25 September 2009

More Birthday Wishes! With a Side of Pork Chop

Happy Birthday to my boyfriend, Jason! Love you!!

Onto the main event: Pork Chops with Braised Cabbage and Apples in a Hot Pepper Apple Jelly and Oven Roasted Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts. Is that a mouthful or what? This dish was divine! It was the perfect meal for a cool autumn day - and I know it is a meal that my boyfriend would have loved to eat with me. I must remember this meal and share it with him!

I had a craving for pork chops recently, and I wanted to sample some hot pepper jelly my mom canned earlier this summer. To me, pairing pork with a spicy, tart, sweet jelly seemed like a no-brainer. My mom tried a new recipe which incorporated apples with the hot peppers, sugar and vinegar to make a thick jam with flecks of red pepper. It was quite good, especially with the pork. I first pan seared the pork chops while I roasted the brussels sprouts and mushrooms in the oven. Then I removed the chops and added some sliced red onions, apples and cabbage into the pan. Then I added a bit of water, a splash of cider vinegar and a dollop of pepper jelly. Once the jelly melted into the vegetables, I added the pork chops back into the pan, covered and cooked the chops until done.

The cabbage and apples kept a little bit of crunch from not cooking too long, and the pork chop was moist and tasty in the sauce. I loved the roasted vegetables alongside the pork, but I think mashed potatoes would make an equally lovely accompaniament. If you wanted to make the sauce a little more decadent, you could stir in a couple pats of butter after taking it off the heat at the very end. It would create a richer sauce, but I thought it was very nice on its own.

Since this isn't an actual recipe - just follow your gut instinct. But here is an approximation of what I did:
Serves 2

2 Pork Chops (I used boneless here)
1/2 head of savoy cabbage, shredded
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 large apple, thinly sliced
1.5 T hot pepper jelly
~ 1/4 cup water
~ 2 T cider vinegar
~ 1 T olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

-Liberally salt both sides of pork chops (I used over 1/4 cup of salt total - use plenty cuz you will rinse most of it off) and allow to rest on the counter for about 20-30 minutes before cooking
-Preheat a skillet over medium-high heat, add oil when you are ready to cook the chop
-Rinse and dry the pork chops and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper
-Sear both sides of the pork chops for about 2 minutes/side and remove chops from pan
-Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions; cook for 3-4 minutes
-Add the apples and cabbage; cook for 3-4 minutes, then add the water and vinegar
-Scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the carmelized bits up and add the pepper jelly, stir to combine
-When the jelly has melted into the sauce, return the chops to the pan, cover and cook over medium heat until chops are done to your preference

24 September 2009

Perfect Summer Lunch with Tzatziki

First of all - Happy Birthday to my sister, Laura, today!!

Phew. I am still trying to get caught up from my weekend in Chicago. In case you missed it, Laura posted many more details and pictures on her blog about our adventure. It truly was a wonderful, whirlwind trip, and I am really happy I got to do with my big sister. It was like our last big adventure before I move away (and really, we haven't had any super-cool-adventures since she had kids, so that was extra fun too!). Anyway, go check out her blog if you are interested in more U2 pictures or her ode to Rick Bayless - who 110% totally deserves his reputation as a Mexican Food God. O I wish I could live closer to his restaurants... so freakin' tasty.

But life goes back to normal in Ohio... well kind of normal...I was back and forth to my little brother's house last week for my niece's birthday party and other visits. My sister in law made awesome food again - especially, as usual, the delicious Kielbasa and Sauerkraut and a really tasty Jello creation with cranberries that I am going to have to get the recipe for! Also, my roommate is moving out since I am getting ready to move to Massachusetts to be with my boyfriend. Which in turn means I need to get my butt in gear and start packing. I have no official moving date, but there is a tentative closing date on his house which is my current guiding light - October 30th. Understandably, my blogging and cooking are sporadic at best with my inability to concentrate on anything.

But in true procrastination mode, onto food! Greek food in fact. Greek food always seems really complicated to me - I rarely feel like attempting to make it at home. Which is pretty strange considering much of it is simple and easy to throw together. I think this must be one of my mental blocks, of which I seem to have many! :) I think Greek food does dips better than any other cuisine other than maybe Mexican. Anything you put in a food processor and can schmear on pita or vegetables, makes me so happy. I was flipping channels (more procrastination!) and noticed a tv chef making tzatziki, I decided I should try it at home - how hard could it be? I am thrilled I took the plunge.

I had a large container of my favorite Greek yogurt in the refrigerator- Fage 0%- and I decided to drain some of the yogurt overnight. I have always heard that yogurt gets even better with draining, and I must admit it was shocking how much thicker and creamier a no-fat yogurt can become. It was like thicker whipped cream cheese, or a really dense ricotta. I could have eaten it with a little salt on crackers on its own. But I went ahead and consulted a Martha Stewart book and adapted her Tzatziki recipe to suit my tastes. The cucumber and dill are such a lovely combination. You should try it too - so yummy on any vegetable or bread, and I discovered I love it on hard-boiled egg whites! (I give my dogs my hard-boiled egg yolks since I don't care for them, but it would probably be tasty on the whole egg.)

adapted from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook, The Original Classics
(my changes are in red)

Makes 1 Quart

This Middle Eastern condiment is often paired with spicy foods; yogurt tames the heat of chiles and spices.

3 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (I coarsely shredded on a box grater and used large pickling cukes - so no need to seed or completely peel)
2 t kosher salt
2 c plain yogurt (I used Fage 0% and drained it overnight in a paper-towel lined colander set over a bowl in the refrigerator)
2 t minced garlic (I used one small clove) 2 T minced fresh dill
1 T minced fresh mint (I ommitted and subbed in 1 T fresh basil)
1 T extra-virgin olive oil (I accidentally omitted, but the drained yogurt didn't need it)
1 T fresh lemon juice

In a colander, toss cucumbers and 1 teaspoon salt. Place colander in sink; let drain 20-30 minutes. Press cucumbers to extract the excess liquid. Transfer to a bowl; mix in yogurt, garlic, dill, mint, oil, lemon juice, and remaining salt. Chill about 1 hour for the flavors to blend; serve at room temperature. (I added freshly ground pepper and added the salt to taste)

15 September 2009

Where Have I Been Lately?

In the Windy City watching U2.


Once in the front row.

Bono was about 3 feet from me.

Adam grinned at us.

Forgive me for not cooking for a few days... I am all atwitter (and very, very tired).

09 September 2009

Scallops + Orange + Basil = Tummy Love

Wow. That one word sums up this dish. I truly felt like I was dining in a ritzy French restaurant for lunch when I took the first bite of these Pan Fried Scallops with Orange-Basil Sauce.

I first discovered this recipe while having an "email discussion" with my sister about cookbooks. For some reason I was thumbing through my copy of Terrific Pacific Cookbook by Anya Von Bremzen and John Welchman, and I noticed this scallop recipe. Since my sister has turned into a scallop fiend (who could have ever predicted that would happen?!) I pointed the recipe out to her. But the more I stared at the recipe, the more I knew I would be making this recipe as soon as possible.

As soon as possible was a little challenging simply because the recipe calls for a rather unique ingredient: whole green peppercorns in brine. While I have certainly heard of this ingredient, I had never seen it or tasted it. I was on a mission to find the peppercorns. On my fourth or fifth stop, I finally found the peppercorns! I have to give a shout-out to The Hills Market in Worthington, Ohio for stocking unusual ingredients and having outstanding customer service! I highly recommend calling ahead instead of driving around like a chicken with its head cut off like I did. I think this dish would be tasty without the peppercorns, but it was also fun to try a completely new flavor.

The orange and basil are the perfect flavors to accent the mild, sweet flavor of scallops. The peppercorns are a bright, spicy contrast against the sweet orange. When you bite into a peppercorn, you get an explosion of spicy peppercorn flavor. It also has a slightly medicinal or chemical flavor that seemed to put off my roommate. I don't think I would sit and snack on them, but they were a lovely counterpoint in this dish.

Pan Fried Scallops with Orange-Basil Sauce
from Terrific Pacific Cookbook

In Singapore we indulged in all manner of street food, had fun eating with our fingers at "banana leaf" Indian curry dives, and feated like emperors at lavish Chinese banquets. But our final lunch in this city was French, at a great bistro called the Marco Polo. These scallops, accented with the tang of citrus and perfumed with basil, were one of the dishes we sampled there, and its fresh, bright flavors seemed right at home on this exotic island.

1/2 cup fish stock, bottle clam juice, or water (I used clam juice) 1/3 cup dry vermouth, preferably Noilly Prat (I sought out the Noilly Prat and it is wonderful!)
3 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled (I used more like 4 tablespoons cuz I didn't mind a less buttery sauce)
1 1/4 pounds sea scallops, halved lengthwise if large
1 tablespoon whole green peppercorns in brine, drained
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small, seedless orange, peel and all the white pith removed, cut into medium dice
3 tablespoons shredded fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a medium-size nonreactive saucepan, combine the fish stock, vermouth, wine and orange juice and reduce over medium heat to 1/4 cup, about 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallops and cook until opaque throughout, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and keep warm while preparing the sauce. (I used more like 1 tablespoon of butter here)

3. Cut the remaining 5 1/2 tablespoons of butter into small pieces. Remove the stock mixture from the heat and quickly whisk in the butter, 1 piece at a time, working on and off low heat, to keep the sauce at an even, butter-melting temperature. Whisk constantly until all the butter is emulsified. Stir in the peppercorns, lemon juice, orange and basil and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I used more like 3 tablespoons of butter in this step)

4. To serve, divide the sauce among 4 plates and top with the scallops.

Serves 4