- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 27, 2003

Committee meetings are usually deadly dull and to be avoided like a plague. So it may not seem logical that I look forward with joy to the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society’s public relations and communications committee.

I don’t know which is the biggest draw: the great food, the magnificent Manor at Belmont Estates, near Baltimore, or the fun people.

The society is just that: a group of chemists who want the world to realize chemistry is not an ivory-tower thing but an essential part of our everyday lives.

I love to point out little food chemistry facts, such as the reason that near-green bananas overripen quickly when placed in a bowl with apples is that the apples give off ethylene gas that speeds up the ripening.

The committee appreciates that I can bring the chemistry of cooking down to earth so people can use it to improve their food.

Robert Dunn is chef at the Manor, a luxurious lodging on the crest of a rolling hill overlooking meadows and a dense forest populated by deer.

The location is sublime, but it’s Mr. Dunn’s cooking that I love. In many of his dishes, the dominant foods are perfectly but simply cooked.

In the recipe that follows, the pork loin is roasted and the asparagus blanched and then grilled for one minute.

These are easy, direct preparations that highlight the food itself. He accompanies the pork with a sauce packed with flavor. Imagine the exciting, sweet-hot flavors of caramelized fresh peaches with chilies and honey.

Even solo, honey is a flavor jewel.

It contains many simple sugars, including fructose. It is these small compounds that are such flavor dynamite.

Big carbohydrates do not have nearly the flavor that their component parts, sugars, have. It’s these small sugars that send our taste receptors zinging.

Honey is the secret ingredient in many dishes.

Not only does Mr. Dunn use honey in his peach salsa, he coats the peaches with honey before roasting.

Under high heat, the honey caramelizes or breaks down into the many small sugars that are heavenly, delicious caramel.

Here is Mr. Dunn’s pork loin au poivre with grilled asparagus and roasted peach salsa for you to try at home.

With food like this every day, the beautiful wilderness, luxury accommodations and fun friends to be with, you can see why I look forward to this committee meeting.

Chef Robert Dunn’s pork loin au poivre with grilled asparagus and roasted peach salsa

This is beautiful and wonderfully delicious. A few words about the ingredients: Chipotle (roasted jalapeno pepper) is sold in cans with adobo sauce; my favorite kind of rice vinegar is the seasoned type.

2 pounds pork loin, trimmed

Cracked black pepper, coarse salt

Olive oil

30 asparagus spears, trimmed of woody ends

Boiling salted water

Roasted peach salsa (recipe follows)

Season pork heavily with cracked black pepper and coarse salt. Rub lightly with olive oil and roast in 400-degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from oven and allow to rest 5 to 8 minutes.

Blanch asparagus in boiling salted water for one minute. Remove and quickly place in ice water to cool.

Drain well. Toss into a bowl with salt and pepper to taste and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook on preheated grill for one minute.

ROASTED PEACH SALSA:

6 fresh peaches, halved and pitted

Salt, pepper

Chili powder

Cumin

Honey

6 scallions, chopped

1 red bell pepper, minced

1 jalapeno pepper (seeds removed), minced

1 handful cilantro

cup rice wine vinegar

6 garlic cloves, roasted (see Note)

1 chipotle pepper

1 tablespoon adobo sauce

Season peaches with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and honey to coat.

Roast in 400-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes until well caramelized. Set aside to cool and then dice.

In a bowl, mix together chopped scallion, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper and diced peaches. Set aside. Place cilantro, rice wine vinegar, roasted garlic, chipotle pepper, adobo sauce and salt and pepper to taste in blender or food processor and puree. Add to diced peaches.

Taste and add a little more honey to sweeten, if desired.

Arrange 5 asparagus spears on each of 6 dinner plates. Cut pork into medallions and place on top of asparagus. Top the pork with roasted peach salsa.

Makes 6 servings.

Note: To roast garlic cloves, wrap in foil and bake 30 minutes in a 350-degree oven.

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