Farmers Market recipes · Healthy recipes · Quick recipes

Can balsamic vinegar say I love you on a day like today?

We have so much to be thankful for. We do live in a crazy world, I’ll give you that. I work in a TV news station, so believe me, I hear the craziness on the police scanners and on the other end of the telephone, and I see it in my inbox and via satellite from around the world.

Sometimes we get so busy seeing and hearing and feeling the craziness that we forget that there is goodness, too. We even wonder if it’s disappearing.

Is it disappearing? Well, that’s entirely up to us.


(Source: Facebook)

I’m reminded of something Fred Rogers said: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Good advice. And it’s true; there are amazing images from Boston yesterday of people running toward, kneeling beside, and carrying away the injured to be helped.

Not having been there, thoughts and prayers are offered in the  hope that everyone makes it through yet another senseless tragedy in our beautiful, scarred country.

What else can you do?

Gather those you love near to you and speak to those who are far away. Don’t save the beautiful flowers and appreciative words for the dead. Give them now. Make a meal for your family, and sit around the table together. Take cookies to a firehouse. Talk to each other. Pick your face up from the screen you’re looking at. Connect with the people in your life. Pray for them.

It’s pretty simple, really!

Now, here’s an easy recipe I stirred up and that I think you might enjoy. I know that food does not equal love, but cooking for someone is an expression of love. You’re caring for them; you’re saying “you have to eat to stay alive, and I want you to stay alive, so here, eat this meal I made with my own hands, just for you.”

Sometimes we say that with a takeout pizza, don’t get me wrong.  🙂  But cooking is something more from the heart, I think.  It brings people together.

Mama Steph's pork tenderloin w/sauteed balsamic veggies

Mama Steph’s sauteed balsamic vegetables with polenta and fresh mozzarella

One  5 oz. package of organic baby spinach or other greens (I found a powerhouse mix called Super Greens, a mixture of red and green Swiss chard, tat soi, arugula, and spinach)

One fresh fennel bulb, chopped  (found in most produce sections now…so good! READ more about fennel here.)

a pound of fresh tomatoes, chopped (more or less…use the amount you have, or use canned in  a pinch)

one small package fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional)

1 medium or two small zucchini squash, peeled and chopped

2 TBS olive oil

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

One cup (approximately) fresh mozzarella, cubed

one tube pre-cooked polenta (or serve over rice or grits)


Warm olive oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven. Add the chopped fennel bulb, and stir around in the very warm oil for two minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for three more minutes or more, but do not allow vegetables to scorch.

Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic,  pepper flakes, vinegar and mushrooms. Stir and watch for the tomatoes to begin releasing their juices as they soften, and for the mushrooms to begin to shrink and darken.

After a few minutes, add the spinach or other greens. Sprinkle with a bit of water or broth if the pan looks dry to you. Stir and watch the greens cook down into the vegetables. Taste for salt and add as needed.  (I allowed the whole mixture to cook for 10-12 minutes so the fennel and zucchini would be tender.)

Drop in a handful of fresh mozzarella cubes, if you have some handy. Slice the polenta and slide the veggies over to one side of the pan, and place the slices on the bottom of the pan to heat, turning at least once. Sprinkle polenta with a bit of salt.

Place a round (or two) of polenta on a plate; top with a healthy serving of veggies, making sure everyone gets some of the melt-y cheese. Top with a bit of shaved Parmesan or Grana Padano, if you’d like.

Serve alongside pork tenderloin (I had some leftover from the night before, and it was perfect!) or grilled pork chops, or even chicken breast.

Serves 3-4.


I love how the balsamic vinegar sweetens the vegetables just a touch (it does not impart an acidic vinegar flavor to the dish, don’t worry) and contrasts with the simple smooth flavor of the mozzarella and the slight bitterness of the greens. The polenta adds another layer of flavor and texture. My mouth was happy, and I hope yours will be, too!


You might also like: Friendly white chocolate-macadamia nut cookies  (take them to a first responder station near you!)  🙂

Mama Steph's macadamia nut cookies

Copyright 2013 Stephanie Hill Frazier. All rights reserved.


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