tasty tuesday: smothered pork chop with shiitakes, quick-fry okra, cauliflower and potato mash, and pickled cucumber

photo(9)This Tasty Tuesday, I took a challenge: pork chops.  I cannot tell a lie–I typically avoid pork chops on menus as I look at them with a skeptical eye.  Will the kitchen overcook them?  Will they taste like chewy tires?  Put simply, they’re usually not that appealing to me.  In recent years, however, I’ve stolen bites of Alex’s pork chops at Downtown Grill, and I have been impressed with every one.  I think my new appreciation for pork chops stems from a simple difference in preparation: the avoidance of cooking them well done.

My friend Steven Fulbright, a fellow Hugh Acheson acolyte, asked me yesterday if I’d ever made Hugh’s recipe for smothered pork chops with chanterelles from A New Turn in the South.  When I told him I hadn’t, he raved about how great they were, so I knew that I had to try them out.  What I ended up with was a take on Hugh’s simple, yet elegant dish, both out of creativity and necessity–I couldn’t find chanterelles at the Fresh Market, so I selected shiitakes instead.  I changed up a few other things, but the simple cooking directions for the meat in Hugh’s recipe made these pork chops, in my humble opinion, pretty darn great.  Seared on the outside and cooked through to medium on the inside, these bone-in chops are simple to make and saved by the accuracy of a meat thermometer.  If you don’t have one, you can buy an inexpensive one at the grocery store or at your local kitchen store–Maconites, go to Robinson Home, of course!

The simple olive oil, salt, and pepper combination on the pork chop allows the meat to shine on its own merit.  The addition of the thin mushroom gravy adds an earthiness to the dish.  The pork chop is set upon a half-and-half mash of baked cauliflower, yukon gold potatoes, and garlic, and some quick-fry okra adds a crispiness to the smooth mash.  The pickled cucumber adds just a touch of sour to cut the creaminess of the mash and stands up nicely to the smooth flavor of the gravy.

Moral of the story: if you think you don’t like pork chops, try, try, again.

Smothered Pork Chop with Shiitakes, Quick-Fry Okra, Cauliflower and Potato Mash, and Pickled Cucumber

Serves 2

2 bone-in, thick cut pork chops (about 6-8 oz. each)

1/2 head cauliflower

2 small yukon gold potatoes

5 garlic cloves

3 Tbsp. olive oil (2 Tbsp. for chops, 1 Tbsp. for cauliflower and potatoes)

2 cups fresh okra, sliced lengthwise

1/3 cup pecorino or parmesan cheese

3 green onions, thinly sliced

2 Tbsp. butter (1 Tbsp. for gravy, 1 Tbsp. for mash)

2 Tbsp. half and half, separated

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup chicken stock

1 Tbsp. flour

1 tsp. fresh thyme

juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

handful of pickled cucumbers slices, cut into 1/4 inch vertical slices (I thinly sliced up one cucumber on Sunday and threw the slices in a pickle jar with leftover pickle juice–easiest thing ever.  The crispness of the cucumber is still intact!)

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Rough chop the cauliflower and potatoes into golf ball-sized pieces.  In a small bowl, add the cauliflower, potatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper and mix to combine.  Wrap the veggie mixture in a makeshift aluminum foil pouch, place the pouch on a cookie sheet, and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.  In a food processor, add the baked potato and cauliflower pieces.  Also add the garlic, but be sure to squeeze the cloves out of the garlic paper before adding them to the bowl of the food processor.  Next, add 1 Tbsp. butter, the pecorino cheese, 1 Tbsp. half and half, green onions, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the bowl.  Pulse until desired consistency is reached; set aside.

Raise the heat in the oven to 400 F.  Heat a frying pan to medium-high heat and add 2 Tbsp. olive oil.  While the oil is heating, lightly salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops.  Sear the pork chops on both sides (about 4 minutes each), then place the pork chops on a raised roasting pan and let finish in the oven for about 7-10 minutes.  To check to see if they’re done, place a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thicker pork chop, right near the bone.  When the temperature reaches 150 F, you know that they’re at medium.  Take the out of the oven and let them rest for 5 minutes.

While the chops are in the oven, add the sliced okra to the remaining olive oil you seared the pork chops in.  Stirring occasionally, let the okra cook up for about 10 minutes, browning on the edges.

During this time, melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a medium pan over medium-high heat.  When the butter starts to bubble, add the sliced mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes.  Next, add the flour and stir to combine, then slowly whisk in the chicken stock.  Turn the heat down to low and let reduce for about 4 minutes.  Turn off the heat and add the thyme, 1 Tbsp. half and half, and lemon juice.

To assemble: add about 1 cup of cauliflower potato mash to the plate.  Lean the pork chop on the mash, then arrange some okra around the pork chop.  Add your desired amount of mushroom gravy to the top of the chop, then sprinkle some of the picked cucumber on the top.  Enjoy!

meatless monday: fresh corn and cauliflower bowl, basil stuffed grilled tomato, charred okra and snap beans



Yesterday we were driving back from Athens, my other favorite Georgia city, listening to an album that I haven’t heard in years (incidentally the only album released by the band Panic at the Disco–Pretty. Odd.), and thinking about the simple joys in life–good people, good music, and good food. Part of what makes these things such simple joys is that the are intimate and individual– that combination of favorite things is different for every person. And that drive is something that always brings those things into focus for me. A road so often travelled that brought me to my favorite person and my favorite place–a road that no matter which way I go it takes me home.

Now when I travel to Athens it is usually to seek culinary delights and this may have been the best yet. We managed to hit both Cinco y Diez and 5 & 10 and the Four Coursemen successor Coterie and Tie (Eleta will be doing a full report on this in a later entry). It was a gustatory wonderland. (Considering we started the weekend with dinner at Dovetail we really had a weekend to envy food-wise).

But, to the point, all this really brought into focus the need to focus on the simple, even when it comes to food. Fresh, simple, well seasoned food. It is so easy and makes you so happy when done well. Nothing can make you instantly happy like a great bite a food, and there is no better way to do that than using fresh ingredients in their time.

So, for meatless monday, I concocted a fresh corn bowl using some of the techniques we saw over the weekend with the garnishes. Easy prep, fresh flavors, delicious meal.

(For what it is worth, I listened to Cooley’s “Fool on Every Corner” while I cooked. Good folks, Good Music, Good Food.)

Corn and Cauliflower Bowl

2 ears fresh corn
1/2 Head Cauliflower
1/2 stick butter
Tbsp salt
Tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
6 cloves garlic
1 sprig rosemary
8 large okra
Handful of fresh snap green beans
2 fresh tomatoes
6 leaves basil
Olive oil, salt, pepper.

Begin by bringing a pot of water to a boil.

Shuck the corn and remove silk. Cut the corn off the cob midway through the kernel into a large bowl. Milk each ear by scraping down the ear with the back of the knife. Grate the floret part of the cauliflower with a fine cheese grater into the bowl. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, and cumin. Stir and set aside.

Blanch the beans in the boiling water for about 2 minute. Remove from heat into an ice bath. Let rest.

Heat a grill pan or stove top grill over medium high heat.

In a deep, heavy bottomed pan, add the butter and heat over medium heat until it bubbles and browns. Add the garlic and rosemary and reduce heat to medium low for about 3-4 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Add the corn mixture to and and stir. Raise heat to medium and cover about 10 minutes. You can add extra butter if you like. this is very much a choose your own adventure flavor wise.

In a bowl, coat the okra with olive oil and salt. Place on the grill and cook 7-8 minutes per side, until well charred and soft throughout. Add the green beans and grill until lightly charred, about 6 minutes.

Remove the stem side of the tomato, about 1/4 inch until the seed beds are exposed. Stuff 3 basil leaves into each tomato in the soft seed sections. Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper and place cut side down on the grill for about 4 minutes.

Plate as seen above.

The real question with this dish is what the corm mixture is more like. It has a texture more like risotto or grits  than creamed corn. The corn kernels should keep their integrity and have a slight crunch. The flavor has way more freshness than either risotto or grits, though.

The flavors really mesh well, especially the spiced corn and the aroma of the basil tomato. The sweet juice of the tomato mixing with the corn has a similar effect to a fried egg influencing and elevating to other flavors of a more savory plate.

All told, simple and delicious. In the middle of summer, all was golden.

recipe remix: lightened up fettuccini alfredo


Welcome to Recipe Remix #1–Fettuccini Alfredo!  My college friend Claire Steinbeck made this special request.  Claire is a fellow teacher in search of healthy meals, and I have to give her a personal thank you for pushing me to try out this dish.  I hadn’t had fettuccini alfredo in years–partly because of watching what I eat, but also because I’m a little bit lactose intolerant (self-diagnosis, mind you), and I tend to steer clear of creamy pasta dishes because of the subsequent tummy ache.  Not only does this dish not give me tummy issues, but it also includes extra fiber from the secret ingredient: cauliflower.

Before I share the recipe with you, let me say that I tried three different sauces for this one: one with lowfat milk and flour, one with lowfat Greek yogurt and flour, and one with pureed cauliflower.  While I liked all three, the cauliflower version was Alex’s favorite, and I have to agree that it was the one that tasted the most like regular alfredo.  The lowfat milk version tasted too diet-y and left a little to be desired.  The Greek yogurt version was a close second, but it did have an ever-so-slight tang from the yogurt that Alex said reminded him of sour cream, which he doesn’t like.

“But wait, I don’t like cauliflower,” you say.

Think again.  This recipe couldn’t be easier, and the cauliflower couldn’t be less apparent.  You boil a chopped head of cauliflower for 25 minutes, saute some garlic and shallot, add some evaporated milk and chicken broth, then give it all a whirl in the food processor with some parmesan, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  The cauliflower serves as the thickening agent and is flavorless, especially against the nutmeg, garlic, and shallot.  Even if you don’t think you like cauliflower, I challenge you to make this recipe.  I did some research and borrowed several ideas from several recipes, and I will definitely make this again.

Nutrition breakdown: 10 Weight Watchers points, which is roughly 500 calories per serving.  Compare that to 1200 calories for many restaurant versions, and you’ll be slurping up this pasta guilt-free.

If you’re gluten-free or low-carb, you could always use this sauce with zucchini noodles or spaghetti squash–that would be an especially healthy version.

I served this dish with a small green salad and a side of roasted broccoli.

Lightened Up Fettuccini Alfredo

1 head cauliflower

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot, minced

1/2 cup fat free evaporated milk

1/2 cup fat free chicken broth

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

8 oz. fettuccini pasta

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  Give the cauliflower a rough chop, and when the water is boiling, add the cauliflower florets to the water, turn down the heat to simmer, and place the lid on the pot.  Cook for 25 minutes.

Cook pasta according the package directions.

When the cauliflower is cooked, drain it and set it aside.  In the same pot, add the olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add the garlic and shallot and cook for about 2 minutes.  Next, add the evaporated milk and cook for about 1 minute.  Turn off the heat.  In a food processor or blender, combine the warm milk mixture with the chicken stock, parmesan, cauliflower, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Blend the ingredients until smooth.  Pour the sauce back into the pot and add the pasta.  Use tongs to combine the pasta with the sauce and top with fresh parsley.


lunchbox life: roasted broccoli salad


Happy last 2013-14 lunchbox life!  This section of the blog will be on hiatus until July (yes, we start school in late July), but this week’s lunch is so exciting that you could make it anytime, with or without a lunchbox.

Many of us have had broccoli salad before.  It’s usually mayonnaise-based with raw broccoli, golden raisins, chopped apples, and maybe some almonds.  It’s a great summer side dish for barbecue gatherings and cookouts.  A few weeks ago, I was at Fette Sau in Philadelphia, a much-cooler-than-me BBQ place in a hipster area of town, and I ordered broccoli salad as one of my sides, mostly out of curiosity.  I was so surprised with what they handed me as I went down the cafeteria-style line: this bowl of large pieces of cooled, roasted broccoli with a vinaigrette sauce.  What a great way to switch up the old stand by!  If you’ve ever roasted broccoli, you know that it completely changes the texture and taste of the cruciferous vegetable–the crunch remains, but it muted, and the taste is mellowed, yet deep.  Ever since my inspiration at Fette Sau, I’ve wanted to try my hand at an inspired dish.  Since I’m using the idea as a main dish, I’ve added a few ingredients to kick it up a notch: equal parts broccoli and cauliflower for color contrast, crispy bacon, soft goat cheese, tart dried cherries, crunchy cashews, and bright lemon zest.  I dressed the salad with my usual honey dijon vinaigrette and placed it on a bed of greens for volume.

Roasted Broccoli Salad

1 crown of broccoli

1 crown of cauliflower

1 Tbsp. olive oil

salt and pepper

5 slices of bacon

4 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup cashews, chopped

zest of two lemons

5 cups of salad greens

For the dressing:

1.5 Tbsp. olive oil

juice of two lemons

1 Tbsp. dijon mustard

1 tsp. honey

salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F.  Give the broccoli and cauliflower a rough chop–you want the pieces to be between about 2 to 3 inches in length.  Place the broccoli and cauliflower in a mixing bowl and add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste (1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. black pepper is what I used), then mix to coat.  Spread the broccoli and cauliflower and an even layer on a cookie sheet, then roast for 15 minutes.  At the 15 minute mark, take the vegetables out and flip them over, then roast for another 15 minutes.  When the 30 minutes are up, place the roasted vegetables in a mixing bowl and set aside to cool to room temperature.  While the veggies are roasting, fry the pieces of bacon in a large frying pan to a crisp, then remove the bacon and place on a paper towel and let cool to room temperature.  When these items are cool enough, crumble the bacon over the broccoli and cauliflower, then add the goat cheese, dried cherries, and cashews.  Toss to combine.   In a small jar, combine the dressing ingredients, place the cap on tightly, shake to combine, then pour over the salad and toss to combine.  Serve the broccoli salad as a stand alone dish or on a bed of greens.

WW info: 9 PP per serving (5 servings in this recipe)



wild card wednesday: brown butter sauteed haddock, grilled green tomato, cauliflower “couscous”


Back at it with another adventure in cauliflower and deliciousness in the seafood realm. The Kroger may have decent prices, but the selection is a little lacking if you don’t want tilapia. The haddock was the best looking fish they had, which was great since I wanted to do something with skin. Don’t be scared of fish skin! When done well, it can have loads of flavor and probably vitamins or something else you’re supposed to have in your diet. 

And since the challenge this month is cauliflower, I too wanted to offer a way for someone who may not like the white fibrous  cabbage flower, giving it flavors you may not usually associate with it. I have to admit, I thought I was doing something novel, but apparently grated cauliflower “rice” has had its day already. Well, no one told me and I forgot to ask! I decided to call mine couscous because I think it fits the texture and I lightly boiled it with chicken broth. So there, rest of the Internet. Also, it was delicious. Please try cauliflower again if you think you don’t like it. 

NOTE: The grilled green tomatoes are a retread– a delicious, amazing retread. Can you find the post where they were used before?

Brown Butter Sauteed Haddock

2 large filets haddock, skin on
Salt to coat skin
Salt, Pepper, Paprika to flavor meat
3/4 stick butter

Brown 1/2 stick of butter in pan by melting over medium heat. After a few minutes the butter will foam and then die down. Swirl pan regularly. Brown bits will form on bottom of pan and butter will take on a nutty aroma. Remove from heat

Coat the skin side of the fish in salt and spice the top. Allow the salt to sink into the skin for about 15 minutes (use this time to prep your caulicous). 

When ready to cook fish, melt 1 tbsp butter in pan over medium high heat. Scrape skin with paper towel and pat dry. Cook skin side down. Spoon 1 tbsp brown butter over top of fish and cover. About 4 minutes, the skin should release from the pan. Flip for less than one minute, remove from heat at top with additional brown butter. Serve atop the cauliflower. 

Cauliflower Couscous

1 head cauliflower
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
Salt and Pepper
2 red tomatoes, diced
2 yellow tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup italian parsley

Grate the cauliflower with a hand grater into a bowl. (I should have taken a video, but I needed both of my hands for the grating). Be sure to get all the fluffy parts and a good bit of the stems. 

Heat the oil over medium in a deep pan with garlic. Add the cauliflower and stir to coat. Add the broth and season. Stir and cover, reduce heat to medium low. After 10 minutes, add the parsley. 

In a separate pan, stew the tomatoes until mushy. Add to cauliflower after the parsley, close to time to serve. 

When plating, pile the “couscous” and place the green tomatoes on the side. Gingerly place the fish on top and garnish. This is beautiful, rich plate of food, one where you don’t feel like you are eating the white broccoli stuff. 


lunchbox life: pork tenderloin with curry roasted sweet potatoes, onions, and cauliflower


This is definitely a fall dish, but alas, it’s mid-August.

I try to eat seasonally, but as much as I love summer tomatoes, avocados, berries, and basil, I feel like I’ve exhausted those options for the moment.  (Yes, I’ll be kicking myself in January for even thinking such a thing.)  So, inspired by a tiny hankering for sweet potatoes and my ongoing love for curry, this little number was created.

If you think you don’t like cauliflower, it’s because you’ve never roasted it.  This drab veggie transforms from that icky, untouched tree-like thing on the half-eaten veggie party platter to an earthy, flavorful morsel that you can’t stop eating.  It’s a terribly underrated vegetable, but with some high heat and spices, you’ll be singing its praises, too!

This is a pretty lazy and low-key dish, but the bigger ingredient here is time.  The veggies take time to roast and, depending on how you prepare the pork tenderloin, the pork will need to slow-roast in the crock pot.  This worked perfectly today for me, though–we’ve been running around doing a trial run for our Taste of the Arts entry on behalf of Historic Macon and getting ready to have a few friends over for the series premiere of Breaking Bad (Did you see it?  What EXACTLY did Walt mean when he said “tread lightly”?).

For the pork tenderloin, I was slightly limited.  The Kroger near our house only had pre-seasoned tenderloins.  To be fair, I really wanted a turkey breast tenderloin (made by Jennie-O and Honeysuckle White), but Kroger was out of those, too.  I bought a garlic and lemon pre-seasoned tenderloin and threw it in the crock pot on high heat (4 hours) with some chicken stock, dijon mustard, blueberry jam, ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.  I’d give you measurements, but I really don’t have them!  You can cook this any way you want, but for what it’s worth, I was just focused on having a flavorful lean protein.  You could certainly use chicken breast, but I get so tired of the same old boneless skinless chicken breast that I like to change it up every now and then.

Curry Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Onions, and Cauliflower

3 small sweet potatoes

2 small sweet Vidalia onions

1 large head of cauliflower

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. curry powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Chop sweet potatoes into bite-size pieces and place in a large roasting pan.  Chop the cauliflower into similar sized pieces and add to the pan.  Next, chop the onions into thin, half-moon shapes and add them to the pan.  In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil and spices.  Pour over the vegetables and toss thoroughly to combine.  Roast for about an hour, stirring the veggies to prevent burning about twice during the hour.