I’ve always loved to read cookbooks; I certainly grew up around plenty of them, along with every issue of Gourmet since the late 60s. We have three shelves in our own kitchen that are filled with cookbooks and another bookshelf in the living room that’s reserved for food magazines (because apparently it’s in my genes; I can’t throw them away). The cookbooks’ colorful bindings caught Levi’s eye at a young age. In fact, he invented a game with his grandma called “count the cookbooks” – we stand in front of the shelves and he makes his counting sound, which sounds like “one-two-one-two” repeated over and over, while pointing to as many as he can.
I’ve been drooling over this particular one for a while now; I bought it as a gift for my mom several years ago and just recently acquired it last Christmas, thanks to my aunt and uncle – Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis. For more than 25 years, he was the chef at Alice Waters’ restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley (retired in October), which I’ve mentioned before is one of my absolute favorite restaurants. The set menu in the fancy downstairs restaurant changes nightly and revolves around whatever fresh, seasonal ingredients are available on that particular day, and the café upstairs offers seasonally inspired pastas, pizzas and more in a slightly more casual, kid-friendly environment. Heart of the Artichoke features several menus for each season, prefaced with a section called “Kitchen Rituals” where he shares 14 “cooking moments” – either small cooking projects for 1 or 2 people, or simply a food experience/memory, such as eating oatmeal for breakfast as a child.
This meal in the “Spring Menus” section was beckoning to me back in March, but I was jumping the gun a bit with my seasons and zucchini had not yet appeared at the store. Now that it’s June, it’s plentiful, and I’m glad that I saw the bookmark in my cookbook, reminding me to make pork scaloppine with zucchini pancakes! It’s a wonderful feeling when you sit down to dinner, take that first bite, and exclaim “hey, I’d pay for this.” That was the case for this meal, so naturally, I’m recommending this cookbook for those who strive to eat simply and by the seasons!
The thin slices of pork for the scaloppine come from the lean end of a boneless pork loin (ask your butcher to do this and hopefully yours will happily comply as ours did). They cook nice and quickly and remain tender. The sauce takes under 60 seconds to make but is full of bright flavors (in fact, if you decide to halve this recipe for a family of 2-3, I’d recommend making the full amount of sauce; it won’t go to waste). You simply heat olive oil in a skillet, add garlic, capers, lemon zest, and parsley and let it sizzle for just under a minute. You pour this awesome concoction on top of your slices of pork and top with verdant, peppery arugula and lemon wedges. You can see why taking that first bite made me happy. And I haven’t even gotten to the zucchini pancakes yet!
Grated zucchini and finely chopped green onion bound with egg and a little flour are fried in olive oil and scream “beginning of summer!” While they make a great accompaniment to the pork scaloppine, I plan on making them on their own as an appetizer sometime in the near future; Maybe topped with some minted yogurt or a dollop of fresh ricotta cheese. I made the zucchini pancakes first and kept them warm in a low oven while we cooked the pork (because we only have so many skillets), but they would be best eaten hot out of the pan!
Pork Scaloppine with Lemon, Capers, and Arugula
(From Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis – Serves 4-6)
12 thin (about 3/8-inch-thick) slices pork loin
Salt & Pepper
1/2 cup olive oil (give or take)
2 TBS. roughly chopped parsley
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 TBS. capers, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 lb. arugula, chopped (we bought baby arugula and left the leaves whole)
- Season both sides of the pork slices with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Heat 2 cast iron skillets over medium-high heat. When the pans are hot, lay 6 slices of pork in each pan and cook for about 2 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn and cook for another 2 minutes on the other side. Remove the scaloppine from the pans and transfer to a warm serving platter.
- In one of the pans, heat 2 TBS. of olive oil over medium heat. Add the parsley, lemon zest, capers, and garlic and let sizzle for a bare minute. Turn off the heat. Spoon the sauce over the scaloppine and top each slice of pork with a handful of arugula. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve immediately.
(Also from Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis – Serves 4-6)
8 to 10 small zucchini, about 3 lbs.
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
3 TBS. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano (optional – we decided to omit this as we wanted a pure zucchini flavor, but Tanis says that adding the cheese reminds him of eating a zucchini frittata, which sounds delicious)
Olive oil for frying
- Grate the zucchini using the medium holes of a box grater. Toss the grated zucchini with the salt and let drain in a colander for about 20 min. Squeeze very dry, using a clean kitchen towel.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with the pepper and scallions. Add the flour, then add the grated zucchini and the cheese (if using). Mix thoroughly.
- Pour olive oil into a cast iron skillet to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat over medium heat. Carefully place spoonfuls of the zucchini mixture into the pan and flatten into discs with a 2-inch diameter. Make a few at a time, so as not to overcrowd the pan. Turn them once, letting them cook for about 3-4 min. on each side or until golden. Keep the heat at moderate so they don’t brown too quickly. Serve immediately or transfer to a warm oven until the entire batch is cooked. Serve with the Pork Scaloppine.
That beer in the background? It was a German Hopf Helle Weisse – a type of Hefeweizen. It paired wonderfully with this meal.