- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Vegetables are the nags of the food world. If you don’t feel guilty enough about your diet, a carrot shouts from the produce section, reminding you that you’re not getting enough of the green and orange stuff.

Worse yet, childhood memories of cauliflower fumes or broccoli the color of army green can seriously blunt your interest.

“We’re not used to thinking of vegetables in creative ways, and consequently the flavors are boring,” says Barbara Kafka, a noted cooking instructor and cookbook author.

No wonder we slink away from the vegetable counter. But there’s another side to plant foods, one that’s seductively delicious. Miss Kafka’s alternative to ho-hum? How about roasted fennel with caramelized tomato sauce, spinach jade soup or tomato frappe? All these are definitely a step up from naked green beans.

By shopping in season and incorporating more flavorings, we can break out of a vegetable rut, says Miss Kafka. Although we may have been raised on the “boil to death” school of cookery, there are advantages to more imaginative techniques, says the author of the tempting new cookbook, “Vegetable Love” (Artisan).

“When you make vegetable dishes that are significant and flavor-charged, you can do an easy entree,” she says. “You can very quickly broil or microwave a piece of fish as an accompaniment,” she says.

We can also cook vegetables with a protein food so we don’t have a sparse-looking entree. The following pork chops with peppers are more appealing prepared and served together.

Pork chops with cherry and bell peppers

This recipe was adapted from Miss Kafka’s “Vegetable Love.”

2 10-ounce loin pork chops, 1-inch thick

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and sliced

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, deribbed and cut in 1/4-inch strips

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, deribbed and cut in 1/4-inch strips

1 medium red onion, cut in ½-inch strips

2 or 3 bottled hot cherry chili peppers, cored, seeded and coarsely chopped

1/3 cup dry red wine

½ cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon liquid from cherry chili peppers, optional

Rub pork chops with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium deep skillet over medium-high heat. Cook pork chops, turning once, until browned on both sides and until just a slight trace of pink remains near the bone, about 14 minutes total.

Transfer chops to a plate and cover lightly with aluminum foil to keep warm.

Pour off any fat from skillet. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet. Add garlic, bell peppers, onion and cherry peppers.

Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until vegetables are tender and the chilies are beginning to brown, about 7 minutes.

Add the wine. Bring to a boil and cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

Add the broth. Bring to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the liquid is syrupy and just enough remains to coat the vegetables.

To serve, arrange pork chops on 2 dinner plates. Top each serving with half the pepper mixture and spoon on cherry pepper liquid.

Makes 2 servings.

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