It was probably 15 years ago that I discovered the magic that is a nearly empty jar of jam.
Until then, I’d always hated those sticky-knuckle moments of scraping the dregs of the jar, hoping I had enough to add that sweet balance so needed by the otherwise leaden smear of peanut butter on my bread.
Then an Italian cook who was supposed to be teaching me pasta making got sidetracked. She wanted a salad to go with our orecchiette, and she wanted to make her own vinaigrette. That’s when she reached for a nearly empty jar of strawberry jam, dumped in some olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper. Then she put the cover back on the jar and shook like mad.
Revolutionary? Hardly. But it was delicious. More important, it changed my relationship with jam. It wasn’t just a sandwich spread. And it totally made sense. After all, a jar of grape jelly has been the not-so-secret ingredient for many a potluck meatball. And since that day, I’ve used a dollop of one jam or another in nearly every vinaigrette I’ve made.
I now regularly turn to jams and jellies for adding oomph to everything, including sweet-and-sour chicken (apricot jam), barbecue pork ribs (seedless raspberry), beef marinades (orange marmalade), ham glazes (blackberry or cherry), even sandwich spreads (anything goes!). If nothing else, you really must try fig jam in a grilled cheese (use extra-sharp cheddar).
Knowing I’m not alone in loving this low-brow food trick, I asked some pros for their favorite outside-the-PB&J uses for jams and jellies.
“Pork, duck and turkey notably benefit from the addition of fruit,” he said.
“I use it for a seafood cocktail sauce, a mignonette for oysters, or as a lamb burger condiment along with goat cheese, roasted spring onions and applewood smoked bacon,” he said via email. “Other jams and preserves are well suited to game birds, like apricot. Add a little water to the preserves and spices like cloves, black pepper and cardamom to make a glaze.”
Fig and chili-glazed pork tenderloin
Basmati rice and black beans go well with this spicy pork tenderloin dish. The fig-and-chili glaze also works well with chicken thighs.
The fig preserves can be substituted with apricot preserves or any not-too-sweet stone fruit jam.
Recipe from Cooking Light for The Associated Press.
1/2 cup fig preserves
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon chili paste with garlic
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
Two 1-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chives, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
Prepare grill to medium-high heat.
Combine preserves, vinegar, chili paste, soy sauce and 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk.
Sprinkle pork with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Place pork on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 18 minutes or until thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink), turning occasionally and basting frequently with fig mixture. Garnish with chives, if desired.
Per serving: 193 calories (18 % calories from fat); 4 g fat (2 g sat.); 24 g protein; 14 g carb.; 74 mg chol.; 274 mg sodium; 11 mg calcium
Strawberry balsamic vinaigrette
This is Rachael Ray’s recipe for an easy, delicious vinaigrette. Try it on a summer salad of spinach or mixed greens and fresh strawberries..
2 teaspoons strawberry jam
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Place jam in a medium bowl and whisk in vinegar, then the extra-virgin olive oil. You can eyeball the amount of oil, adding more or less as needed.
Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Whisk again and toss with greens and other salad fixings to coat.