Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Balsamic Roasted Strawberries

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For me, one of the fun things about cooking is thinking outside of box and combining flavors to create a wholesome yet interesting  dish. Sometimes, you get to combine ingredients and flavors that don’t seem like they should go together. Yes, of course, this  can sound a bit strange, like dill pickles and maple syrup. But let’s consider meat and fruit. You might recall some classic dishes, such as turkey with cranberry sauce, lemon pepper chicken, and more. These familiar meat and fruit pairings are delicious, yet the idea of using both fruit and meal in the same dish is undoubtedly a little controversial. You might know that someone who cannot forgive the crime of putting pineapples and ham on pizza.

However, let’s not worry about that….for now.

Intuitively, there are some meat and fruit combinations that  you might not consider  to be perfect flavor companions, but you will find that their sweet and salty relationship does work: fruit adds a sweetness or even tartness to the salty meat. The main challenge with fruit and meat is finding the right combinations. When the right types of fruit and meat are paired with each other, this extra contrasting dimension enhances the flavor and appeal of the dish.

So that brings us full circle back around to pork and strawberries.

Pork comes in many forms and when paired with fruit, the combinations are endless.Traditionally, pork pairs well with fruits like apples, apricots, cranberries, currants, dried cherries, dried figs, mangoes, oranges, peaches, pears, pineapple, plums,  and even quice. But  very few people will intutively think  of  strawberries being paired with pork. The technique of roasting brings out the sweetness in strawberries, making them a delicious accompaniment to spice-rubbed, pan-seared pork chops.This unusual  combination will not only impress yourself  but your family as well.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Strawberries:
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved widthwise
2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste

For the Pork Chops:
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Kosher salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
Four  1 ½ – 2 pounds bone-in center cut pork chops
¼ cup fresh mint leaves, for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment. On prepared pan, toss the strawberries with the shallots, brown sugar, and oil. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast 10–12 minutes, until strawberries are soft.

Season on both sides of the pork chops  with salt . To  a small bowl, add  the cumin, coriander, and cayenne. Mix to combine. Rub the seasoning all over the pork chops. Make sure to wash your hands. 

In a large cast iron skillet, add the oil and heat on medium high until the oil is shimmering. Add the pork chops to the skillet and cook 5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

To serve, arrange the pork chops on a platter and ladle the roasted strawberries on top of the chops. Garnish with the mint and enjoy.

 

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Turkish Red Lentil and Rice Soup

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Did you know that lentils are edible seeds from the legume family? They are well known for their lens shape and sold with or without their outer husks intact.Though they are  a common food staple in Asian and North African cuisines, the greatest production of lentils nowadays is in Canada.

For the most part, lentils have a number of health benefits. They are low in calories, rich in iron and folate and serve as an excellent source of protein. They  also pack health-promoting polyphenols and may reduce several heart disease risk factors and type 2 diabetes.

Lentils are often categorized by their color, which can range from yellow and red to green, brown or black. Red lentils are  are split and cook quickly. They’re great for making dal and soups and have a somewhat sweet and nutty flavor.  And the best part about lentils is that they are easy to cook and do not require pre soaking prior to cooking, making them perfect for soups and stews.

And with that being said, Turkish Red Lentil and Rice Soup fits the bill for healthy eating on a budget, especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

This simple, yet robust soup is rich with spices and tomato. It gets a pleasantly thick body from white rice and  red lentils, which soften and break down during cooking. The Aleppo pepper is a wonderful addition, lending a gentle heat. If you can’t find it, order online or substitute with an additional teaspoon of paprika and ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes. 

 

Serves 4

Ingredients:

For the Soup:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion cut into ½-inch dice (about 1 cup)
1 medium garlic clove, finely grated
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons long-grain white rice
3 cups water
2 cups vegetable broth
Kosher salt, to taste
For the Aleppo pepper oil:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
For Serving:
Chopped fresh mint leaves or basil leaves
Lemon wedges 

In a large saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Once it has stopped foaming, add the onion then sauté until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, paprika and cumin, then sauté for 1 minute.
Add the lentils, rice, water, vegetable broth and 2 teaspoons salt, then bring to a boil. Adjust heat to maintain a lively simmer, cover and cook until the lentils and rice are tender and broken down, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.
Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium, heat the olive oil, swirling to coat the pan. Add the Aleppo pepper and cook until a few bubbles appear and the oil is bright red. Remove from heat and set aside. Serve the soup with Aleppo pepper oil drizzled over each serving.
Serve with mint or basil and lemon wedges.

Bourbon Iced Tea

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Is there anything more Southern than sweet tea and bourbon? Well, what if you were to mix these two together that make the  ultimate Southern sipper. Pretty ingenious, right? Well this cocktail is prefect for a Sunday brunch or just simply enjoying it on a porch on a summer day…..but remember you must be over 21 to enjoy this refreshing cocktail.

 

 

Makes 1 large pitcher, serves 6 – 8

Ingredients:
Mint Simple Syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

For the tea:
3 cups water
2 or 3 black tea bags of good-quality black tea, such as City Harvest Black Tea

For the Cocktail:
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
1 lime, sliced into wedges
1 orange, sliced into wedges
1 cup Woodford Reserve® Bourbon
Orange slices
Ice cubes, for serving
Fresh mint sprig, for garnish
Lemon wheels, for garnish

Directions:
For the mint syrup: Combine the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook until the sugar has melted. Stir in the mint and let steep 30 minutes. Strain the mint leaves and set aside.

To make the tea: Combine the water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour the mint syrup into a large jar. Add the tea bags to the jar and let steep for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how strong you want your tea. If you like your tea very strong, leave the bags in the tea for 8 to 12 hours or overnight in the refrigerator, if desired.

Remove the tea bags and add the lemon, lime, and orange wedges. Pour in the bourbon. Cover the jar and chill.

For the cocktail: Rub the orange slice around the rim of highball glass and fill with ice. Pour the cocktail over the ice and garnish with the mint sprig and a lemon wheel.

A note on serving: Avoid adding ice directly to the pitcher, as it will dilute the cocktail.