Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Feelin' Blue Barbecue

It's summer. I know this not because of the heat or beach-side fun. There haven't been much of either this year, and I'm feeling a little blue about it. No, I know it's summer because sweet corn is appearing and blueberries are everywhere. I love the little blue orbs. I eat them plain, with fresh cream (or gelato), and toss a handful in my meusli. I like how they burst in my mouth, and their presence just shouts 'summer' to me.

That, and barbecue season. So why not combine the two? I whipped up this blueberry barbecue sauce to brush on a tender pork loin, but it is just as yummy on chicken or ribs. The sweet-and-tangy combo of berries, sundried tomatoes and maple syrup are sure-fire palate pleasers!

(Speaking of blueberries...did you know that botanists estimate this native American staple has been around for 13,000 years? I didn't! I discovered this fact, and more, at the Blueberry Council's website.)

Feelin' Blue Barbecue

1 small onion, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 TBSP olive oil
1 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
2/3 cup broth or water
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, preserved in oil, chopped
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 TBSP dijon mustard
1 TBSP worcestershire sauce
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp. thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. red chile flakes (or dash of cayenne, to taste)

In a saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in olive oil until tender but not browned. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer about 15 minutes, until the berries are soft and the sauce is thickened. Cool about 10 minutes, then put the sauce into a blender jar. Puree until smooth.
Fire up the grill and use to baste the meat of your choice.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pepper Poppers

One of the things I enjoy about la cucina del sud (southern cooking) in Italy, is that they are willing to take things up a notch on the spicy scale. We love Italian cuisine but around Ascoli Piceno, the faintest hint of heat and they are crying "pizzica!" (It stings!)

Not so down in the mother land. They will sprinkle peperoncino on pasta and drizzle chile oil on veggies. They also make these nice little appetizers called peperoncini ripieni di tonno, which I just call pepper poppers. They are so popular you can find them readily available in jars, preserved in olive oil.

They are a tantalizing taste blend of spicy cherry peppers stuffed with tuna. Don't let the strange combo put you off; believe me, they'll get you addicted so you'll be...well, popping them one after the other!

Pepper Poppers

1 jar hot cherry peppers, drained

1 can tuna, packed in olive oil
1 tsp. capers
1 tsp. anchovy paste or 1 or 2 anchovies from a jar (trust me on this, okay?!)
1 clove garlic
about 2 TBSP fresh parsley

In a food processor or blender, combine everything except the peppers, processing until blended and almost creamy. Spoon the filling into the peppers.

That's it! It's almost *too* easy, but it's so delicious. The saltiness from the capers and anchovies blends well with the tuna, while the zing from the peppers makes it all come alive.

One variation I sometimes make is to make it a little more decadent by adding about a tablespoon of cream cheese. It gives it a velvety texture and tones down the heat a little, if you're serving to wimps!