Pork Chop & Rice with Sweet & Sour Cherry Sauce

Pork Chop and Sweet & sour Cherry Sauce

 

My best friend brought over about a quart of fresh sour cherries she picked yesterday. I decided I might try them as an option for sweet and sour pork chops since I had some fresh pineapple that could be used to sweeten their sourness.

First I cooked some rice. I always make 2 cups of rice when I cook it because it stores well and I can use it in many dishes. To make rice, I put two cups of long grain white rice in my wire strainer and run it under cold water, rinsing away the starch. I then put it in a pot that has a tight-fitting lid with 3 cups of cold water and 1 tsp of salt. I turn up the heat to medium high and let it come to a rolling boil. Then I turn the heat off and leave it until I am ready to serve. I do not lift the lid. I do not stir. I do nothing at all. It will be perfectly done if I leave it alone, steaming in the pot. Now I like slightly dryer rice than many Americans, so you can try up to 4 cups of cold water. 4 cups gives you the usual soft (and to me, mushy) American style of cooked rice.

To make the sauce, I cut about 1 inch off a ginger root, peeled and minced. I then minced 3 garlic cloves. I heated t tbsp of olive oil in a skillet and added about 10 cardamom seeds that I removed from 2 pods. I then added the ginger and garlic and let them sauté while i chopped up half a small purple onion and added that. I let that sauté away while I pitted cherries, cutting them in half and removing pits. When I had one cup of pitted cherries, I added that to the sauté pan with the onions, garlic and ginger. I then added a dash or Sriracha and 1 serrano pepper, minced. I let the cherries cook until tender. Then I added 1/4 cup of chopped fresh pineapple and the juice from chopping it up. Taste-testing, it was still a bit too sour, so i added about 1 TBSP of buckwheat honey. Now it was perfect. I had enough for two chops, but I only cooked one, putting the rest in a container for another day.

I heated a pan with a bit of oil and fried the pork chop. After it was done on one side, I turned it over and poured half the cherry sauce on top of the chop and let it continue to fry. When it was done, I put it on a plate with some rice and made sure to spoon rest of the sauce from the pork chop pan onto the rice.

Pork loves fruit and sour cherries were no exception. The sauce was hot, tart, sour and sweet. That buckwheat honey gives it s deep earthiness that regular honey does not. Balancing sour does not always require a lot of sweet. Spicy can balance sour, too, and in this case, spice was a great balance. The addition of cardamom added a rich, headiness that made the whole thing so fulfilling to all the senses.

 

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Mushroom Barley Soup

Mushroom Barley Soup

You can easily make a vegetarian or vegan version of this soup and it will still be delicious. Simply substitute olive oil for butter and vegetable broth for chicken broth. Mushrooms make a flavorful broth on their own and believe me, when you are cooking barley you will cook everything long enough to get the flavor from the mushrooms to infuse the broth.

Most people soak barley overnight before cooking, but my mom never did and neither do I. It cooks up to a nice toothsome tenderness just fine in about 2 hours or so.

So, making this I first sliced up 10 small crimini mushrooms and dry sautéed them. Dry sauté is the best way to cook mushrooms as it draws moisture out which will make their flavor richer and help them keep not get too mushy while cooking. Once you try it you will never go back to just tossing the mushrooms in. All you do is heat the pan to a medium, medium-low and toss the mushrooms in to cook for about 10 minutes. Stir frequently so they don’t stick to the pan.

In the interim, dice one small yellow onion. When the mushrooms are done (10 minutes) add 2 TBSP of butter (or olive oil if you want a vegan version) and add the onions as soon as its melted. Sauté until they are turn transparent. Add some salt and pepper and 2 tsp of dried thyme. You want to add salt and pepper in layers – as you add ingredients. You actually will probably use less because the flavor is integrated throughout.

Meanwhile, peel and chop two carrots and two stalks of celery. Add them to the pot and cook for another five minutes or so, just enough to potentiate their flavor before adding the broth. This will make the broth richer and more flavorful. Add some salt and pepper.

Add 4 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegan version) and  1.5 cups of pearl barley. Stir, put the lid on and let cook, on a low boil, stirring every 10 minutes or so for the next hour and half or so. Keep checking to see if the barley is tender after 1.5 hours and remove when you get the right texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This is flavorful, rich and very hearty. it is comfort food for me. I love barley with its slight nuttiness and barley and mushrooms are made for each other.  This makes four large servings of soup.

Sausage, Mushroom and Chard Omelet with Dill/Garlic Cream Cheese

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Every once in a while I just have to make myself a decadent, delicious omelet full of good stuff. This was a new one for me as I have never used chard before in an omelet, but it works well. It is slightly bitter so so I added some flavored cream cheese to add a bit of sweetness to balance its bitterness. It was absolutely delicious.

First I sliced up 4 small Crimini mushrooms into thin vertical slices. I heated a small non-reactive pan to low-medium  and tossed the mushrooms in the pan without any oil or water. I stirred them to keep them from sticking or burning. Dry heating the mushrooms for 5 minutes or so will suck out some of the excess moisture so your omelet stuffing won’t be too full of liquid and get all messy. The mushrooms will have a deeper, richer flavor if you dry cook them first and will retain a firmer texture. It’s a win all the way round and anytime mushrooms are featured in your dish, you should just dry cook them before you start cooking your recipe. You can read more about the dry sauté method here, though I think low-medium gives me better results, but then I did not want them browned and caramelized.

Now that the mushrooms are ready to cook, I put a tbsp of butter in the pan with the mushrooms. I also added small pieces of breakfast sausage that I cut into pieces about 1/3rd of an inch long. I let the mushrooms and sausage cook together while I chopped up the leaf from one stalk of chard (about 1 cup of chopped chard) that I had cleaned and removed from the stem earlier (I used the stems in a salad.) I layered the chard on top so and put a lid on and let it all cook together.

While that cooked, I flavored 1/3 cup of cream cheese by adding 1 tsp of dried dill weed and 1 tsp of garlic powder and stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring until the cream cheese was softened and it was all mixed together. I added some salt to bring up the flavor a bit and cut the sweetness.

Checking back on the mixture of sausage, mushrooms and chard, I stirred a few times, mixing them together and added a touch of salt and pepper. The idea is to season the components of your dish so that when they come together the dish is well-seasoned. If you wait to season at the end, it will probably be under-seasoned and bland and then when you sit down to eat you will put too much salt and pepper on to compensate.

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When the sausage was done and the chard was tender, it was time to make the omelet. I used a lefse griddle, but you can use a pancake griddle or other large flat cooking surface. I heated the griddle to 250° F while the sausage mixture was cooking. I also mixed up 3 eggs, beating them until smooth and adding about 2 TBSP of water. I also added some pepper. Now, you don’t salt scrambled eggs because you want them to be light, tender and fluffy. If you are cooking eggs over easy or sunny side up, you can salt them, but not for scrambled eggs or omelets.

I took ! TBSP of butter on the end of a fork and spread it all over the griddle, letting it melt and cover the entire surface with a thin layer of butter. Then I poured the beaten eggs onto the center of the griddle, taking the handles on the side of the griddle and tipping it forward and backward, left and right to make the eggs spread out into as large and thin a surface as possible. Then I let it cook. The heat is low so it will cook in about 3 minutes or so, ample time to fork small dollops of the flavored cream cheese all over the center area of the omelet. After that, I spread the sausage, mushroom and chard over the center, spreading it thinly and leaving about 2 inches on all sides uncovered.

When the eggs were done, I used a lefse turner, but you can use a thin spatula, to turn that two inch edge inward over the omelet stuffing and then began rolling the omelet over and over sort of like a burrito. As you can see, I folded it over four times, making several layers of egg and stuffing. I slid it onto a plate and cut it in half before serving.

So, the flavored cream cheese was decadent as all get out and melted into the sausage, mushrooms and chard it was amazing. The omelet filing was delicious, rich and hearty with just enough spiciness from the sausage and the garlic in the cream cheese. The eggs were tender and lightly done. The real secret to delicious eggs is low heat.

 

 

Rutabaga, Carrot & Red Chard Salad

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This is a delicious “pickled” salad to make ahead as it takes several hours of marinating for the flavors to fully develop. It’s bright, beautiful, crispy, crunchy and flavorful. A perfect snack.

This salad came about when I was trying to think of a way to use the stems that are usually discarded when cooking with chard. I happened to be using red chard, but I assume other chards will work as well. I had removed the leaves for a soup and was looking at the bright, ruby red stems and thought it was pity we didn’t use the stems in some way as they are so beautiful. I sliced off a piece of the stem and tasted it and thought it had a unique and interesting flavor that would work well in salads – sort of halfway between an onion and a beet.

I took one rutabaga, two carrots, 1 red onion and the stems of 6 red chard as well as 1 lemon for this salad.

I peeled the carrots and cut them down into matchsticks about 2 inches long. I used the first cut of matchsticks as a guide so that I cut all the veggies to the same length.

I then peeled the rutabaga and cut it into matchsticks as well. When peeling a rutabaga, be sure to peel deeper than just the purplish out skin. If you look closely you can see that there is a slightly lighter layer on the outside of the rutabaga. When using rutabaga raw in salads, you want to cut that away as it is a little woody and not crispy like the inside of the rutabaga.

I cut the chard into 2 inch pieces and then made vertical slices to cut it into matchsticks as well. On the stems, I cut the very outer edge (slightly darker red) where the leaves met the stalk away and discarded that before cutting the matchsticks. It’s not that it tastes bad or has a bad texture, but I did not want any of the green from the leaves in the salad.

I ten chopped up a small red onion cutting the pieces to about the same width as the matchsticks. I stirred everything together in the storage container I would use to marinate the salad.

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Once I had all the veggies cut, I squeezed the juice of one fresh lemon over the veggies and added around 1 TBSP of walnut oil. Olive oil would work as well. I then added just a bit of salt and pepper and 1/4 tsp of cayenne. I put the lid on the container and shook it all up well and stored in the fridge. Whenever I walked past the fridge I turned the container over, letting the liquid run through from top to bottom again and again.

The next day, I tried it out and it was a success. The blend of veggies bring together sweetness from carrots, earthiness from rutabaga and a bit of tart and bitter from the chard. The bright flavor of the onions and the lemons just marry it all together. The cayenne adds heat and sweetness. Cayenne is a wonderful spice when used carefully. It can bring out the natural sweetness of veggies like carrots and rutabagas. It’s a crispy, crunchy salad which makes it a great snack food since we all love crunchy snacks. Makes 4 cups of salad.

Dried Cranberries, Apple & Radish Greens Salad

Dried Cranberries, Apple & Radish Greens

When I made that Red Chard & Potato Soup yesterday, I saved the stems to see if I could come up with something tasty to use them in. I made up a salad that is marinating overnight. If it does not show up on the blog next, then it failed, but I have high hopes. While I was working on that salad, I decided to clean the radishes I bought, cutting off the tops because they wilt and rot so quickly. As I cut off the tops, I nibbled on one and thought that cooked, it might just be delicious. So here’s I browsed around looking for recipes using radish greens. One sounded very intriguing, but I don’t like raisins and I don’t have any nuts or seeds, so I decided to try reworking it a bit to use what I do have.

First I put about 2 dozen dried cranberries in a small bowl and poured enough balsamic vinegar in so that they were about 2/3rds covered. I let them soak in the balsamic vinegar for most of the afternoon so they rehydrated a bit and were soft. Once they were softer, I made the salad.

When I was cleaning the radishes earlier, I washed the greens about 4 times. Veggies with lots of crinkly veins can be hard to get really clean. To clean the radishes, I put them in the plastic veggie bag from the grocery store, added cold water and twisted the bag top shut and then shook them in the water. Then I drained the water off and repeated again until they didn’t dirty the water.

I put the seeds from 2 cardamom pods (about a dozen seeds) in a dry pan with about 6 peppercorns and heated them until the popped and perfumed the air. Meanwhile I peeled a tart apple (Granny Smith) cutting it into pieces about 1/2 by 1 inch.

I added 2 tbsp of walnut oil to the pan and brought it up to a medium heat. I added the apple pieces and let them sauté for about 3 minutes. They browned slightly. Their texture was slightly softer than raw apples, but still toothsome. It is really important you don’t let them get mushy. As soon as they cooked, I removed them from the oil.

While the apples cooked, I chopped up the radish greens. I removed the stems and cut into thin ribbons of greens. After removing the apples, I turned the heat up a notch and tossed in the greens. I stirred them while they cooked for about 1 minute until tender and a rich dark green. I removed them from the pan straight into the salad bowl with the apples. I then spooned out the cranberries from the balsamic and tossed them in, mixing up the salad. With the pepper and cardamom, the salad needed no salt or pepper to finish it. I saved the balsamic to the side. I can use it to dress a lettuce salad or marinate some beef.

The balsamic from the cranberries and the oil from cooking provided plenty of dressing for the salad, so I did not add more vinegar or oil. It was perfectly dressed as is.

It was a super flavorful salad, the cardamom and apple were sweet and tart and that was doubled down by the balsamic and dried cranberries. The radish greens are slightly bitter, the apples are sweet and the cranberries slightly sour. Since bitter is balanced by sweet and by sour, they worked together perfectly. Now I wish I had bought more radishes. Made one salad entree or two side salads.

Red Chard, Potato and Chickpea Soup

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I had a bunch of new potatoes that were getting eyes all over and really needed to be cooked up into something. They were quite small, so cut up small pieces, they came to about 4 cups or so of potatoes. Thinking of what to make, I considered making the Potato & Kale Chicken soup I made a few months ago, but I had some red chard and decided to go with that and the vague memory of a stew served by my host family in Spain back when I was in high school.

I heated 2 TBSP of olive oil in my 4 quart pot. I chopped up one small yellow onion (about 1 cup of diced onions) and once the oil was hot, I added the 1 cup of diced onions and 4 cups of chopped potatoes and sautéed until the potatoes began to brown. Once they browned I added 3 minced small garlic cloves (I would have used 2 but they were tiny.) I then added 1/8 tsp of cayenne, 1 tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp of paprika and 1/2 tsp of salt. I let them heat just until they perfumed the air.

Then I added 4 cups of chicken broth. I made the broth by boiling the carcass and drippings from a roast chicken I made. The chicken rests on a bed of onions while it roasts and the onions become saturated with flavor making an amazing broth. If you want to make a vegan version, you can use vegetable broth. The original recipe fried up lots of shoulder bacon, using the bacon grease instead of olive oil and adding water for a bacon-flavored broth.

I let the broth heat and drained one can of cooked chickpeas, rinsing the canning fluid off them I tossed the chickpeas in with the potatoes. I took 3 stalks of red chard and cleaned them, removing the leaves from the red stems. I chopped up the leaves and added them (about 4 cups of chopped red chard) and let everything simmer with the lid on until the potatoes were tender.

The flavor is subtly spicy. It’s fairly hearty for a summer soup, but delicious and flavorful with some smokiness from the paprika, some heat from the cayenne and a subtle perfume from the turmeric that gives it a earthy background flavor that rounds out the blend of chard, potato and chickpeas.

This made about 2 quarts of soup.

Kale, Rutabaga and Fennel Salad

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This is actually my best friend’s recipe. She brought over a bunch of salad the other night and it was so delicious I had so share. She was inspired by her discovery that New Seasons will give you the tops from their fennel for free. They usually have to compost it because people only want to pay for the fennel bulbs. The thing is, though, those fennel tops are full of a a light delicate fennel flavoring that can be a delicious and subtle accent in soups and salads.

To make this, she first roasted a rutabaga, let it cool and peeled it. The rutabaga should be tender but not mushy – like a potato in potato salad. She then chopped it into cubes about 1/2 inch square.

she massaged a bunch of kale with olive oil and salt. She used as little oil and salt as possible so the kale is very lightly dressed, but still tender. To do this, use about 1 tbsp of olive oil and a 1/4 tsp of salt for six cups of chopped kale. She then added one thinly sliced and chopped red onion and about 1/4 cup of chopped fennel tops. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice to keep it all fresh and light and it’s done. The salad is very light. You do not want oil and lemon sitting in the bottom of the bowl, but only just enough to coat the veggies and marry their flavors without any left over to saturate and break down the ingredients.

The flavor of the kale has that earthiness that kale brings while the rutabaga is surprisingly sweet with the fennel. In fact, the flavor combination of rutabaga and fennel is a revelation and definitely needs to be explored again and in other ways as well. The onions add a nice bit of bite. This will make 8 or more servings, but it stores well.

Garlic Scapes, Tomatoes & Parmesan

Garlic Scapes, Tomatoes  & Parm

I love roasted garlic scapes, but I did not want to turn the oven on and heat up my apartment. What to do? Well, I often use my iron skillet with its lid to function as an oven. I will bake biscuits in the skillet with dry heat, for example. So I thought about roasting them in the skillet, but then when I had the skillet out and heating, I suddenly decided to go a different way and have to say, it worked really well, giving me a new, delicious way to enjoy scapes.

I heated 1 TBSP of olive oil in the skillet on medium-high (7 out of 10 on my electric dial) and cut one bunch of scapes into 2 inch long pieces while it heated. I tossed a dash of cumin in the oil as it heated. Then I added the scales and let them cook until they started to brown and began to get tender. I diced one tomato and added it after the scapes were cooked. While that cooked, I shredded 2 oz. of parmesan cheese and tossed on top, stirring in so it melted. This made two large servings of veggies.

The cumin and scales and tomato are magic together and the parmesan just makes it all so decadently delicious. I will definitely make this again.

Apple Rutabaga Slaw

Rutabaga Apple Slaw

This is a delicious, crunchy, crispy salad that’s full of flavor. To make it I peeled and chopped one rutabaga into small chunks. I also chopped up 4 cups of cabbage and 1/2 cup of red onion. I salted these lightly and let rest for 2 hours. Then I added 2 granny smith apples, the juice of one fresh lemon, 1 TBSP of walnut oil and 1/4 tsp of cayenne and a bit of pepper to taste.

Strong flavors from rutabaga, apples, onions and cayenne all provide earthiness, sweetness, and heat and are balanced beautifully by the cabbage. It’s even better the next day. This makes about 6 large servings.