Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Strawberry Fields

Spring has sprung!  At least is has today.  By the time you read this, it could be snowing….it is Reno, after all.  But today, as I write this, it has been warm and sunny for the past few days.  And I love it.  I even wore flip-flops yesterday.  Yeah, I might be pushing it a little bit with that, but I don’t care!  Bring on the sun!

There are a few things in Reno that let me know that good weather (sun, warmth, no clouds) is on the way.  The first is the return of the marmots.  Have you seen these adorable little creatures?  They are all over South Reno when the weather starts to warm up.  I want to catch one and keep it as a pet, but I am afraid it might rip my face off.  The second clue that spring is on the way is that the little league fields are busy again!  Little cuties playing baseball and softball means sun and fun!  And lastly, the final way I know that sunny goodness is on the way is the very nice men selling strawberries on the corner…all the way from California.  Man, I love strawberries from Watsonville, CA.

Today, I am going to celebrate said strawberries….and they don’t have to be bought from someone on the street.  (That sounds weird, right?)  All of our grocery stores are overflowing with strawberries right about now.  The strawberries are juicy and sweet…and perfect.  Plus, they are usually a really good price right about now too.  My first recipe that I am going to show you is my Strawberry Balsamic Pork Chops.  These pork chops are smothered in a sauce that is sweet from the strawberries, tart from the balsamic vinegar and creamy from a bit of goat cheese.  They are crazy good.  My second recipe is a Berry Crumb Pie.  It is a perfect springtime treat, and especially good for Easter!  Let me show you how I made both.

For my pork chops, I start with about a pound of thin-cut boneless pork chops.  I give these a dredge in seasoned flour, and then a quick sauté in a large skillet.  I really just brown the chops on both sides.  Then, I take the chops out for a little rest and in goes some shallots into the same pan.  I cook the shallots just enough to get soft, about two or three minutes.  Then, I stir in Dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, strawberries and chicken broth.  I let this all simmer together for a few minutes to soften the berries, and then I return the chops to the pan.  Once the chops are re-heated in the sauce, I stir some goat cheese in.  How easy is that?  So easy, and so ridiculously good! 



This is such an easy, fast and fresh dinner.  My whole family loves it.  I know that some of you probably think that you don’t like fruit with meat.  I hear that a lot.  But give this a try….you never know!  The flavors work so well together, and it just fits.  Plus, it tastes like a warm spring day.  Well, if you could taste that kind of a day, I guess.

I serve my pork chops with lots of rice on the side to soak up the excess sauce….the best part.  Last time I made it, I served it with a bulgur/quinoa combination.  Look at me….bein’ all healthy!

Here is a weird coincidence….as I write this, it is actually “Pi Day”.  And fittingly, I have a pie recipe to show you.  I love pie.  Fruit pie, cream pie, pot pie….and kind of pie.  Pies make me happy.  Especially this pie.  My Berry Crumb pie uses the fresh strawberries of spring and blueberries.  I have also used rhubarb instead of blueberries, but I am a bit early in the season for rhubarb…it isn’t typically ready till April.  But rhubarb or blueberries…the strawberries and the crumb topping are the shining star of this pie.

I start with my favorite pie crust recipe, which I am including below.  You can use my recipe, or you can absolutely use a boxed pie crust from the store…you know, they kind that comes rolled up?  I won’t judge you.  The boxed kind is great!

I place my crust in a pie dish and then fill that crust with a yummy mixture of strawberries, blueberries, sugar, orange extract and tapioca.  The tapioca will thicken the juices of the fruits without making the pie gummy.  Now here is the best part….. I don’t use a top crust.  Instead, I top this pie with a mixture of flour, brown sugar, white sugar, pumpkin pie spice and butter.  This combination makes THE BEST crumb topping.  It is almost like you get to break through a cookie/candy layer to even get to the pie.  I am obsessed with this crumb topping.

This pie bakes for about 50 minutes, and while it cooks, it fills your house with the most amazing smell.  But what’s more amazing is the taste of this pie.  It tastes of sweet berries, crunchy crumb topping and buttery, flaky crust.  Perfection.  I think your friends and family would love this for Easter!


Have a great week!  And buy some strawberries!

Strawberry Balsamic Pork Chops

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup flour

1 ½  teaspoons salt

1 ½  teaspoons black pepper

1 pound boneless thin-cut pork chops

1 tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, chopped

2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 pound strawberries, rinsed, hulled and chopped

1 cup chicken stock

4 ounces goat cheese

Stir together flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a shallow bowl.  Dredge pork chops in flour mixture.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Sauté dredged pork chops in oil, about 2 minutes per side depending on thickness of chops.  Remove chops from skillet and set aside.

Add butter and shallots to skillet.  Sauté until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in mustard and vinegar.  Add strawberries and chicken broth.  Return to a boil and add pork chops back into the pan.  Cook until pork chops are re-heated, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in goat cheese and heat until melted.

Serve pork chops smothered in sauce.

Serves 4.


Berry Crumb Pie

1 pie crust (recipe to follow)

2 cups strawberries, sliced

2 cups blueberries

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon orange extract

¼ cup tapioca

Crumb topping (recipe to follow)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix strawberries, blueberries, sugar, extract, and tapioca in large bowl. Let sit for 15 minutes. Pour mixture into a 9 inch un-baked pie crust.

Top evenly with crumb topping.

Bake pie at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Adjust heat to 350 degrees and continue baking for about 20 to 25 minutes, until top is brown and bubbly.

Let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

Serves 8-10

Crumb Topping

¾ cup flour

½ cup white sugar

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

3/4th of a stick of butter, very cold and diced

Mix all ingredients with your hands until mixture is in pea sized pieces.

Pie Crust

2 & ½ cups flour, plus extra for rolling

2 sticks butter, super cold and diced

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon orange extract

6 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water

Combine flour, sugar, salt and butter in food processor. Pulse to mix. Mixture will resemble a course meal when mixed.

Add extract and slowly add ice water, pulsing to mix. When dough comes together, it is ready.

Place dough onto a floured surface and knead into a ball. Cut ball in half. Place both halves in fridge for at least one hour. (recipe above only needs one ball, or half)

Place chilled dough on floured surface and roll into 12 inch disk. Place in pie pan and trim excess edges.

Makes enough for 2 Berry Crumb Pies.

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