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.

Pasta with Pesto, Potatoes, Shrimp and Green Beans

Aug-Sept 2009 041Last weekend was my husband’s birthday. To celebrate properly, I made him work on our if-you-touch-it-it-might-collapse garage…all week. Actually, we both took the whole week off from work and called it a “work-cation” to make it sound like so much more fun! But really, there was very little “cation” in it at all. This garage has been on our to-do list since we moved into our house three and a half years ago. We’ve been slowly gutting it of the makeshift cabinets and falling-down plywood walls to remake it into a workshop/storage area. Living in a tiny bungalow built in 1940 means we have precious little closet space, so the thought of having this much extra storage is worth a week of hard work (I think?).

 

 

Green Derby Snap BeansSo, on Friday night, after working so hard all week on our rotting, termite-infested garage, I planned to take Glenn to Bottega for his birthday–kind of a reward to both of us. Turns out it was even more of a reward than I ever thought it would be. Early Friday morning I woke up around 2 am to the sound of something falling. It sounded like a “Wooooosh! Thump!” Being startled in the middle of the night, and having my whole life taken over by garage renovation, my first thought was “Good lord, the garage fell over!”  I got out of bed immediately, tried to wake Glenn who was completely unresponsive, and ran out to the garage. It was still standing (of course!). Thinking that I must have just heard some thunder or had ingested too much wine the night before, I went back to bed. The next morning, Glenn and I woke to the very strong smell of fresh wood and two very large gum tree branches laying off to the side of our front porch–having fallen barely 6 inches from the house. Apparently one branch broke off, hit another branch on the way down, bent the hanging edge of our gutter 180 degrees, and landed in the rhododendron. 

 

Beans, Potatoes and ShrimpYes, we were very, very lucky that we did not wake up to a hole in the house–or worse. We know. But still, there were two giant tree limbs laying in our rhododendron, and picking them up was not going to be easy. On Friday morning, after running a few errands and locating our handsaw, we got to work on cutting up the tree limb and carrying it to the curb for the city to pick up. It took us about two hours. We may have said a few curse words. At the tree. At our neighbors for not helping us. At the garage for being so old and making us already exhausted before having to deal with this. &*$^% garage!  I will never allow you to store my extra stuff!!

 

Toasting Pine NutsThat dinner at Bottega was looking better and better. After long naps, we awoke, cleaned ourselves up to look presentable, and had one of the best dinners ever. Glenn had Rabbit Torino (rabbit, stuffed with plums and rosemary, and wrapped in pancetta). I had the most wonderful duck breast I’ve ever had with farro (a type of grain, sort of like quinoa), apples, braised carrots, and arugula. People, it is HARD to get duck breast and rabbit breast right. It is sooo common for it to turn out tough. Both the rabbit and the duck were very moist, tender, and flavorful, not gamey. For dessert we split a white chocolate bread pudding (what garage? what tree? what stinky neighbors?). But the very best thing I had at Bottega–the thing I kept thinking about all weekend–was my appetizer: handmade pasta with shrimp, new potatoes, pine nuts, and pole beans,  all in a very rich and buttery pesto sauce. Add the full bottle of wine we consumed to this and you’ve got yourself a birthday party!

  

New Potatoes, SlicedI will tell you that I thought about this pesto sauce like a new boyfriend (er, before Glenn, of course). I had to recreate it. So, Monday night, I tried my best to at least get all the elements right. Rather than pole beans, Glenn had just harvested some Derby String Beans. I thought that would be a fine substitution. I also had a lot of basil in my own garden that needed to be harvested soon–so I made a very easy pesto sauce.  New potatoes? No problem. Toasted pine nuts? Got ’em. Shrimp? Got some nice Gulf shrimp right around the corner at the market. Handmade pasta? With not enough time to handmake some pasta, I just used some lasagna sheets and halved and quartered them. (I just tried to renovate a garage for godsakes! Gimme a break, will ya?)

   

 

Frank Stitt Wanna Be Pesto with Pasta, Beans, Potatoes and ShrimpAnd what element did I taste in Frank Stitt’s (Chef at Bottega) homemade pasta that made it truly decadent? What one food item made this dish over-the-top?

Butter! Oh yes, Mr. Stitt does not skimp on the butter–and I was determined to not skimp on it either! We don’t want to make Mr. Stitt angry when we copy his recipes, now do we?

I have to say, though I did not make the wonderfully delicate handmade pasta that I had at Bottega, and I think my version of this dish needed about a quarter cup more pesto (and, yes, even more butter!), for my first attempt at this, it turned out very well. I will definitely make it again–perhaps when I have more time to make the pasta myself. 

 

 

 

Glenn with DrillYou may be wondering just how much work got done on that garage by week’s end. Well? It still looks very much under construction, but we did get some of the worst of the jobs completed–we framed in the front, replaced a wall in the back–but there’s so much more work that needs to be done before we can inhabit it in any way. I think I’m sensing another “work-cation” coming soon–followed by a dinner out!

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is my very loose interpretation of  Frank Stitt’s Handmade Pasta with Pesto, Shrimp, Beans, and Potatoes (I can’t remember the actual name of it!)

This served two people–one of those people was extremely hungry. Also, I really made this up as I went along…so you could add or subtract whatever you wish.

1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts

2 medium new potatoes, cooked and sliced

6 lasagna noodles, cooked, halved and quartered

a handful (about a cup) of string beans (or pole beans), string removed and cut to about an inch

1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled and deviened. I salted and peppered these quite liberally. You know, cause I’m a liberal.

2 tablespoons of butter (if I made this again, I probably would have used even more! WOW!)

about a cup of pesto (see my recipe below)

salt and pepper to taste

 

Here’s basically what I did. First, I toasted the pine nuts in a cast-iron skillet.

Then, I cooked the potatoes for about 15 minutes (or until they were tender). I put the lasagna noodles in the same water for about 10 minutes. Because there were only 6 noodles, it was easy to just lift them out of the water to drain them. Then I removed the potatoes and sliced them and sprinkled them lightly with kosher salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, I put the beans in the same water to blanche them for about 3 minutes.

Then I put everything into a large skillet in this order: butter first (till it melted), then shrimp (for about 3 minutes…until they started to turn pink), beans (I gave them another 2 minutes or so), cut up noodles, potatoes, pine nuts, and finally pesto. Mix everything up until the pesto covers all.

 

My basic pesto recipe (this was not quite enough pesto, in my opinion. Next time I’d probably add about a 1/4 cup)

1/4 cup chicken stock

handful of basil (stems removed)

1 clove garlic (I hate pesto that is too garlicky. Some people like more garlic…so add more if you do!)

1/8 cup parmesean

approximately 1/4 cup olive oil–possibly a little more to bring it to a looser consistency

salt and pepper to taste

Note: I usually add walnuts or pine nuts to my pesto, but because there were pine nuts in Frank Stitt’s recipe, I decided to leave them out. Also, I wanted my pesto to be thin, not thick.

 

Put everything but the olive oil into a blender or food processor. Blend while streaming in the olive oil until it gets to be a nice consistency. Some people like a thick pesto, but I prefer mine fairly thin–like a vinagrette.

Check for seasoning–add salt and pepper if necessary. The parmesean will make it fairly salty, though.

Vegetable Burritos with Red Pepper Cheese Spread

Fresh Veggies from JVUF

Some women get flowers. I get vegetables.

 

Pink Beauty Tomatoes, Yellow Straight Squash, Zephyr Squash, and Orient Express Eggplant

I’m totally fine with that. Because I’m a vegetable geek, that’s why. Especially when the vegetables are Pink Beauty tomatoes, Zephyr squash (that’s the two-toned variety above), Orient Express eggplant and Cherokee Purple tomatoes (these actually have a purple hue to them). Their names are so lovely, it’s hard to think of them as just tomatoes, squash, and eggplant.

How many of these things can I stuff into one meal without dinner being called “Pile O’ Vegetables with Vegetables on the Side”? Well, here’s a case in point. The other night I made vegetable burritos using eggplant and squash, but instead of just plain ol’ cheese, I used a red pepper cheese spread I made a couple of nights before. The spread is really a dip, and I got the recipe from Smitten Kitchen. It’s great as a dip, but I liked it even better spread out on a flour tortilla to rest my sweet veggies upon (they are high-maintenance veggies). Another note about the dip: the recipe on Smitten Kitchen calls for just red bell peppers, but my husband brought home hot red peppers (Sahuaro peppers), so that made for a really spicy kick that was great with the vegetables and flour tortilla. If you don’t want the extra spice, just use red bell peppers.

 Red pepper cheese spread

 Essentials: sea salt and a glass of wine

  Sauteeing Squash and Eggplant

 

I used the Pink Beauty tomatoes to make a very simple salsa with onions, a couple of small jalapenos from my own garden, lime juice, salt, and pepper. You could throw some garlic in there too if you like.

 

I'd gladly trade you my bone for just a tablespoon of salsa

I'd gladly trade you my bone for just a tablespoon of salsa

 

Add some canned black beans, and you’ve got yourself a burrito-type thing. A delicious burrito-type thing! Maybe not exactly what you’d get in Mexico, but if it’s good, who needs authenticity, right? I think the red pepper spread really made these excellent burritos. Also, the fresh sweetness of the tomatoes was a nice compliment to the savory eggplant and squash.

 

Blog Grilled Veggie Burritos with red pepper cheese spread

 

Veggie Burritos with Red Pepper Cheese Spread

Makes enough for 2-3 large burritos

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

1 medium squash (or zucchini), cut into 1 inch peices

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 inch peices

A small can of seasoned black beans (you can use plain black beans too. They won’t be quite as flavorful, but they’ll have less sodium.)

Flour tortillas (burrito sized)-I use Mission Flour Tortillas, though the number of Mexican grocery stores in my neighborhood is so high that it is really a crime for me to be using store-bought. Shame on me.  

Salsa (see recipe below or use salsa from a jar)

Red pepper cheese spread (see recipe below or use some cheddar or monterey jack cheese instead)

 

Sprinkle the eggplant and squash with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Before I do anything else, I cut the eggplant and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. I let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes. The salt actually takes the bitterness out of the eggplant–which is generally the thing that most people don’t like about eggplant. So, do that, and then you can take the time to make the spread or salsa while the eggplant rests.

Make the spread and salsa and warm the beans in a small saucepan on low heat.

Saute the eggplant and squash in some olive oil over medium-high heat for about 5-8 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want your vegetables. I like them semi-crunchy, but browned nicely on the outside. If you like them a bit more tender, turn down the heat and saute for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, microwave the flour tortillas for about 30 seconds each. I usually microwave each one separately (mainly because there are only two of us), but you could also warm them in the oven or in the microwave all at the same time; just follow the directions on the package.

Spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the red pepper cheese spread onto each tortilla.  

Spoon about a 1/4 cup of salsa onto each tortilla

Spoon about a 1/4 cup of beans onto each tortilla

Place the vegetables on top

Fold the tortilla. I fold the bottom up like a diaper (I know, that is an icky analogy, but don’t think too hard about it, okay?), then I fold each side in like I’m wrapping up my little burrito to go out into cold weather (um, just fold it however works. eh hem…moving on)

 

for the salsa

1 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 jalapeno, minced

juice of 1/2 a lime

1/2 teaspoon of salt (or to taste)

1 tablespoon of chopped cilantro (if desired)

Combine all the above. Allow salsa to sit for a few minutes so the flavors marry (and forever live happily ever after). Again, if you don’t like anything too spicy, just leave out the jalapeno.

 

for the red pepper cheese spread

Got this recipe from Smitten Kitchen

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.