softened and blended, remove from pan leaving the oil behind. Into the skillet toss your noodles on high heat, allowing them to brown and soften without becoming mushy. This only takes about 2 minutes. 

Toss the toppings back into the pan and mix them with the noodles, then serve it up with some cracked black pepper, garlic and salt to taste! 

Happy Noodles


Bell Pepper Sauce over Zucchini "Pasta"

Shrimp with Bell Pepper sauce over Zucchini noodles:

This is another stunner. My sweet Nonna surprised me with a package - I opened it up to find six Gorgeous red bell peppers from my Poppa's garden!! I couldn't believe they held up to shipping so well - I could feel the love radiating from the box. She sent it with this recipe (how sweet!) - I just swapped out yummy zucchini noodles for pasta.

Ingredients: (feeds 3-4)
- 6 sweet bell peppers (organic)
- 1 sweet onion (yellow or white)
- olive oil
- 1-2 large zucchini (however much noodles you want)
- 2 vine-ripe red tomatoes
- a handful of fresh basil leaves, or 2tbsp dried
- 2 tbsp white raisins (trust my Nonna...it's amazing)
- 10 large shrimp per person (thaw in cool water if frozen)
- garlic, salt, pepper

First roast the peppers: place sliced cleaned peppers and chopped onion with generous olive oil, basil, garlic and a pinch of salt in oven to bake at 375 for 30-40 min until soft and the skin peels off easily. Peel skins off peppers, then slice or dice finer as desired. If the skins are thin and don't peel off, don't worry. Not all of mine did and I hardly noticed, but the texture will be smoother if the skins can come off.

While they are roasting, make your noodles. I have seen them made into wide flat noodles with a veggie peeler, but I make mine with this World Cuisine Tri-Blade Plastic Spiral Vegetable Slicer from Amazon.com* to make my zucchini pasta (about $32):

The zucchini "noodles" come out perfect every time and it's such a time saver that veggie noodles can actually be a regular occurrence. I use it to make sweet potato curly fries and noodles too and it works like a charm.

Pour the oil from the roasting peppers into a skillet and saute the noodles on med-high until they are almost done-- cooking at a higher temp helps get them toasted without getting mushy.  Remove them to a plate, leaving the oil in the skillet. 
Add to the hot skillet your chopped tomatoes, basil, 1-2 cloves garlic or 1-2tsp powdered, and raisins and cook until the tomatoes are reduced and the raisins are plump. Add the peppers and onions plus the shrimps and heat until the shrimp are just pink through. Toss with the noodles until all hot and combined - and voila! Season to taste with cracked black pepper and sea salt. 

Enjoy with a dry red wine and some good company.  Mangia!

*I have no affiliation with Amazon or World Cuisine. I bought the slicer of my own accord.

Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

Carrot Ginger Coconut Soup

This soup is heavenly - like velvet on the tongue. It could easily be adapted into a cold custard with the addition of an egg yolk or two and sweetener to taste, it's that good.

The roasted garlic is the key to the flavor depth - I tried making it with fresh garlic cloves and, while delicious, lacked the Symphony in my mouth that the first batch created.
This was a serendipitous soup, created from the happened roasted things of a happy Sunday roasting day - a 'by-product' of sorts to fill the oven and avoid wasted energy while I roasted a chicken, etc. for the week. I'd suggest a similar approach...especially since I roasted the carrots and sweet potatoes in the leftover chicken drippings! :gasp:  I'm sure that had Nothing to do with the scrumptious flavor at all.... ;)

Ingredients: (feeds 3-4)
2 roasted sweet potatoes -- no skin, roasted with olive oil, garlic powder (1tsp), cinnamon (1tsp), and ground cloves (1/2tsp), ground nutmeg (dash)
two roasted carrots
2 cloves roasted garlic (mmm....maybe 3...)
one piece ginger (1 inch)
one can coconut milk 
one small apple (no core, and no skin if your blender isn't powerful)
1/2 tsp good salt
1/8 tsp ground cloves or allspice

Blend until smooth then heat until gently simmering. 
For a savory side dish, serve as is or with a little cracked pepper on top (pretty presentation!)
For a sweeter treat, add a dollop of coconut cream and a drizzle of good maple syrup!

*For custard: add 1 egg yolk while blending, heat to a simmer, add sweetener at that time to taste (try 2 tbsp maple syrup) and cool in individual custard cups

Did I mention...
This is SO GOOD