We’ve partnered with Brooke Bass of Chocolate + Marrow and Washington-based Columbia Winery to celebrate the bounty of the Pacific Northwest through a series of dinner recipes. Each dish features a twist—a progression from a classic or a new approach using time-tested ingredients.
Today: Pork chops meet their new favorite summery sauce.
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Summer berries are always relegated to the sweeter side of life. But—and I'm willing to stand by my feelings here—they also have a place in the savory realm of things. And when they're paired with just-right, complimentary ingredients, some might even say they shine there.
I find that berries—especially the blueberries that are overflowing from my garden these days—work well in various meaty dishes when they’re balanced with bright, earthy herbs and just a hint of spice. My blueberry bushes are some of the only plants that are thriving right now (more on that later), and I've been cooking with them in as many ways as I can.
One of the best uses I've found is in a sauce similar to chimichurri, which uses cilantro and parsley as the main herbs, with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat. It's a lumpier barbecue sauce, a less smooth pesto; it's a brilliant blue-black color that peps up any plate of savory you-name-it. It's also been the thing to get me through this summer.
For the last several weeks, Portland, a city known for its frigid winters and mild summers, has experienced a heat wave unlike anything other. It's been enough to make me want to head North in search of cooler climates. (And, by the way, I grew up in New Orleans—land of the swampy, hot, and humid, so this is saying something.)
The brief period in the evening—when the sun dips below the horizon and the temperature finally begins to drop—has basically saved me from becoming a total curmudgeon. That’s when everyone migrates outside to soak up the outdoors while it’s tolerable. Sure, that only leaves a few hours of daylight to enjoy, but to me, that’s more than enough time to uncork a bottle of wine, sit in the backyard with friends and food, and remind myself that tomorrow is another (cooler?) day.
Lately, I’ve been pouring Columbia Winery’s Merlot, which is a welcome change to the crisp whites I tend to favor during earlier (read: hotter) times of day. I recently paired it with a golden, pan-seared pork chop and that blueberry herb sauce I've been making constantly—the topping brightens up an otherwise meaty dish. And, it’s incredibly versatile—I’ve even used the leftover sauce as a sandwich condiment (and it would do just as well with smoked fish or chicken).