We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!
Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!
Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes
- 3lb boneless pork loin
- 2 tbsp neutral oil
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- ~1lb black or red grapes (~3 cups)
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable or poultry stock
- 4 large fresh sage leaves
- 2 springs of fresh rosemary
- Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
- Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
- After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
- Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
- Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
- Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
- Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
- Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
- Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
- Serve the pork sliced, topped with sauce.
You’ve heard of fruit pizzas right? They’re shaped liked pizzas, but that’s really where the similarities end. To the best of my knowledge, fruit pizzas are essentially entirely sweet, with a base more like cookie dough, topped with fruits and sugar. You eat them for dessert, not dinner. That is not what we’re doing here tonight. This blackberry pizza is mostly savory, with the addition of the sweet and tangy blackberries.
How did I come up with this crazy idea? I didn’t. This was a Pinterest find, from a blog called A Whisk and Two Wands. The pictures caught my eye – gorgeous contrast of the dark berries and white cheese! Furthermore, Selim loves pizza, we’re trying to eat more fruit, we had blackberries and basil in the fridge, and I had the time to make some dough today. All good reasons to give this unique idea a whirl tonight!
We really enjoyed this as an alternative to a “normal” pizza for dinner tonight. However, I think it would really be perfect as an appetizer in smaller portions for your next dinner party!
Balsamic Basil Blackberry Pizza
(Adapted from A Whisk and Two Wands blog)
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup hot water, divided
- 2 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- Olive oil
- 12oz blackberries
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp brown sugar
- 8 turns of fresh ground black pepper
- Just a pinch of salt
- 10 large leaves of fresh basil, roughly chopped, reserving 2-3 leaves
- 16oz log of mozzarella
- First, prepare the dough. (You also could skip this step entirely and buy prepared pizza dough.) In a small bowl, stir together the yeast, sugar, and 1/4 cup of warm water. Let sit for ~10 minutes until frothy.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over-top. Add the remaining water slowly, stopping and stirring frequently. Mix with a spoon in the bowl until you have a well-combined ball of dough. (You may need slightly more or slightly less water to form a nice ball of dough. If it ends up too wet – add additional flour.)
- Then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured, clean, dry counter-top. Knead the dough for 10+ minutes. The dough should be firm and elastic.
- Pour just a tiny bit of olive oil onto a paper towel and swipe around the bottom and side of a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to sit for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, prepare the blackberry sauce. Pour blackberries into a saucepan over low-medium heat. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, pepper, and chopped fresh basil. Cover and cook for ~5 minutes so the berries soften.
- Uncover and mash the blackberries with your stirring spoon or the back of a fork.
- Increase heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens. This should take ~10 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Once dough has risen, turn it out on a lightly flowered surface. Divide in half. Roll out the dough into two large circles.
- Bake the pizza dough without topping for 5 minutes and then remove from the oven.
- Spoon the blackberry sauce onto the dough as you would a normal pizza, leaving a bit of the edge uncovered for a crust.
- Slice mozzarella and place chunks all over the pizza. (May not use the whole 16oz log of mozzarella.)
- Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, watching the edges of the crusts to make sure it’s not over-browning.
- Top with the remaining fresh basil before serving.
Have we mentioned yet how much I (Ally) love Triscuits? My obsession may be slightly unhealthy… We have to buy a box pretty much every time we go to the grocery store. And when they’re on sale… watch out! We’ll pick up like 5 or 6 boxes. Most of the time I just eat them with cheese or hummus on top. Which is delicious and probably accounts for 80% of my lunches.
But today I a) wanted some strawberries and b) was feeling fancy. So I peered into the fridge and concocted this snack. While simple, it was too good not to share. It’s so easy to throw together, you have most of the ingredients laying around anyway, it takes just a few minutes to make, and looks and tastes like you put way more effort into it than you did! This would be a great appetizer for having friends over or to take to a last minute get-together. (Or to eat for lunch every day for the next week…)
Balsamic Strawberry Triscuits
- 10 Triscuits (Original or Cracked Pepper & Olive Oil)
- 4-5 strawberries, sliced
- 1 tbsp plain cream cheese
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Fresh mint leaves
- Mix together the cream cheese and balsamic vinegar.
- Spread onto each Triscuit.
- Top with a slice or two of strawberry and a piece of the fresh mint.
Makes 10 crackers.