Ingredient SpotLight

Red is all around us ... after all, it's February and everywhere you look you are bound to see red roses, red hearts or red underwear! So I'm joining in the fun and focusing on red wine!

One of the most interesting things I've learned about red wine is that its color comes from the skins of the grape from which it is made. The skins are left with the crushed grapes to allow the liquid to absorb pigments, tannins and flavors from them. Ah, but what a difference some of these skins can make!

So what about the rumors that red wine is good for your heart? Well, there is good reason to believe that drinking moderate quantities of wine, and particularly red wine, help to protect against heart disease. In fact, moderate alcohol consumption generally is associated with reduced risk of heart disease. But there is also overwhelming evidence that more than moderate levels of alcohol consumption lead to increased risk of disease, injury and death. So if you're not a drinker, please don't start with the assumption that it's for your health!

On the other hand, in addition to drinking, red wine can be a delightful addition to the food you serve at your table. It finds itself at home in everything from pan sauces to desserts ... and that's just what I'm offering you this month. My first recipe is a decidedly adult dessert option. But, oh, what delightful compliments you'll get when you serve this tasty, pretty granita in chilled wineglasses at your next party. Choose an aggressive red wine or the freezing process is likely to rob your dessert of its "punch" and leave your guests wanting more. Think of this as your favorite sangria frozen and served with a spoon!

Red Wine Granita

  • 1 c. water
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle full bodied red wine
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Make a syrup by combining the water and sugar in a noncorrosive saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer the mixture for five minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool.

Combine the syrup, wine, orange juice and lemon juice and pour the mixture into two 8 x 8-inch cake pans. Cover them with plastic wrap and freeze them until the mixture is set, about 4 hours.

To serve, scrape the granita with a spoon or fork to create small shavings and spoon it into individual chilled wine glasses.

  • Yields: 8-10 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus freezing time

My second recipe is a favorite of mine. Simple, quick and elegant, it's one that I turn to when entertaining on a busy schedule. The sauce is so yummy that I sometimes make a double batch and save it for sautéed chicken breasts later in the week! If you choose an aggressive red wine, it can also stand up well to beef tenderloin, duck and even wild game. Now how's that for a versatile pan sauce?

Pork Chops with Cherry-Wine Sauce

  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 4 center cut, boneless pork chops
  • 2/3 c. dry red wine
  • 1/3 c. beef broth
  • 3 T. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. dry mustard
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 (16 oz.) can pitted dark cherries

Add the oil to a large sauté pan. Brown the chops on both sides; reduce the heat and continue cooking until no pink remains and the meat is well cooked. Remove to a platter and keep warm.

Combine the wine, broth, honey, thyme, salt and mustard in the sauté pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and vinegar and add it to the wine mixture. Bring to a boil and boil for one minute. Stir in the cherries.

Return the chops to the pan and heat through before serving.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes