I get a lot of e-mails with misguided questions: Yesterday I heard from a woman who thinks she needs to eat 1 raw mushroom and 1 raw slice of onion every day as part of a new diet — no cooking allowed. Last week I received an e-mail about the right way to get grocery store tomatoes more ripe; she thought she was storing them wrong because they always looked white and grainy when she sliced them and tasted like cardboard (rather than because they were bred for cross-country or international travel, not flavor).
Pork chops aren’t something I make very often, but these showed up in the “take-home” fridge at the office, so I thought I’d give them a try. They’re thick, bone-in chops, so the cooking time was a bit longer than if you use boneless chops, but the salsa would work well on either. Pork traditionally pairs well with fruit, and this white peach salsa was delicious.
I used a grill pan to cook the chops, as having a real out-in-the-backyard grill is a bit out of reach for apartment-dwellers, and it worked great. Pan-frying pork chops in just a little bit of oil would work well, too. I used an instant-read meat thermometer to check the internal temp of the meat while cooking. When it reaches 145-degrees, it’s safe to take off the heat. Let the meat rest for 5 minutes under a foil tent — this helps with the chop’s juiciness, and the internal temp of the meat will continue to rise to about 150-degrees.
Using a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure chops aren’t over- or under-done. Because people are so concerned about under-cooking pork, tough, chewy overdone chops are a frequent reality. Unfortunately, many companies now sell “enhanced” pork products to help keep them juicy even when overcooked. This basically means injecting the chops with a salt water mixture, which adds a hefty dose of sodium to what would otherwise be a nice cut of meat. If you do buy pork chops, check the ingredients list to see what’s included: it shouldn’t be more than just pork.
Grilled Pork Chops with Peach Salsa
Adapted from epicurious.com
– 3 white peaches, firm and ripe, pitted and chopped
– 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
– 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
– 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
– Salt and pepper, to season
– 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil or cooking spray
– 2 pork chops,bone-in, about 1 1/2-inch thick
– 3 Tablespoons whole cumin seeds
– 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1. To make the salsa, gently combine the peaches, shallot, lime juice, and cilantro together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Preheat the grill pan by turning the heat to medium-highand coat the pan lightly with oil. If not using a grill pan, pan-fry the pork chops in a skillet (if cast iron, preheat well, if nonstick, do not preheat as long — don’t let the oil smoke).
3. Meanwhile, crush the cumin seeds to coat the pork chops. Gently spread the seeds on a cutting board in a small pile. Using the bottom of a heavy pan or skillet, press down and grind by slightly rocking the pan you as you push downwards. Continue crushing until the cumin seeds become fragrant and roughly cracked. Using your hands, rub each pork chop thoroughly with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and coat with the cumin seeds. Press the coating into the chops to make it stick.
4. Cook the pork chops: When the pan is hot, add the chops and sear each side, about 4 minutes on each side (it should make some noise when you add the chops to the pan). Turn the heat to medium and continue cooking the chops, about 12 to 15 minutes, flipping as needed, until a meat thermometer reads 145-degrees.
5. Transfer the chops to a plate, cover with aluminum foil, and let rest for 5 minutes. Transfer the pork chops to dinner plate and top generously with the peach salsa.
I had such ambitions for these zucchini flowers. They were picked fresh from a community/commuter’s garden near my office. You’re welcome to pick what’s fresh and take it home, but the idea is to leave enough for the commuters who walk by after you.
But instead of stuffing my garden-picked zucchini blossoms with fresh homemade ricotta, I waited too long and my blossoms wilted. So, the ricotta became one of four cheeses in this creamy pasta dish. This is not a super-healthy dish, but it’s still quite good. …
We made risotto cakes with the leftover risotto from the night before, but getting to try these was actually half the reason I wanted to make risotto in the first place. They’re creamy, warm cakes of risotto stuffed with a little bubbly cheese in the middle. Just one is filling enough for a supper, and in the true spirit of leftovers, there wasn’t a whole lot of prep work or clean-up….
Risotto is one of my go-to dishes when I’m low on ingredients or shopping time before dinner. I usually keep a stock of Arborio rice and Parmesan cheese on hand, so a dish like this is easy to put together. It’s not necessary a super-quick meal because risotto does take about 3o minutes of vigilant stirring, but it is simple in that it doesn’t require a lot of multi-tasking or steps that are easy to overlook. It’s basically a one-pot meal, which has its benefits. Plus, I find the stirring to be rather relaxing.
I made a batch of this beans & rice dish for a family trip up to Vermont. We had it on a Sunday afternoon before heading out to the Long Trail Brewery, for the 4th day in a row.
I’ve never been a lentil fan, but I’m determined to start liking them. As with beans, I’ve been turned off by their grainy and sometimes mushy texture. But, as with getting kids to like veggies, you just have to keep exposing yourself to a food to find an affinity for it. I thought that with the right combination of ingredients, these beautiful lentils could be delicious.
These crispy spring rolls were inspired by an appetizer at the neighborhood restaurant David & I go to whenever we want a low-key night out. Living in the North End, there are a ton of options for fancy Italian dining, but somehow David & I find ourselves drawn to Panza over and over again. I think a big pull for me is their generous use of goat cheese in pasta sauces. And, they have a spring roll appetizer stuffed with mushrooms. It’s always warm, slightly sweet, and wrapped in just the right amount of crunchiness….
I love butternut squash ravioli and sweet potato ravioli, but it’s so hard to find a recipe for this dish that doesn’t feature a sage and brown butter sauce. Instead, I wanted to find something equally (or more) appetizing to top off my pillows of pasta. I opted for figs and prosciutto with a balsamic dressing, and it turned out really well. I added freshly grated Parmesan to top it off.
I had some dried figs leftover from a goat cheese and fig crostini I made as an appetizer a few weeks ago.
On Saturday mornings, once a month, I join a handful of volunteers in my neighborhood to distribute groceries and share coffee & conversation with residents who often have trouble getting to the grocery store or find themselves with limited resources. The people who come to our post to pick-up goodies tend to be on the older side and Italian immigrants (this is the North End). I got the idea for this dish while talking to one of our residents last month: it’s a dish he remembered from his younger years. He described eggs poached in a simmering broth of tomatoes and garlic served over toast. He didn’t have a recipe per se, just thoughts and memories on ingredients and flavors.
Last weekend, I took a shot at the dish based just on our conversation. Instead of toast, I thought it would be fun to serve the eggs over a bed of polenta. I made it for both Saturday and Sunday breakfast, cooking the polenta by baking it first, and by pan-frying it the second day. Since poaching eggs can be a delicate task taking up much of a small stove top, I thought it simplified things to put the polenta cakes in the oven and just let them be.
Also, the first day we made it, I thought the tomatoes overpowered the flavors of the eggs. When you make this, it’s important to let the tomatoes cook long enough so they start to break up and form a sauce. The softer your tomato component, the better it will blend with the creamy polenta and runny yolks.