Pork Chops and Cranberry Apple Relish

Yum, this was a really really good meal!! I have no recollection how I made it!! Not a clue!! I remember having about a 1/2 pint of cranberries, a granny smith apple, an onion, some rosemary, some garlic…

Hey, what’s that on the far right? Oh, a glass of wine. Half empty. Hmmm… apparently, in a wine-induced haze, I invented this fabulous relish and, in an ironic swing of Karma’s cruel scythe, I forgot how I made it! (End scene and curtsy)

Luckily, I think I can piece together the recipe using this photo as my most critical (and only) trace of remaining evidence that I ever made this relish at all. Except that I recall how good it was on top of a really juicy pork chop. OH PLEASE, hold your applause till the end. Really!

Another thing I remember (only because I’m looking at a Cook’s Illustrated recipe as I type this), is that I cooked the pork chops differently than I usually do, and they came out exceptionally tender and moist, which is something that has always eluded me with pork chops and is why I rarely make them. Well, no more I say!

Cook’s Illustrated tells you to sprinkle the chops with kosher salt and let them sit for 45 minutes before putting them in a warm oven for another 45. After that, you sear them (on high heat) on the stove top till they get a nice brown crust. The salt pulls out the juices from the chop and then they redistribute when the chop returns to the oven. (Chemistry is suddenly so interesting now, isn’t it?)

Okay, back to the relish. I’ve pieced together what I remember below. So, just be creative, try my formula, and add something if you think it needs it. How’s that for vague?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pan Seared Pork Chops with Cranberry Apple Relish (Pork Chops from Cook’s Illustrated; Cranberry Apple Relish the result of a wine-induced moment of creative genius!)

Pork Chops

4 bone-in rib loin pork chops, 1 1/2 inches thick

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Pat chops dry with paper towels. Using sharp knife, cut 2 slits, about 2 inches apart, through outer layer of fat and silver skin. Sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 teaspoon salt. Place chops on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and let stand at room temperature 45 minutes.

Season chops liberally with pepper; transfer baking sheet to oven. Cook until instant-read thermometer inserted into centers of chops and away from bones registers 120-125 degrees, 30-45 minutes.

Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes, lifting once halfway through to redistrubute fat underneath each chop. (Reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn.) Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer chops to plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra Tablespoon oil if necessary.

Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops (with exception of bone side) until browned and instant-read thermometer inserted into center of chop and away from bone registers 140 to 145 degrees, about 1 1/2 minutes. Repeat with remainig 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes while preparing sauce.

Cranberry Apple Relish

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1/2 an onion, chopped

1/2 pint of whole, fresh cranberries (not dried)

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

about 1/4 cup of sugar (you can add more later if you like it sweeter)

1 granny smith apple, peeled and sliced (or chopped)

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon butter

Sautee onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add cranberries and garlic; sautee until garlic is fragrant (about 30 seconds). Add sugar (maybe a 1/4 cup?) let the cranberries simmer and “pop” for about 5 minutes. Added granny smith apple and about 1/2 a tablespoon of rosemary and let cook for about 5 more minutes, or until apple is soft; season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat at add about a Tablespoon of butter.

I served this with some garlic/herb pearl (or Israeli) cous cous, which I highly recommend.

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Apple Streusel Muffins

Apple Streusel Muffins CoolingA friend of mine told me she made apple streusel muffins and won a prize at her local fair. She posted a photograph on Facebook of a beautiful plump muffin covered with sweet streusel topping next to a blue ribbon. I kept thinking about that muffin. Oh yes, it entered my consciousness and made me think of nothing else. I dreamt that the muffin and I ran off together and got married. I kept thinking I’d get the recipe from her, but I never got a chance to ask her was too lazy. Then, one morning, I woke up and HAD TO HAVE THEM. I had apples, I had flour, I had sugar and butter, but I did not have the recipe. Desperate, I looked up any ol’ apple streusel muffin recipe I could find–and came up with an Emeril Lagasse recipe from the Food Network. I made it. It was fine. It was nothing special really. It wasn’t a recipe I’d take home to meet my mom.

Apple Losing SkinThen, this morning I woke up again–apples in the fridge–and had a major, bigtime craving for these babies. Now, I had the recipe, but did not have the correct ingredients. At 7:00 in the morning, I wasn’t about to go to the grocery store. So, deciding I didn’t want to use the Emeril recipe again, I morphed several recipes into a new creation, and here’s what I came up with. Now, this may not win me a blue ribbon at the local fair, but it was quite lovely for a fall Saturday morning and, yes, I would take it home to my mom (cause she’d scarf it down just like me!).  

Apple without Skin

I used gala apples, which are very sweet and stand up well this recipe. Also, I added some shredded coconut. I have gotten into a habit of adding coconut to a lot of my muffin recipes. I don’t know why, but I really love the extra texture and sweetness. And I guess I’m just out of my mind cRaZY and will apparently do just about anything!

Apple Streusel Muffins in BowlAlso, a lot of recipes say to shred the apple. But why? Why would you do that? It makes no sense to me why you wouldn’t want some nice apple chunks in there. I mean, they can’t be too large so that the muffin wouldn’t hold together, but a small, even dice should do. Do not settle for an inferior muffin when you can wait for the muffin of your dreams!

Apple Streusel Muffins Ready to Bake

So, here you have it. It is my soul muffin, and it may be yours as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apple Streusel MuffinsApple Streusel Muffin and Coffee

1 cup milk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 large egg

2 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 apple, diced

1/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 medium muffin cups.

Prepare streusel topping; set aside

Whisk milk, oil, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in apples and coconut. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. Sprinkle each with about 2 Tablespoons of topping.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan to wire rack.

Steusel Topping

2 Tablespoons chilled butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Cut butter into flour, brown sugar and cinnamon using pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives until crumbly.

Kristen’s Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Pears

 

Kristen's Butternut Squash Soup 2

Let me tell a little story about a rainy Saturday in Martinsburg, West Virginia. One chilly fall morning, when I still lived in Baltimore, I visited my good friend and incredible cook, Kristen, way the heck out in Martinsburg, Wild Wonderful West Virginia. It was an icky morning: cold and wet and not the best driving weather. But I knew, as I left I-81 at the Martinsburg exit, that it would all be worth it, because one of Kristen’s gourmet wonders would await me (which I already knew because when she invited me over I asked her to make me lunch too–subtle, I know). 

 

Weighing Butternut SquashWhen I got there, Kristen told me she had made butternut squash soup. What a perfect day for soup, I thought. I would love a nice, warm bowl of sweet, nutmeg-spiced goodness! Oh, but I was completely caught off guard! Now, I had made butternut squash soup maybe a half dozen times before, and I thought I knew what to expect. But OH NO, this was no ordinary bowl of soup…this soup had texture! it had fruitiness! it had sausage!!

 

Butternut Squash Soup 1

This butternut squash soup is by far the best I have ever had, and I make it every year as soon as I can get my hands on the first squash. Glenn brought the first one home from the farm the other day and it was absolutely beautiful: sweet smelling, orange as a pumpkin, and big, weighing in at 4 pounds, 11 ounces. Perfection. Because the squash takes so long to roast through, I usually roast it the night before, put it in the fridge, and remove it from the skin the next day. Not only are you not still waiting to eat at 10:30 at night, but by the time you cut up the squash, it’s nice and cool and comes out of the skin easily.

When Kristen served me this soup, she used a hot Italian sausage. I just happened to have some turkey and spinach sausage in the freezer, so I used that, and it was great. Also, she made her soup with apples. But we still had some pears left over from my brother-in-law’s tree, and they were fabulous. 

 

Sage Leaves

 

What else goes great with butternut squash? Sage. Sage and butternut are an absolutely perfect pair, and I finally got to use some of the sage leaves from my own garden–holes and all–that I started from seed last spring.

Anyway, back to West Virginia, which, by the way, might be my favorite state in this whole country. Why? First, it exists because it was not afraid to go its own way during the Civil War–what other state can you think of that formed out of another state because it didn’t like the way the first state was handling things? Nope, I can’t think of one either. Secondly, it is beautiful and kind of mysterious looking. The Blue Ridge Mountains are not only nice to look at, but let’s face it, they’re kind of creepy looking too. I mean, they really are blue and foggy and, can you say Blair Witch? Next, I love the song Almost Heaven, West Virginia, by John Denver. And finally, my uncle tells me there might be a small possibility that my ancestors sewed up John Brown’s pants. I don’t know exactly how he knows that, but I’m going with it.

That day at Kristen’s ended up to be so nice. It stopped raining after lunch, and she and I went to buy apples and pumpkins at a local farm. We ended the afternoon with dessert at a local soda-fountain–yes, a real one, still operating in downtown Martinsburg. What a great day! But the best part of the day was that I stole this recipe and now it is mine mine mine!!

Enjoy! And thanks Kristen!

 

 

Kristen's Butternut Squash Soup plus toast

Kristen’s Butternut Squash Soup with Sausage and Pears

Makes enough for 4-6 people (or 3 regular people plus one Glenn)

4-5 lb butternut squash

6 Tablespoons butter

2 yellow onions, diced finely

8 fresh sage leaves, chopped

6 cups fresh chicken stock

1 cup apple cider (optional)

salt and pepper

though Kristen’s original recipe didn’t call for it, I added about a 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. Let’s call that optional.

3 links sausage (I used turkey spinach sausage)

1 pear sliced (Kristen’s original recipe calls for apples, but I had a pear. Whatever floats your boat!)

 

Preheat the oven to 400. Wash and thoroughly pierce the squash with a fork. Place in a large baking pan and roast until tender (could take 1-2 hours). While the squash cools, saute all but 1/4 cup of onions in the butter; add the sage; slice open, remove the seeds from the squash, and add the flesh to the sauteed onions. Add the chicken stock and nutmeg and simmer for 45 minutes. Puree with a hand blender or cool slightly and process batches in a standing blender (serioulsly, folks, blend it in small batches…I made the mistake of putting too much in at once and, well, we don’t like to talk about what happened–it’s to painful to relive). Add apple cider and salt and pepper to taste.

Brown sausage, add pear or apple and remaining onions and cook until soft. Use as a garnish.

Pear Galette

Pear Galette after baking2I’m gonna make this short and sweet, folks. Never make a pie again. Seriously. And this is coming from a pie-aholic. I LOVE pie. I love apple pie, pumpkin pie, peach pie, blueberry pie. I love ALL pies. And I have to admit, I’ve gotten pretty good at making pies. But I seriously never have to make one again, because I have discovered the galette. Easy. Not messy. You can accidentally put a hole in your crust (not that I ever do that) and it does. not. matter. Galettes are every bit as buttery, fruity, and flaky as pies, but with half the work. Glenn and I even might have said, just under our breaths, that we might perhaps possibly like this better (GASP!) than a pie!! AHH!

 

 

Kiefer Pears

These pears (which are, as best as we can tell, Kiefer Pears) came from my brother-in-law’s property. They’ve been growing there for years and they are absolutely wonderful for baking. He does not do a thing to them all year: no fertilizing, no pest control, nuthin’, and they come out perfect. I’m sure you could use any pears for this recipe, but if you can find some Kiefer Pears, you won’t be sorry. Do not pass GO, do not collect 2oo dollars. Go make this now. NOW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pear Galette--Rolled out dough

 Keifer Pears, Sliced

  Pear Galette before baking

Pear Galette after baking

  

Pear Galette, adapted from Martha Stewart

Martha’s recipe serves 8, but I adapted it to serve 2. We ate every last bite of this galette, so if you have more than two, you should probably double it.

All-purpose flour, for work surface

1/2 recipe Pate Brisee (see below)

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup granulated sugar

pinch of salt

2 large ripe pears, sliced quite thinly. It’s up to you how much crunch you want left in them

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

sugar for sprinkling (about a tablespoon)

3 tablespoons homemade caramel or pear syrup (the first time I made this, I had homemade caramel left over, so I used that. The second time I made it I had no caramel, but I did have some pear syrup from my father-in-law’s pear preserves. I just drizzled it on top. It was excellent. Martha Stewart’s recipe tells you to heat up some apricot jam, strain it, and brush it over the galette. That sounds great too, but I’d loose the straining part–why make it hard on yourself.) 🙂

 

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

2. Sprinkle work surface with flour. Roll out dough to a 14-inch round, about 1/4-inch thick. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour.

3. In a bowl, mix together cornstarch, sugar and salt. Add pear slices and toss until evenly coated. Mound pear mixture on top of dough, leaving a 4-inch border all the way around. Fold dough over pear mixture, overlapping where necessary and gently pressing to adhere the folds. Transfer galette to refrigerator and let chill, 20-30 minutes (yeah, right…I was too hungry to do this last step).

4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, beat egg with some water. Brush edges of dough with egg, and springle edges (or the entire thing!) with sugar. Dot top of galette with butter. Transfer to oven and bake until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, about 45 minutes (you might check on this and dab up any pear liquid that seeps out onto the parchment so it won’t burn. Pears are VERY juicy).

5. Remove galette from oven and drizzle with caramel, syrup, or apricot jam.

 

Pate Brisee (Pie Dough), from Martha Stewart

Makes 1 double-crust or 2 single-crust 9- 10-inch pies.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Add butter, and process until the mixture resembles coarse meal, 8-10 seconds (or, just use a pastry cutter, which I did because my food processor is broken and never to return)

2. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream through feed tube. Pulse until dough holds together without being wet or sticky; be careful not to process for more than 30 seconds. To test, squeeze a small amount together: if it is crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time (or, use a fork, like the girl with the broken food processor did.)

3. Divide dough into two equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disc and wrap in plastic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill at least an hour. Dough may be stored, frozen, up to 1 month (or for the next day, which is when I made this galette again).

Pizza with Sungold Tomato Sauce, Three Cheeses, and Proscuitto

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Pizza is a giver when it comes to providing a delicious and healthy meal that can be changed up each and every time you make it. A lot of times, when people make homemade pizza they want it to taste like the traditional brick-oven or carryout pizza, and when it doesn’t, they are disappointed. I’ve learned that you cannot treat homemade pizza like brick-oven pizza (unless you have a brick oven, which I do not). Homemade pizza is its own creature, and Glenn and I have discovered that we like it better than most pizzas we get out. I make it many different ways depending on what we have, but I always start with a good crust.

Definitely take the time to make a homemade crust–it is absolutely worth it. I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer, which makes it easier, but of course you can do this with a hand mixer or spoon. Because the dough has to rise for an hour, I make the dough as soon as I get home from work (it takes about 10 minutes at the most), then while it’s rising, I prepare the toppings or do something else that I have to do. All you have to do then is roll out the dough onto a pizza stone or a small cookie sheet greased with olive oil. I like to sprinkle some uncooked corn grits onto the pan too, to give the dough a bit of texture, but it’s not necessary. Also, I double the recipe and freeze half the dough, so the next time all I have to do is remember to get it out of the freezer before I leave for work. Yeah, I admit that’s hard sometimes.

While your dough is rising, make the Sungold Tomato Sauce. Whenever my husband would come home with these tiny little Sungold tomatoes, the only thing I could think to do with them was to put them on salads. Booooring. I decided to try a tomato sauce with them. Can you guess what the problem with that is? Well, lots of tiny tomatoes come with lots of tiny skins, so you end up having a sauce that’s almost all skins. And am I going to sit around and peel 4 cups of tiny little Sungolds? Dang it, I’m just not.

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So, I decided to use one of my most favorite kitchen appliances to help me out. But… you’ll have to wait a minute for that. Stick with me here, folks.

In a medium saucepan, I sauteed an onion, carrot, stalk of celery, and garlic in olive oil, then added about 4 cups of the Sungolds and some basil from my garden. Really, you can guesstimate here…it doesn’t have to be exact. 

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Saute everything on medium heat for about 30 minutes–until the tomatoes have all softened and lost their shape. Add salt and pepper. Then, pour the sauce into a blender or food processor. Since my food processor died a couple of weeks ago, I used a blender and it worked great. Oh yeah, I love blenders. They are so powerful for such little appliances. And in this case, it totally took care of all those skins, just processing them into the yummy, tangy pulp that they turned into.

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Spread the sauce over the dough. I used about a 1/2 cup of sauce and froze the rest for later. On top of that, add about 8 oz of fresh mozzerella, about a 1/2 cup of homemade ricotta, and shavings of good parmesean–maybe about 10 shavings or so. Top with about 1/2 cup of Sungolds, sliced in half. Place about 2 slices of good proscuitto, torn apart, evenly on top. Add more if you like pork!

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Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the crust starts to brown around the edges and all the mozzerella has melted.

Pizza is great to experiment with, and it will hold almost any kind of topping you can think of. Pair sweet or tangy things (tomatoes) with salty ones (proscuitto). If you don’t have time to make sauce, just slice the tomatoes in half and place them on the dough with a little olive oil and cheese. You can’t go wrong…

 

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Basic Pizza Dough

Makes crust for one small pizza (this feeds two people)

1 2/3 cups flour (plus extra if you knead it by hand)

1 /2 teaspoon salt

1 package active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup warm water

Mix the dry ingredients, and add the wet ingredients and mix well. Knead for 10 minutes or use the dough hook on your stand mixer. Rub some olive oil over the dough, and place it in a bowl covered with a clean towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until it has doubled in size.

 

Sungold Tomato Sauce (you can use pretty much any tomatoes for this)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 stalk celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

about 4 cups Sungold tomatoes (plus or minus)

a handful of basil leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and saute for a minute or two (don’t let the garlic brown). Add the tomatoes and basil.

Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes or until the tomatoes have lost their shape. Add salt and pepper.

Blend or process mixture for about a minute in a blender or food processor.

Don’t Take Lemons For Granted

Seems that all g.’s traveling to Boston lately has resulted in a diet of sandwiches: sandwiches on the plane, sandwiches in the airport, sandwiches at lunch meetings. when I asked g. what kinds of things he wanted for dinner this week, he said “anything but a sandwich.” We both craved something “fresh” for dinner, and I’ve realized over the last few years that fresh usually equals something with lemons.

Lemons and Knife

Plus, they are just so darn pretty.

Lemons

Especially when it’s still technically winter and fresh veggies are still of the sweet potato and turnip variety, lemons always step up to the plate and lift you out of a cream-based-soup winter rut, which seemed wonderful around November, but is now getting tired.

Here is the first recipe I made this week. It’s from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home. I changed the recipe just a bit by adding about two tablespoons of pesto. I had a ton of basil last summer and made pesto, then froze it in an ice cube tray. I’m trying to use it up, and this was the perfect dish. Basil is another one of those foods that automatically freshens up supper.

I also may have added some white wine as well. It was available and, well, right there in my cup, so I thought it would add a little more flavor.

Shrimp with Pesto Ice Cube

 

The lump of green in the middle is a frozen ice cube of pesto.

 

Lemon Shrimp Scampi

This rather large portion is g.’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do with Quince?

When my husband and I moved into our home two years ago, these quince were not doing so well. With a little love they are now blooming like crazy. They bloom in late winter, but their fruit is not ready to pick until fall. Last year these bushes produced a total of about 6 quince fruits. Quince have the consistency of an apple, but are apparently very bitter unless cooked. I say “apparently” because I never got around to trying them last year. I have promised myself to try one this year. I think I’ll make a quince tatain with puff pastry.

The color of these quince looks like a bridesmaid dress I once wore. I like the color on the quince much better.

These particular quince are the “bush” variety (as opposed to the tree variety) and are quite small–about the size of a plum.

The fruit from these quince are a light apple-green color