Thursday, August 12, 2010

Pan-Roasted Pork Chops With Sage & Garlic; Red Quinoa

I wouldn't classify myself as a huge carnivore, but when I do eat meat, I like it to be good quality meat. I buy most of our meat at our local farmer's market which a) keeps us from eating too much meat due to the expense and b) makes me much more conscious of the meat's quality, how I cook it, etc. These pork chops come from Stillman's Farm, and they were, like everything I've ever purchased from Stillman's, absolutely amazing. So, when meat is fresh and of high quality, I tend to go for minimalist recipes that enhance the meat's own flavor (sometimes a challenge with pork). I had some fresh sage that I picked up at the Farmer's Market, and so a little googling brought me to Josh Friedland's wonderful blog, The Food Section.

Friedland summarized the recipe for the pork chops from Suzanne Dunaway's Rome at Home. I followed his directions with one tiny addition: white wine in addition to the lemon juice. I did need more liquid after the first lemon's worth of juice, so I used wine instead of another lemon. No regrets. :)

These pork chops were amazing (I said that already). Pan-roasting takes awhile, particularly for chops that have a decent amount of fat (which helps keep the chops moist), so be prepared to stand at the stove for awhile, if you have large cuts. But, as Friedland says, the sage is the key to this recipe. Infusing the oil with the sage and garlic, rather than cooking the chops IN the sage makes a huge difference.

I served it with leftover Mixed Bean Salad and Red Quinoa with Currants. I like red quinoa much more than plain---it is more aromatic and "nuttier." I followed the directions on the package, but used chicken broth instead of water and added currants and dash of black truffle oil right at the end of cooking (basically when the quinoa is done, but "sitting" in its own heat). That plumps up the currants nicely and the truffle oil helps bring out the nutty flavor of the quinoa.

Summer Salad Marathon: Mixed Bean Salad with Tomato Dressing

I currently have us on a "meat every-other-day" plan, but my low blood sugar requires protein in almost every meal. So...I am working very hard to find ways to incorporate beans into our diet. I'm not a big fan of beans (kidney, pinto, black-eyed, lima, you name it). I tend to tolerate them, and really only enjoy black beans in Mexican food. But in my quest for optimal health, it seems practical to find a way to eat them more often.

This recipe comes from one of my most-used and most-loved cookbooks, The Cook's Encyclopedia of Thirty Minute Cooking by Jenni Fleetwood. I don't really care about the "thirty minute" part (usually), but I love the variety and ease of the recipes.

In addition to blanched green beans (which I love), mixed canned beans (I used pintos and black beans), celery, onion (I used red), tomatoes, fresh parsley, I also tossed in a can of whole kernel corn....mostly for color, but I really liked the little bit of sweetness that it added.

The dressing calls for "tomato chutney" and that's not something I have on hand, so I just finely chopped a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and that did worked just fine:
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • 2 tbls red wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove crushed
  • 1 tbls tomato chutney (?)
  • salt and ground black pepper

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Russ Parsons' White Bean Crostini & Book Review

If you haven't read How to Read a French Fry and Other Stories of Intriguing Kitchen Science by Russ Parsons, Food Editor for the Los Angeles Times, you really should. Understanding the science behind cooking is half the battle and makes it a lot easier to experiment when you have some inkling of what might happen when you cook with a certain oil at a certain temperature. Chemistry aside, Parsons also includes some VERY tasty recipes--including the White Bean crostini (p. 191).

Pasta pomodoro, heirloom tomato salad & white bean crostini

The white bean puree is incredibly easy, and the only "special" ingredient is white truffle oil. Parsons writes helpful hints, as in this caution about truffle oil: "Too much, and it smells like hair tonic."

I haven't finished reading the whole thing, but I've used several recipes from this book and recommend it! Parsons' writing is very accessible, "user-friendly" and humorous!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Meze: Saffron Risotto-stuffed baby squid

Saffron Risotto-stuffed Calamari with Tri-Colored Pepper & Zebra Tomato salad

I picked up this little bargain cookbook quite awhile ago, and let me just say now, for the record, I don't know how on earth Amazon sellers would justify asking $57.95, and no...wait for it.. $135.71 for a cheap, paperback 64 page K├Ânemann cookbook. That's disgraceful. I think I paid $4 at most. At any rate, I digress.

I've made several recipes from Anne Wilson's Meze: Mediterranean-Style Eating, and while many of the recipes are labor-intensive (and some are missing list ingredients, ahem), most everything I've made has turned out well, including my first try with dolmades.

So tonight I decided to try the Saffron Risotto-stuffed Baby Squid, given the presence of calamari in my freezer and my great love for risotto. I left out two of the main ingredients for the risotto (leeks and fennel) and substituted a few other ingredients:

Saffron risotto-stuffed calamari (adapted from Anne Wilson, Meze: p. 50)

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/4 cup chicken broth (Wilson suggests vegetable stock)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter (or just use 3 tablespoons olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • a pinch of ground saffron
  • freshly ground pepper and salt
  • 16 calamari hoods
  • 3 lemons, sliced
1. Combine wine and broth in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
2. Heat the oil and butter (or just oil) in a heavy-based saucepan or skillet, and add the garlic, cooking over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add the rice, stirring for 1 minute, making sure to coat the grains with the oil. Gradually add the hot broth mixture, one ladle at a time, stirring frequently until all the liquid has been absorbed before adding more.
4. When rice is tender, add saffron and season well with salt and pepper. Spread the risotto onto a flat tray to cool slightly.

5. Preheat the oven to 350F. Stuff each squid hood with two teaspoons of the risotto. {It was messy, but easier to just use my hands}. Be careful not to overfill the squid or they may split during cooking. Secure the top of each squid with a cocktail pick.

6. Line a baking sheet with foil, add the lemon slices and top with the stuffed squid. Cover and bake for 20 minutes, turning once, or until the squid are cooked and tender. Don't spoon the sauce over the squid as it is too bitter. (She's right! I tasted it to be sure). Discard the lemon and juices after cooking and serve the squid whole or cut into slices.

This was really quite a lovely recipe and great for summer. I imagine you could even serve it chilled. I cut a few of the calamari into rings, but would probably only take the time to present all of it this way if I was making this for company (it is time consuming, as you have to keep the risotto in the ring). If you have just a little bit of patience for the risotto and the stuffing, this is really a rather easy recipe!