A Simple Backyard Supper with Flavors of Italy

Summer is finally here with a vengeance! It was cold and rainy mid-week, only to jump into the upper 90s by the weekend. A shock to the system to say the least. The last thing anyone wanted to do was to be stuck in the kitchen cooking. No, truth be told, a bowl of ice cream sounded like the perfect solution.

As wonderful as good ice cream is, it’s not much of a supper no matter how hot the day may be. We needed a good meal that wasn’t going to heat up the house. Yet it was far too warm for Hubby to be tending to a fire. Whatever we had, it had to cook up on the grill quickly. The plan was to make my Grilled Pork Chops with an Italian Relish. After all, twelve minutes or so on the barbecue would be all the “cooking” required. Originally, I had planned to serve up my chops with a side of Creamy Herb Risotto and Smokey Pan Seared Asparagus. While the asparagus would not have required much effort, a good Risotto requires a great deal of attention over a hot stove. Change of plans. And the results were beautiful!

Recently I made a simple pasta with a creamy pepper sauce. Mind you, there are only three of us, so a pound of pasta was more than we could possibly consumed in an evening. This pasta warmed nicely in the microwave. With only a slight modification, my Buttery Garlic-Herb Broccoli rounded out our Italian Supper perfectly.

Now I’d like to share the meal with you. Remember, the pasta can be made a day ahead of time, then gently warmed in the microwave for about 5 minutes. What a great supper for simple entertaining – bright, bursting with flavor. A real “wow” at the table. Serve with a good bottle of Italian wine, and enjoy!

Grilled Pork Chops with Italian Relish
¾ lb Roma Tomatoes, seeded, chopped
¾ Cup Chopped Red Onion
3-4 Cloves of Garlic, chopped (about 1-2 tablespoons)
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
2 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Oregano or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste
4-6 Thick, Center-cut Pork Chops, 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick
Sea Salt and Fresh Pepper to taste

Seed and chop tomatoes, place in a medium-size bowl. When chopping the tomatoes, leave some in larger chunks, some in smaller pieces for a less-uniformed appearance.

Chop Red Onions, add to tomatoes. If using fresh herbs (best) chop fresh basil and oregano. Add to tomato mixture. Pour Red Wine Vinegar over tomato mixture, toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Let stand for 1-2 hours to allow flavors to mature and fully marry.

Arrange pork chops in a glass baking dish just large enough to hold the chops snugly. Salt and pepper the chops, turn season-side down. (This will prevent the seasoning from washing away when the marinade is added).

Pour relish into a strainer over a glass bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes or so to drain on its own. To complete the draining process and get as much liquid as possible for the pork chops, gently press relish to remove any remaining liquid without mashing tomatoes. Spoon or pour liquid over pork.
Cover glass dish with plastic wrap and let pork chops rest on the counter in liquid goodness for about 40 minutes to an hour, turning occasionally.

While pork is marinating, prepare barbecue grill to about medium-heat. Since the pork is cooked over the heat directly, you don’t want the grill to get so hot that the chops burn or dry out before they are fully cooked.

When the fire is ready, grill pork until cooked through, about 6 to 8 minutes per side.
Transfer pork chops to serving platter. Tent to keep warm and allow to rest for about 5 minutes. When ready to serve, spoon most of the relish over the pork chops, reserving some to pass table side.

Angle Hair Pasta with Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce
1 lb Angel Hair Pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large stock pot, bring lightly salted water to a full, rapid boil.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil. (For pasta to cook properly, there needs to be a large amount of rapidly boiling water. The pasta should  freely “dance about” in the water as it cooks. A little oil helps the pasta to dance).

Add pasta, return to a rapid boil and cook until tender but firm, about 5-6 minutes. Drain and rinse quickly under warm water. Allow pasta to drain completely. (Don’t worry about pasta cooling while it drains, it will warm nicely in the sauce).

Creamy Roasted Pepper Sauce
1 Jar (12 oz) Roasted Red Peppers with Juice, reserve ¼-cup chopped peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 Garlic Cloves, Minced
2 Cups heavy cream
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
¼-cup Italian Cheese Blend – Parmesan, Romano and Asiago

Puree roasted peppers with juice in blender. Set aside.

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet with high sides. (Remember, this pan needs to hold both the sauce and pasta). Add garlic; cook 2 minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant.

Add pepper puree, cream, salt and pepper. Stirring frequently, cook sauce over medium heat until hot and bubbly, about 6 minutes.  Stir in ¼ cup cheese. The sauce in now ready for the pasta.

Combine angel hair pasta with pepper mixture. Let pasta warm in sauce over low heat.

Garnish with Color:
½ cup fresh basil leaves cut into thin strips
¼-cup roasted peppers
¼-cup Italian Cheese Blend – Parmesan, Romano and Asiago

Transfer pasta, sauce and all, to large serving bowl.

NOTE: If making ahead of time, allow pasta to cool. Place in a Tupperware container or other microwave safe container with a tight-fitting lid. When ready to serve, warm in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a pretty serving bowl and enjoy!

Buttery Garlic-Herb Broccoli with Italian Cheese Garnish
1/2 lb Broccoli
1 Tablespoon Garlic-Herb Blend (McCormick’s has a nice blend)
4 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieced
1 gallon size zip-lock freezer bag
¼-cup Italian Cheese Blend – Parmesan, Romano and Asiago

Cut broccoli into individual pieces and place into the bag. Season with Garlic-Herb seasoning. Shake bag a little to distribute seasoning. Lay bag flat on a micro-wave safe plate. Distribute pieces of butter throughout the bag.

Seal bag, leaving small gap at the center of closure to vent. Micro-wave on HIGH 90 seconds. Turn bag over, micro-wave on HIGH an additional 90 seconds. Check broccoli for doneness. It should be hot and tender-crisp. If still firm, turn bag again and micro-wave on HIGH for another minute.

Repeat until broccoli is heated through, tender but not “soft”.

CAREFULLY open bag (it will be steaming hot) and empty into a serving dish. Toss gently to incorporate seasoning and butter completely. Just before serving, sprinkle cheese over top of broccoli and serve.

Suggested Simple Dessert: Angle Food Cake with Luscious Glazed Strawberries

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