I recently traveled with family to Chatanooga, TN for a weekend spring break getaway. As a good mother should, I dutifully followed my husband and kids to the Tennessee Aquarium, RockCity! and The Chickamauga Battlefield. Seeing with the new eyes of my children, I enjoyed the tourist stops, but my real reason for traveling to Chatanooga was for a chance to revisit a restaurant I had discovered in the past, named St. John’s.
Finally the night of my indulgence arrived – along with a torrential downpour. Arriving at the restaurant I was worried that the kids would be miffed at the lack of chicken nuggets on the menu – when all I really needed was a relaxing and tasty evening. My concern was unfounded. Outside the thunder and lightening crashed, but the stars aligned inside the cozy dining room. The kids were actually game to try something new and I, got my first taste of pork belly.
Being a voracious reader of food magazines, I have been reading about this trendy cut of pig for several years. My plate arrived with succulent pork belly, served on a bed of peperonata and topped with a perfectly poached egg. I went to bed that night dreaming of my delicious first course. Yup, this was only my appetizer, which I followed up with a pork tasting that included pork loin, pork rilette and a pork sausage. Indulgence at its best!
I returned home feeling a bit guilty, yet inspired by my wonderful vaction meal. If not the pork belly, certainly the peperonata could be incorporated into a healthy weeknight dinner. I made my own version of peperonata and served it on top of yellow brown rice and grilled balsamic chicken. The peperonata reminded me of my vacation, while the grilled chicken and rice gently nudged me back to reality.
Here’s my recipe for the peperonata, which is a delicious bed for any kind of meat – and super on bread brushed with olive oil, straight from the grill!
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1 Cup Chopped Yellow Onion 1 Each Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Pepper, Chopped 1 14.5 Oz. Can of Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes (I used Muir Glen) 2 Garlic Cloves, Minced or Grated ¼ Cup of Balsamic Vinegar Step One
Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat and add the onions. Saute, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent, about 8-10 minutes. Add peppers and cook for another 5-7 minutes, while stirring. Step Two
Add the remaining ingredients and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce to simmer and continue to cook over low heat until the mixture has thickened and liquid has reduced. Serve warm or at room temperature over grilled meats or roasted veggies. Leftovers taste great on a log of goat cheese!