One of my favorite flavors of Italy is balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico). In Tuscan homes it is a staple ingredient. Dark, glossy, sweetly sour, balsamic vinegar is the perfect condiment for both salads and desserts. Or try the lighter version, an aged white balsamic vinegar, almost like honey — it can transform any dish with just a little dash. If you are after the richest, most complex balsamic vinegar flavors, look for an aceto balsamico tradizionale DOP.
When I came across this recipe, originally for ribs, I knew I had to try it. The blend of spices in the rub adds a complex layer of flavors that doesn’t overwhelm the meat, but simply raises it to a new level. This past weekend, we served these to a group of foodie enthusiasts who had hob-knobbed all over the world. When I heard them explain, “these are the best ribs I’ve ever put in my mouth! Sister, I must have the recipe,” I felt pretty pleased! If it worked for ribs, why not transform an ordinary pork chop into a culinary masterpiece? Fresh off the grill, they are juicy and sweet with the balsamic glaze kicking it up that extra notch.
Tuscan-Style Grilled Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze
- In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary, kosher salt, fennel, black pepper, sage, thyme, paprika, crushed red pepper, coriander and allspice. Rub the spice paste all over the pork chops and let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat your gas grill. Brush both sides of your pork chops with the balsamic vinegar and place on the hot grill and grill for 4 min. on one side, or until the pork releases from the grill. Brush again with the balsamic vinegar and flip over. Grill for 3 min. on the other side. Remove from grill and serve immediately.
Note: If using this recipe to make ribs, follow step 1. Preheat the oven to 325°. Arrange the ribs on a large, rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan, meaty side up. Roast the ribs for 2 hours, or until tender. Preheat the broiler. Brush the meaty side of the ribs with the balsamic vinegar and broil 6 inches from the heat until browned, about 2 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut between the ribs and serve.
This weekend, we will be harvesting the last of our peppers from our garden. We have been so blessed to have such an abundance of beautiful vegetables this year, so much so, that we are still reaping the benefits of the eggplant, leeks, butternut squash, and pumpkins. My brain goes into overdrive, as recipe after recipe comes to mind.. what magical combination can we concoct next?
We had a special request for stuffed peppers from one of our Sisters. She adores them, and has happy childhood memories from her Pennsylvania roots. I was delighted to fulfill her request. While in Italy, I came across this wonderfully spicy stuffed pepper recipe. I modified it with the ingredients I had on hand. I’ve never been a big fan of green peppers, but I love the sweet, colored varieties, as recommended here. The flavors of Italy abound: balsamic, red pepper flakes, fennel and spicy sausage. This is sure to be a family favorite.
Villa Sacra Stuffed Peppers
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Bring rice and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the rice is tender, and the liquid has absorbed, 20-25 min. Remove from heat and set aside
- Cook the chopped leek in olive oil over medium low heat until the leek begins to soften (watch that it doesn’t burn), about 5 min. Transfer half of this mixture to a large bowl and set aside.
- Stir tomato sauce, beef broth, balsamic vinegar, and red pepper flakes into the skillet with half the leek mixture; cook and stir for 1 minute.
- Pour tomato sauce mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish and set aside.
- Combine the ground beef, Italian sausage, fennel seeds, diced tomatoes, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper into bowl with reserved leek; mix well. Stir in cooked rice and 1 cup of Parmigiano Reggiano. Stuff bell peppers with beef and sausage mixture, heaping slightly.
- Place stuffed bell pepper halves in the baking dish over tomato sauce; cover baking dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove aluminum foil, sprinkle with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano, and bake until the meat is no longer pink, the peppers are tender and the cheese is browned on top, an additional 20 to 25 minutes. Andiamo Mangiare!