Being good in the kitchen requires natural talent, of course, but it also helps if you get an early start.
Geoff Smith, an investment banker living in Brooklyn, N.Y., was eagerly dabbling in cooking at the tender age of 6.
By the time he turned 12, he had perfected a series of marinade recipes used by his family to flavor grilled meats.
He later considered culinary school, and briefly worked with a chef at a Belgian restaurant in Philadelphia, but ultimately found the lifestyle too challenging.
"I either didn't love it enough, or loved it too much to make it a job," he said. These days, cooking is his stress-buster.
Geoff found a similar recipe in a food magazine some years ago, which, after his own personal touches, inspired these sweet -- and tasty -- chops.
Balsamic Pork Chops With Sauteed String Beans
Prep: 20 minutes. Serves: 4.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 thick-cut boneless pork chops
1 cup concentrated chicken broth (one bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound string beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the pork, cooking each side for about four minutes until lightly brown and moderately firm. Do not overcook, as this will toughen the meat. Transfer chops to a large plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
2. In the same skillet, turn heat to high and add broth, vinegar, dried fruit and thyme. Cook for about eight minutes until the sauce thickens (it should coat the back of a spoon when you stir it). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. For beans, bring a pan of salted water to boiling and add beans. Boil for about four minutes, or until cooked but still crispy. Drain beans.
4. Using the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add garlic and sauté for one minute. Stir in the beans, cooking for an additional minute. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. To serve, add about 1 tablespoon sauce over each pork chop and plate with beans.
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Paola Singer is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Hemispheres magazine.