Thirty or more years ago, balsamic vinegar was relatively unknown outside of Italy. Due to our exposure to gourmet food magazines, television cooking shows and celebrity chefs, there is hardly a household without a bottle in its pantry these days.
Balsamic vinegar actually derives its name from the word ‘balm’, which refers to an aromatic resin or odor, as well as a substance that soothes, relieves and heals.
For hundreds of years, wealthy Italian families have made balsamic vinegar for their own consumption, nurturing their supplies over the years. Passed on from generation to generation, gifting small amounts to treasured friends and honored guests and perhaps even bequeathing some to a daughter as part of her ‘dowry’. Balsamic vinegar came to be considered a symbol of peace.
In about 1980, the popularity of balsamic vinegar soared due to Italian chefs discovering how intense flavors complemented modern Mediterranean cuisine. Local families couldn’t gear up production to meet the new demand. New producers developed imitation versions, consequently many of us have yet to taste truly authentic balsamic vinegar or ‘Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’, as its known in Italian.
Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs
Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Combine next seven ingredients; place pork cubes in a plastic bag. Toss to coat well; refrigerate until ready to grill. In a small dish, make a glaze by whisking together vinegar, honey, mustard & oil. Set aside.
On water-soaked wooden skewers, thread pork cubes & figs. Grill, covered, on a greased rack over medium-high direct heat, turning occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. During last half of grilling, brush cooked surfaces frequently with glaze.
Let skewers stand 5 minutes; add a tomato to each. Transfer to serving platter & sprinkle lightly with Gorgonzola & basil. Serve some of your Blueberry & Blackberry Rustic Tart for dessert.
Persimmons are definitely an underrated fall and winter fruit deserving of the same hype as pumpkins and squash. Mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Persimmons work well in both sweet and savory applications.
The two most commonly available varieties are Fuyu and Hachiyas. Fuyus are squat and round where as Hachiyas are acorn shaped and have a pointed bottom. When buying persimmons, look for unblemished skin with the green leaves and top still attached. The texture should be like a tomato —firm but with a bit of give without being too soft. Persimmons are usually sold unripe, so leave them on the counter for a day or two until the skin deepens to a rich sunset orange. Aside from eating them fresh, persimmons can also be cooked. They make good jams, puree, tarts and cakes as well as used in baking, being poached or caramelized.
If your following my blog, you are well aware of my love for stuffing pork tenderloin. It’s a meal that never disappoints. Today I am using persimmon and Gorgonzola cheese for stuffing and topping it off with caramelized onions and persimmon wedges. The taste is just wonderful!
Persimmon Pork Tenderloin
Preheat oven to 350 F. & adjust rack to center. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, 1 tsp of thyme, garlic & 1 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside. Slice about 1/2-inch off stem end of each persimmon & about 1/4-inch off bottoms then peel them. Cut one of them into slices, as thinly as possible. Set aside. Cut the second one into approximately 1/2-inch wedges & set aside.
'Butterfly' tenderloin & gently pound meat, to make it all the same thickness. Spread both sides with oil mixture. On a large piece of plastic wrap, lay the bacon slices on it, layering them by about 1/8-inch along their edges, lengthwise. It should be about the length of the tenderloin.
Cover the butterflied tenderloin with persimmon slices, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola evenly over the slices. Staring with the end closest to you, roll up the pork, as tightly as possible. Once the pork is tightly rolled, with the seam side down, use the plastic wrap to help you wrap the bacon around the outside of it.
Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & roast for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 F. & a hint of pink remains.
While meat is roasting, caramelize sliced onion. In a saucepan, heat oil & add onion. Sprinkle with salt; cook & stir about 10 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Add persimmon wedges. Gently stir until heated through.
Remove meat from oven. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice tenderloin about 1-inch thickness; place on serving dish & top with caramelized onions & persimmons.