Pulled Pork Meets South Florida

This was one of my entries into the 2014 Mezzetta Make That Sandwich contest.

Sandwiches are fun! A complete meal you eat while holding it. And mashing to regions into one sandwich is tasty. Pulled pork (which I first had while traveling through Tennessee, where my friend Chester lives and teaches) meets South Florida breads (where you can also find Leah and her digital magazine, Just Jew It) in this example.

Pulled Pork Meet South Florida
Serves 1

1 Miami onion roll (you can substitutes another roll if you want.)
4 ounces pulled pork (I used Curley’s Sauceless Pulled Pork for the contest.)
1 ounce Mezzetta’s Roasted Red Bell Peppers
1/8 cup (1/2 ounce) Mezzetta Deli-Sliced Mild Pepper Rings

1 tablespoon Mezzetta Olive Oil
  1. Slice roll. Toast if desired (I prefer my rolls toasted)
  2. Warm meat until hot (less than 1 minute in a microwave.)
  3. Place Roasted Red Bell Peppers on bottom half on roll.
  4. Top with meat.
  5. Top with Mild Pepper Rings.
  6. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
I’m not giving nutritional data for the sandwich. It will change if you use a different type of pulled pork, or use different roll….the variability will change everything.

A Brandy MYST

A Brandy MYST
Serves 1

2 ounces brandy (or whisky, if that is your preference)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (ideally, cherry-infused, like that from Fat Louie’s Olive Oil Company, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin.)
A few fresh basil leaves

  1. Place basil leaves in a mixing glass, muddle (crush) to release the aroma.
  2. Add sugar, vinegar, brandy, and a handful of ice.
  3. Shake vigorously until cold (30 seconds).
  4. Strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.
This is incredible. Tart from the vinegar….yet slightly sweet from the brown sugar….yet savory from the basil….and mellow from the brandy.
Oh, the name Brandy MYST was suggested by a few friends, making this the signature cocktail of my Make Your Someday Today podcast. When you go there, stop at the main page and move from Trevor’s Team to the Varsity Squad by signing up with your name and email.
I promise to keep your email private, and never spam you. I may send you messages of importance, but no more than one a week. And as a Varsity Squad member, when I release products and events, you will receive huge discounts. Thanks!

Walnut-Pear Bleu Cheese Salad

Walnut-Pear Bleu Cheese Salad with Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 2

A double-handful of mixed greens
1/2 of a ripe pear, thinly sliced
1/2 of a cucumber, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon walnut pieces
1 tablespoon bleu cheese crumbles

  1. Place greens in a bowl.
  2. Add dressing, toss to coat.
  3. Divide lettuce and place on two plates
  4. Add equal amounts of pears, cucumbers, walnuts and bleu cheese to each.
  5. Note: You can make this vegan by either removing the bleu cheese completely, or replace it with something else savory. (Maybe wasabi-coated tofu crumbles? I haven’t tried it, but I think it would work.)

Nutritional data:
Calories:        131
Fat:                 9g
Sat fat:         1.9g
Chol:       12.5mg
Sodium: 154.1mg
Carbs:          8.4g
Fiber:           2.4g
Protein:        5.8g

Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
Serves 2

2 tablespoons white balsamic
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Nutritional data:
Calories:        104
Fat:                 7g
Sat fat:            1g
Chol:            0mg
Sodium:   62.5mg
Carbs:        10.1g
Fiber:              0g
Protein:           0g

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar

Strawberries and Balsamic Vinegar
Serves 1

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, sliced
1/2 cup whipped cream (or whipped topping, which is what I used. I was out of whipping cream)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

  1. Layer half of the strawberries and whipped cream.
  2. Repeat with the remaining berries and cream.
  3. Drizzle vinegar over the top.
  4. Serve immediately.
Nutritional data:
Calories:      71
Fat:            2.2g
Sat fat:          2g
Chol:          0mg
Sodium:   2.1mg
Carbs:      13.3g
Fiber:         1.7g
Protein:      0.6g
I used a special balsamic vinegar, from Olivada Oils, in Sheboyan,Wisconsin which is about an hour from my home. 
This is their dark chocolate infused balsamic vinegar. It added a complex flavor of cocoa with some oak, and vanilla, and what tasted like a very dark beer in the background. It was WONDERFUL in this dessert (although I will admit not everyone will like it.)
If you are unfamiliar with balsamic vinegars, the aging process doesn’t make them less sour than traditional vinegar, but adds flavors that bring a new balance, which makes the sourness seem appropriate and even, and more like tartness rather than truly sour.
Note to any beer geeks out there: if you really enjoy the sour beers of Belgium, you need to get a bottle of this. I think–but haven’t tried it, yet–that drizzling this over a bowl of Bing cherries will end up tasting like a kriek, and over raspberries it will taste like a framboise. If anyone tries those ideas, please let me know, okay?
Go to Olivada’s website and take a look at the olive oils and balsamic vinegars they offer. If you are near Sheboygan, go to the shop and taste. I spent about an hour (yes, I logged the oils that I tastes) tasting different oils and vinegars, and mixing them together for combined flavors. 
Here are the treasures I bought that day:
They will be featured in recipes to come.  Keep watching, and I hope you try today’s recipe. When you do, let me know what you think, even if you don’t like it. (But I am confident that you will.)

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette
Serves 1 or 2 (depending on the size of your salad)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil (extra virgin)
1 teaspoon Penzey’s Raspberry Enlightenment
Seasoning of your choice (I prefer Penzey’s Sunny Paris.)
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  1. Mix all ingredients together.
  2. Briskly whisk (or if you used a container with a type cap, shake vigorously.)
  3. Serve.

If you prefer a different oil (grapeseed or walnut) or a different vinegar the process is the same. Balsamic vinegar has a bit of sweetness to it, so if you use a red wine vinegar, you may need to add a little sugar/Splenda to help balance it. If you don’t like raspberries, you could mash a few blackberries into it, or mash and mince a couple tart Montmorrency cherries.  Like many of my recipes, this is a basic type that can be infinitely varied to your tastes. However, keep the mustard if you don’t want the vinegar and oil to rapidly separate.

It is really that simple. The mustard is used not for flavor, but as an emulsifier. It helps keep the vinegar and oil from separating.  Here is a picture of the dressing taken 15 minutes after whisking. (Try that without the mustard for comparison.)

Penzey’s Raspberry Enlightenment
It is an awesome ingredient, adding a bit of tartness and sweetness with the raspberry flavor.
It is not a syrup. It is more like a thin jam.
(I’m not trying to be a salesman for Penzey’s. It is just that I find their spices, herbs and blends to best fit my needs at a reasonable cost.  Also, I have frequently mentioned that Penzey’s Sunny Paris is my preferred salt-free seasoning blend. The reason is that is contains such a well-rounded flavor profile, which marries well with eggs, chicken, fish, soups, stews, and just about anything else. It is a blend of shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf. How can that get any better?)

Pan-Fried Tilapia and Brussel Sprouts

Pan-Fried Tilapia and Brussels Sprouts w/ Balsamic Glaze
Serves 4

8 tilapia fillets, approximately 3 ounces each
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
Seasoning of your choice (I used Penzey’s Sunny Spain.)

1.  Heat non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add half the olive oil.
2.  Carefully place four tilapia fillets in skillet, season. Flip after 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Nutritional data:
Calories:         142
Fat:                 5.8g
Sat fat:            1.1g
Chol:                62mg
Sodium:            34mg
Carbs:                0g
Fiber:                 0g
Protein:         22.5g

Brussels Sprouts w/ Balsamic Glaze
Serve 4
1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, halved
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Black pepper

1.  Heat non-stick skillet over med-high heat. Add the olive oil and Brussels sprouts.
2.  Toss occasionally until beginning to brown.
3.  Add garlic and balsamic vinegar.  Cook until it is reduced by half.
4.  Season with black pepper.

Nutritional data:
Calories:         88
Fat:               3.5g
Sat fat:          0.5g
Chol:               0mg
Sodium:      18.7mg
Carbs:         10.4g
Fiber:            3.1g
Protein:         3.4g