Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dear Rosemary

Rosemary, the perennial herb that is native to the Mediterranean and member of the mint family, has been used since 500 B.C. for culinary and medicinal purposes. The name "rosemary" comes from the Latin words for "dew" (ros) and "sea" (marinus) meaning "dew of the sea." Rosemary has long been associated with aiding memory. Early Greek students would wear rosemary wreaths on their heads during exams. At funerals, sprigs of rosemary were placed as a token of remembrance. In the Middle Ages, rosemary was worn or carried at weddings as a symbol of happiness, loyalty, and love. It was also believed that if you slept with a sprig under your pillow, it would prevent nightmares. And the best one, if planted outside it would repel witches! 

Rosemary is one of the most aromatic and pungent herbs around. A little goes a long way. Rosemary is especially nice with roasted and grilled meats, particularly pork. This recipe for "Brined Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze and Grilled Potato Fries" illustrates how a little rosemary can turn a simple meal into something magnificent! This recipe, which I nicked from, calls for brining the chops. As I've stated before, I'm not convinced that brining makes that much of a difference. However, give it a try and let me know what you think. In addition, don't skip the fries or sauce! They are absolutely delicious! In fact, even if you don't try the chops, you have to make the fries! So pop on some Foo Fighters and get grilling!

Not the best picture, but trust me it's delicious!

Brined Pork Chops with Balsamic Glaze and Grilled Potato Fries

Serves 4

For the Brine
2 cups water
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

For the Pork Chops
4 pork loin chops, each 8-10 ounces and 1 1/4-1 1/2 inches thick
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves (hopefully growing in your herb garden!)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Glaze
1/2 cup good-quality balsamic vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon granulated sugar

For the Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise (preferably Hellmann's)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large garlic clove, minced (See Techniques!)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Fries
5 Yukon gold potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds total, each cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

For the Brine
In a medium bowl, whisk the brine ingredients until the salt and sugar dissolve, 2-3 minutes. Place the pork chops in a large, resealable plastic bag and pour in the brine. Press the air out of the bag and seal tightly. Turn the bag to distribute the brine, place in a bowl, and refrigerate for 1-1 1/2 hours.

For the Pork Chops
Remove the chops from the bag and discard the brine. Pat dry with paper towels (do not rinse) and season evenly on both sides with the rosemary and pepper. (If you did not brine your chops, sprinkle both sides with Kosher salt.) Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before grilling.

For the Glaze
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, boil the balsamic vinegar until slightly thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Whisk in the butter and season with salt, pepper, and sugar. Transfer to a small bowl.

For the Sauce
In a small bowl, mix the sauce ingredients.

For the Fries
Cook the potato slices in a large pot of boiling salted water just until they are cooked halfway through and beginning to soften slightly, about 5 minutes. Drain. Rinse with cold water to cool quickly. Drain again. Drizzle the potato slices with oil and season evenly with rosemary, salt, and pepper.

Grilling the Chops and Potatoes
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350-450 degrees) and high heat (450-550 degrees). Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the chops over direct high heat and the potato slices over direct medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, until the chops are still slightly pink in the center and the potatoes are tender and grill marks appear, turning once or twice. The chops will take about 10 minutes and the potatoes will take 6-8 minutes. Remove from the grill as they are done. Place the potatoes in a medium bowl and toss with the parsley. Season with more salt and pepper, if desired.

To Serve
Place one pork chop on each of four plates. Reheat the balsamic glaze. Divide the potatoes among the plates. Drizzle the chops with the balsamic glaze. Serve the sauce on the side as a dip for the potatoes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nutella turns 50!

Everyone loves Nutella! In fact, my youngest child just might starve without it! According to, one jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds, was 3rd most "liked" in 2009 on Facebook, and even has it's own day of celebration known as "World Nutella Day" on February 5! In addition, worldwide sales of Nutella exceeds those of all brands of peanut butter combined! Wow! But where did this dreamy concoction come from? We have to thank the Piedmont region of Italy, the country's chocolate-making capital and where the most delicious and abundant hazelnuts grow.

After World War II, there were shortages of cocoa, making chocolate so expensive that most Italians couldn't afford it. As a result, in 1946, Pietro Ferrero began selling his hazelnut/cocoa creation in block form, and called it "Pasta Gianduja." In 1951, Ferrero began selling a creamy version named "Supercrema." In 1964, Ferrero's son, Michele Ferrero, revised Supercrema, renamed it "Nutella," and began selling it across Europe, and eventually the world! Thank goodness he did! However, Ferrero was not the first to create the addictive mixture of cocoa and hazelnuts.

In the beginning of the 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, British ships blocked the import of cocoa beans from the Americas to the Mediterranean. As a result, a clever chocolatier named Michele Prochet created the original blend of cocoa powder, milk, vanilla, and hazelnuts. In 1865, Carrafel patented his concoction and named it "Gianduiotto." The chocolate debuted at the annual carnival in Turin, Italy, under the name of Gianduja (also spelled Gianduia), an ode to the masked character that is the official representative of the city! For more, see Romancing the Tin

So, with all this talk about Nutella, I want to share this recipe sent to me by my youngest (of course!) sans title, that I am going to call "Fudgy Nutella No Bake Cookies." This recipe is super simple and is devoured as fast as I can make them! My kids go nuts for them and I'm sure you will too! Grazie Nutella!

Fudgy Nutella No Bake Cookies

Makes approximately 3 dozen, depending on size.


2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup Nutella
3 cups quick Oats


Over medium heat, bring the sugar, cocoa, milk, and butter to a boil. Boil for one minute. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla, salt, peanut butter, Nutella, and oats. Stir until combined. Using two spoons, drop heaping tablespoons on parchment or wax paper and allow to cool. Refrigerate. Eat. Repeat.