- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Summer is the perfect time to enjoy sizzling culinary experiences. Using the grill and experimenting with fun flavor combinations is a wonderful compliment to days filled with sunshine. Fresh herbs can be a perfect way to season summer meals.
Herbs and spices are not only flavorful additions to meals but can also be used in place of extra fat and salt. Reducing fat intake from one’s diet is important for several reasons. Too much fat in the diet can lead to heart disease, higher cholesterol levels, affects absorptions of some medications and can contribute to weight gain. One tablespoon of fat equals roughly 100 calories, which can total 10 extra pounds yearly.
Reducing sodium (salt) in the daily diet is also important. Consistent high dietary sodium may lead to high blood pressure. High blood pressure is known to contribute to developing heart disease.
Adding herbs and spices can enhance the flavor of foods, especially when paired correctly, without the negative health consequences of added fat or salt.
When using herbs, it is important to consider the vegetable, fruit, or meat that needs to be seasoned. Pork is a versatile meat, which pairs well with several different herbs and flavor combinations and makes a great addition to a meal, especially when using lean cuts of pork.
Pork provides several vitamins, such as iron, vitamin B6, thiamin, and zinc. Pork is also a source of high quality protein. High quality proteins are complete amino acids and has a highly bioavailability, meaning the body can easily use protein without too much work.
Many vegetables are also good foods to use with herbs. Versatile vegetables such as corn, eggplant, and potatoes are great canvases for herbs. Of course, these are not the only foods you can use with spices and herbs but are good foods in which to start experimenting with new herb and spice flavor combinations.
Here’s a recipe that combines several herbs with lean pork. It’s low in fat and sodium and high in flavor. It’s great, too because it can be seasoned ahead of time, kept in the refrigerator and cooked quickly on the grill so you can spend more time enjoying the summer. If you don’t have access to fresh grown herbs, dried herbs can be substituted.
Balsamic Pork with Herbs
2 pork tenderloins (about 1-1/2 to 2 pounds total)
12 sprigs of fresh rosemary (3 tsps. dried rosemary)
12 sprigs of fresh thyme (3 tsps. dried thyme)
2 tsps. finely ground white or black pepper
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Cut the tenderloins crosswise into six pieces (boneless chops) about 1-1/2-inches thick. Mix the rosemary, thyme, pepper, oil and balsamic vinegar to make a marinade. Marinate the pork pieces in a non-metal pan (or a self-seal plastic bag) in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but no longer than 24 hours, turning the pork 2-3 times.
Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Remove pork from the marinade and grill 4-5 inches from medium heat for 5-7 minutes, turning and brushing frequently with marinade. Discard any leftover marinade. Cover and grill pork about 5-6 additional minutes, turning frequently until pork is slightly pink in the center, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the pork slices, registers 155-160 degrees. Don’t overcook.
Add fresh green beans or local zucchini (these can be seasoned with herbs, too) along with fruit and bread for a complete meal. Makes six servings.
To learn more about growing, harvesting, storing, combining and cooking with herbs and spices, join the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service in Brunswick County for a summer culinary program called “Thyme for Herbs.” The class is at 2:30 p.m. Monday, June 18, at the Training Center in Building N at the Government Complex in Bolivia. Sarah Barnwell, Family and Consumer Sciences county extension agent, along with Susan Brown, horticulture county extension agent, will be leading this class.
Brown and several master gardeners will discuss herbs that can be grown locally. Barnwell will talk about using herbs and spices as a way to add low sodium and low fat flavor to cooking. Participants will be able to taste test several recipes. The class is free of charge and open to the public. Contact the Brunswick County Center of NC Cooperative Extension at 253-2610 to reserve a seat before June 11.
Thanks to Sarah Barnwell, Family and Consumer Science extension agent in Brunswick County, for her assistance with this column and the North Carolina Pork Council (www.ncpork.org) for the recipe.