Pork Scaloppine with Lemon, Capers, and Arugula with Zucchini Pancakes


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)
Lemon wedges

  • 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.


Zucchini Pancakes

(Also from Heart of the Artichoke by David Tanis – Serves 4-6)

8 to 10 small zucchini, about 3 lbs.
2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
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.

Argentine Hot Dogs (with Chimichurri, Pickled Red Onions, Marinated Queso Fresco & Chorizo)


It’s nearing the end of summer, and you’ve probably had your share of hot dogs, but these Argentine dogs are as far from yellow mustard and ketchup as you can get.  Grilled all-beef hot dogs get an array of colorful and flavorful toppings: a verdant chimichurri with the addition of finely chopped sweet red and yellow peppers and grated carrot, sweet and tangy pickled red onions, queso fresco marinated in olive oil and yellow flecks of lemon zest, and spicy ground chorizo. Yes, chorizo on a hot dog. It’s a hot dog elevated to a new level.

I came across this recipe when I was reading the food section in our local newspaper. I made only a few changes. I thought these dogs deserved something better than your typical white hot dog bun, so we bought some soft steak rolls, cut them in half lengthwise and made a slit in each half, creating hot dog buns with some substance. I also went in a different direction with the pickled onions. The original recipe calls for pouring a simple syrup and grenadine over them, but since I didn’t have any grenadine and didn’t have a need for buying a whole bottle, I decided to just use my method for quick cucumber pickles (adding a little vinegar, agave nectar, and salt), but adding more agave nectar to make the onions sweeter, in order to counter-balance the acidity in the chimichurri. The chorizo adds the perfect amount of spice, and the marinated queso fresco adds a cooling, creamy counterpoint. See why this hot dog is in a different dimension?


Levi especially enjoyed these hot dogs. I wish we had taken a picture, but his plate contained a de-constructed version of an Argentine hot dog. The pieces of hot dog and queso fresco disappeared first, but he seemed to enjoy all the components of this meal!

The pickled onions and the marinated queso fresco are made the night before, and the chimichurri can be made the morning of, so everything comes together quickly at dinner time. All you have to do is cook the chorizo, grill the hot dogs, and assemble! Make these Argentine hot dogs while the grill is still out. Quick! Summer is fleeting.


Argentine Hot Dogs

(Slightly adapted from the San Jose Mercury News, original recipe by Carole Wendling; Serves 2)

For the Chimichurri:

1/2 a bunch of parsley, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 small lemon
1 TBS. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. crushed garlic
1/4 cup finely diced red and yellow peppers
2 tablespoons grated carrot

For the Pickled Red Onions:

1/2 red onion, sliced
2 TBS. white wine vinegar (or champagne vinegar)
agave nectar to taste
Kosher salt to taste

For the Marinated Queso Fresco:

4 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed garlic
Zest from 1/2 lemon
Salt, pepper to taste

To Assemble:

2 grilled beef hot dogs
1 sweet or sour steak roll – cut in half lengthwise, with a slit cut into each half to form 2 hot dog “buns”
4 ounces ground chorizo, cooked


Wow – that’s a long list of ingredients, I know! But everything is so easy to make. Here we go …

  • To make the pickled onions, place the sliced onions in a bowl and add the vinegar. Add a good drizzle of agave nectar (or you can use honey or sugar) and season with a little salt. Stir to combine. Taste and add more sweetener if needed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Combine the marinated queso fresco ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Make the chimichurri. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor; pulse to pesto-like consistency. Season to taste with salt. Fold in peppers and carrot. Set aside. Can be made several hours ahead. Cover and chill. Take out of refrigerator 1 hour before serving.
  • Lightly toast the buns on the grill, grill the hot dogs, and top with cooked, crumbled chorizo, chimichurri, pickled red onions, and marinated queso fresco.

Simple Pan-Roasted Pork Loin Chops


That is one beautiful piece of meat, isn’t it? It’s from that new charcuterie shop in town that I mentioned in the last post. The owner knows our family now. We’re there on on a weekly basis to pick out something special for dinner, as well as some fun impulse buys like beef jerky, smokey beef sticks, or perro calientes (yes, those would be hot dogs). Last week they had these beautiful thick-cut pork loin chops that were calling out for a simple preparation so that they could take center stage. Just a quick marinade of olive oil, fresh chopped rosemary from the garden, garlic, salt, and pepper readied them for a sear in a hot skillet before finishing up in the oven.

At our natural foods store across the parking lot, we found some bunches of tender asparagus that we roasted alongside the pork chops, and we made some rice pilaf to round out the meal.

Note that this recipe is more a method than an exact recipe, since the timing will depend on the thickness of your pork chops.  Have a reliable meat thermometer handy. These were definitely some of the thickest we had ever eaten, but this method produces pork chops that are nice and caramelized outside and still moist inside.

Pan-Roasted Pork Loin Chops with Rosemary

2 thick-cut pork loin chops
4 TBS. extra virgin olive oil, divided
fresh rosemary, chopped (approximately 1 large sprig)
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
kosher salt
freshly found black pepper

  • Take the pork chops out of the refrigerator so that they can come to room temp before cooking. Place in a small baking dish (or a ziplock bag) with 2 TBS. of the olive oil, some chopped fresh rosemary, some roughly chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. Rub the seasoned oil all over the pork chops. Let sit (at room temp) for at least 30 min.
  • Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  • Heat the remaining 2 TBS. olive oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. When nice and hot, add the pork chops and sear for 3-4 minutes. Flip pork chops and sear on the other side for another 3-4 minutes. Transfer pan to the oven and bake, uncovered, until a (reliable) meat reads 160 degrees, or the meat juices run clear, 12-15 minutes for very thick pork chops (for thinner pork chops, begin checking after 6-9 minutes). Transfer to a plate and let rest for a couple minutes before digging in.

Sweet Potato Gratin & Breaded Pork Chops


“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream” — The Julia Child quote that came to mind as I was happily (and liberally) pouring cream over my baking dish of layered sweet potato slices, seasoned with chopped sage, salt, and freshly ground pepper. Then I dotted the top with butter and thought, “How about both?” Vegetables turn heavenly when they’re baked with cream and butter. What’s not to love?

No marshmallows here (the idea itself offends me), but we love how the sweet potatoes speak for themselves in this simple, seasonal dish. I got the inspiration from the Fall for Vegetables article in the Oct./Nov. issue of Fine Cooking, but used this recipe for the cooking time and oven temperature.


Sweet Potato Gratin

Sweet potatoes
Fresh sage, chopped
Kosher salt & Freshly ground pepper
Cream
Butter

  • Butter a gratin dish. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  • Peel your sweet potatoes and slice thinly (you can use a mandoline, if you have one, but I didn’t so I just sliced them by hand to about 1/4 inch or less).
  • Layer sweet potato slices in your gratin dish.  Sprinkle each layer with fresh sage, salt, and pepper.
  • Add cream to just below the potatoes, dot with butter, cover with foil, and bake until almost tender, about 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake until nicely browned, about 15-20 minutes more. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Breaded Pork Chops

It’s incredibly easy to make your own breadcrumbs. In Japan we always used panko (which, did you know, is made from crustless white bread?) but here I throw some leftover baguette pieces in my food processor, add some sage and oregano, process it, and Voilà! Italian breadcrumbs; Perfect for breading boneless pork chops. Just season your pork chops with salt, coat in beaten egg, dredge in the homemade crumbs, and fry in olive oil until golden and crispy on both sides. Add a salad and a big spoonful of sweet potato gratin, and you have a comforting meal for a chilly evening.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall “Steak & Potatoes”


Levi turned 5 months today. He recently rolled over for the first time and surprised the crap out of himself (not literally).  In all the excitement of watching my little boy go from newborn to smiley guy, I feel like summer never happened. Now it’s September and I can hardly believe it.  It’s hard to completely let go of summer when you feel like it never happened, but also when there are still beautiful tomatoes and summer squash at the farmer’s market and in the CSA box. I don’t care what the calendar says. But looking at all the fall issues of food magazines got me craving sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and other fall produce. I decide to create an “in between seasons” dinner — steaks, tomatoes, and zucchini on the grill, and a sweet potato side-dish in the oven.

Fine Cooking helped inspire me.  In their Cooking by the Calendar article, they featured a late-summer meal that involved a quick grilled steak, brushed with a mixture of mustard, brown sugar, salt & pepper. We used that marinade on a new york steak. Then Dustin found some beautiful heirloom tomatoes that we halved and grilled for just a few minutes, giving them a delicious smoky flavor, while preserving their tomato essence. The summer squash was locally grown and a nice companion for the tomatoes. The sweet potatoes taste like my favorite ravioli dish, without the ravioli. Roasted sweet potato cubes are tossed with brown butter & sage. This might be my new fall side dish! The entire meal was flavorful, colorful, and bridged the gap between summer and fall. Now I think I can bid farewell until next year.

Steak with Quick-Grilled Heirloom Tomatoes & Summer Squash

1 new york steak (about 1 lb for 2 people)
1 TBS. extra virgin olive oil + more for drizzling over the veggies
1 TBS. Dijon mustard
1 TBS. brown sugar
Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 heirloom tomatoes, halved
1 summer squash, halved

  • Prepare a medium-high heat charcoal grill. In a small bowl, combine 1 TBS. of the oil, the mustard, brown sugar, and some salt & pepper. Brush all over the steak and set aside.
  • Drizzle and rub the cut tomatoes and squash with olive oil, and season with salt & pepper.
  • Grill the steak, flipping once, until medium rare (until the steak reaches 130 to 135 degrees). Transfer to a plate, cover with foil, and let rest.
  • Grill the  squash and the tomatoes, cut side-down for a few minutes, until some nice grill marks form. Take the tomatoes off the grill, and cook the squash just a few minutes longer.
  • Slice the steak against the grain and serve next to the tomatoes and squash, and these delicious roasted sweet potatoes with brown butter and sage.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Brown Butter & Sage

(Adapted from the Oct./Nov. issue of Fine Cooking)

2 sweet potatoes
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh sage
butter (about 2 TBS)
splash of orange juice

  • Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into bite-sized cubes. Toss with olive oil and salt. Roast in a 400 degree oven until tender.
  • Meanwhile, cook chopped fresh sage and a pinch of salt in melted butter until butter browns.
  • Add a splash of orange juice (or a squeeze of lemon, if you have one) and toss with the potatoes.

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

Do you ever go to the store with no idea of what you want to make for dinner? Last Monday was one of those days. I went to the Butcher counter and started to panic because it was almost my turn and I couldn’t focus: Hmm…that fish looks nice and fresh…So do those steaks…Dustin would like steak…But I feel like chicken…hmm…boneless and skinless chicken thighs…Would those be good on the BBQ?…no…oh, ground meats…what about … ?? “Can I help you?” The butcher asked, startling my train of thought. So I asked for the thing that was right in front of me – ground turkey thighs. Whew. Now that the protein was taken care of, things started to fall into place in my brain. I remembered that we had fresh basil at home, as well as tons of mizuna so I immediately thought of pesto and went straight to the bulk aisle for walnuts to add to it.

So that was my boring thought process of how I ended up mixing pesto into our turkey burgers. The result was a really moist, flavorful burger. I called Nikita (if you haven’t noticed, we love to cook and eat dinner together) to inform her of the menu, and soon she came over to enjoy them with us, bringing with her some summery micro brews and a bag of Kettle Chips (our favorite flavor “Buffalo Bleu”). We ate our burgers on sesame-wheat buns (brushed with olive oil and lightly grilled), with sliced tomato, grilled white onions, and mayo. They were sort of messy (think Carls’ Jr. ads) but delicious. I can’t wait to see what happens next time I’m under pressure at the meat counter!

Turkey-Pesto Burgers with Grilled Onions

2-3 cups of basil leaves, washed and dried*
a big handful of walnut pieces, lightly toasted in a skillet
1 clove of garlic
a handful of Parmesan cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime
about 1/4 cup of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1 lb. ground turkey
hamburger buns of your choice
1 sweet white onion, sliced into thick rings
tomato slices
mayo

*I didn’t have quite enough basil, so I added some mizuna leaves. It gave the pesto a wonderful bite to it. You could also add arugula for the same effect.

  • First, make the pesto: Combine the basil, mizuna (if using), walnuts, garlic, Parmesan, and lime juice in a food processor. Process until smooth. With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil, until it reaches a good consistency. Season with salt & pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Pour pesto into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until use (Makes about 1 cup – more than needed for the burgers, but you can freeze it if you want).
  • Place the ground turkey in a large bowl. Season the top with salt & pepper. Add 3 or 4 heaping spoonfuls of pesto to the bowl. Mix with your hands until pesto is incorporated into the meat. Divide meat into 4-5 portions (depending on how thick you like your burgers), form patties, and place on a plate. Cover and chill while you prepare the grill.
  • Brush the tops and bottoms of the buns with olive oil and set aside. Brush onion slices with olive oil and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Grill onions until nice and charred, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
  • Grill burgers about 4-5 minutes on each side. When the burgers are almost done, grill the tops and bottoms of the buns until golden and toasty.
  • Assemble burgers how you like – we used this order: mayo, patty, grilled onions, tomato. Dig in!

“Thai” Basil Stir Fry


One of our favorite Thai dishes was the inspiration for this meal, except that we used regular basil instead of thai basil – the kind that everyone has tons of right now that screams caprese salad or pesto. Well, we wanted to do something a little different with ours. We found it was the perfect addition for a stir fry! Mizuna, carrots, and green beans were sitting in the CSA box waiting to be used, which we coated in an almost-perfected sweet/spicy/salty sauce. As usual, the measurements I’m giving you aren’t specific, but there are some guidelines. Trust your tastebuds! When we were done, it tasted pretty darn close to Thai take-out! If you desire to give your basil a break from Italian food, we recommend this dish.

sesame oil and canola oil
1 large clove of garlic, minced
a spoonful of hot chile paste and/or 2 small dried chiles, sliced
2 scallions, white and light green parts chopped, and dark green parts chopped and reserved for garnish
a couple generous handfuls of mizuna leaves
(it cooks down a lot, so don’t be shy)
4-5 small carrots (or 1 large) , sliced into medallions and blanched for 1-2 minutes
(you can skip the blanching if your slices are thin)
a few handfuls of green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
soy sauce
rice vinegar
mirin
fish sauce
brown sugar
a handful of fresh basil leaves, washed, dried, and sliced

  • Heat a splash (about 2 tsp.) of sesame oil, and a bigger splash (about 2 TBS) of canola oil in a wok until very hot.
  • Add the garlic, chile paste and/or dried chiles and stir fry for 1 minute.
  • Add the scallions and stir fry for another minute.
  • Add the mizuna and green beans and stir fry for 3-4 minutes until mizuna is wilted and green beans are still slightly crisp. Add the carrots and cook a minute or two longer.
  • Add about 1 TBS each of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add about 2 tsp. each of mirin and fish sauce. Add about 1-2 tsp. of brown sugar. Stir everything together.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking (remember, fish sauce is salty so don’t add too much without tasting!)
  • Turn off the heat and stir the basil into the stir fry until it’s wilted.
  • Serve on top of steamed jasmine rice and garnish with reserved green part of scallion.  A dry Riesling would go great with this meal.