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.

Lettuce Wraps with Pork, Cilantro, Crunchy Chow Mein Noodles, Peanuts & Sriracha


It was a typical summer in Japan, hot and humid with the occasional torrential downpour and thunderstorm. In an effort to save money on our bills, we played this silly game where we would see how far into the summer we could make it without turning on our air conditioner (once we made it until the beginning of August!) Absurd, yes, but there it is.

So our little Japanese apartment was obviously warm, but we had several fans going that made it bearable. I thought that lettuce wraps might be a good meal for a hot evening. I washed the lettuce leaves then got the “brilliant” idea (blame the heat?) to throw them in the freezer for a minute to keep them cold while we set the table. Ha. You know what happens when you put lettuce in the freezer? All the moisture in the leaves freezes almost immediately, and then when you take them out, they defrost immediately, leaving you with pathetic wilty leaves. Awesome. I can’t believe I just told that story. That night we enjoyed the lettuce wrap filling on its own, and I think I made some steamed rice to go with it. Needless to say, I never blogged about lettuce wraps. And we might have broken down and turned on the air conditioner.


This time around we were much more successful, and since we live in Santa Cruz and most houses don’t even have air conditioners, we’ll never play that ridiculous game again.  Leaves from a beautiful head of red leaf lettuce remained in the refrigerator until dinner time and were perfectly crisp and ready to be filled with seasoned pork, bright green cilantro, crunchy chow mein noodles (from a can, yes, but oh so good), peanuts, and plenty of Sriracha to spice it all up.


Lettuce Wraps with Pork, Cilantro, Crunchy Chow Mein Noodles, Peanuts & Sriracha

1/2 TBS. canola oil
1/2 TBS. sesame oil
1 lb. ground pork
1 TBS. grated or minced ginger
1 TBS. minced garlic
2 green onions, diced
2 TBS. soy sauce
1 TBS. mirin
1 TBS. rice vinegar
1/2 TBS. oyster sauce*
1 small spoonful of peanut butter
2 tsp. agave nectar
1 head of red leaf lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Cilantro leaves
Crunchy Chow Mein Noodles, such as La Choy
Roasted, salted peanuts
Sriracha

*This can be omitted if you don’t have it on hand – we used it to add a little thickness and saltiness to the sauce

  • Add the canola oil and sesame oil to a large skillet and heat over medium high heat. Add the ground pork and cook until no longer pink, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat. If there is any fat, drain with a spoon. Return skillet to medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and cook for several minutes, stirring frequently. Add the green onions and stir to combine.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, peanut butter, and agave nectar. Taste and adjust ingredients as necessary. These lettuce wraps are very adaptable to your tastes!
  • Add the sauce to the pork mixture and cook over medium high heat, stirring, until it reduces slightly and incorporates into the meat.
  • Transfer the pork mixture to a serving bowl. Place your lettuce leaves on a serving platter. Put the cilantro, chow mein noodles, and peanuts in little bowls and place everything on the table for everyone to serve themselves. Don’t forget the bottle of Sriracha!

To go with our lettuce wraps, I used a vegetable peeler to make shavings of daikon (Japanese white radish) and carrot, tossed with a little sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, sugar & salt to taste, and a sprinkling of black sesame seeds.

Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Apricot Glaze


My son is obsessed with the garage. It’s no surprise. His father and his grandfather (my dad) love it as well. It’s where they spend many a Saturday, working on projects of various sorts. The other evening as we were getting ready to start dinner, Levi made his usual “uh? uh?” sound while pointing emphatically towards the garage. There’s no ignoring that request. Once inside, we turned our backs for 20 seconds while we opened the garage door and got out the BBQ in anticipation of grilling some pork tenderloin, and he had climbed about 6 rungs of the extension ladder that’s propped up agained the wall. Parenting fail. When we got him safely on the ground,  he pointed to the BBQ and blew three times (the indication of it being hot). “You’re right,” I say, “It’s not hot yet, but it will be soon. We’re going to grill some pork tenderloin tonight! Are you hungry?” (Oh, and by the way, never do that again. You scared the sh!t out of me).


A jar of apricot jam in the pantry inspired this pork tenderloin, which came from El Salchichero, our community butcher. We decided to make a sweet and spicy glaze by combining the jam with some minced rocoto pepper from our backyard. These peppers are spicy – almost like a habanero – so we used them sparingly. Some fresh Meyer lemon juice added a little acidity to balance things out.


When the coals were hot and the tenderloin had been marinating in a little olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, I asked Levi to get the  BBQ tongs and bring them to daddy. Not surprisingly, he knows where they’re located and is always eager to help if it means retrieving something from the garage. After grilling, we allowed the pork tenderloin to rest so that it would be nice and moist when we sliced into it. The glaze caramelized nicely on the outside and imparted a subtle sweet and spicy flavor. Not bad for a quick weeknight meal. Levi enjoyed it too. Climbing an extension ladder makes for a good appetite.


Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Apricot Glaze

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb.)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh rosemary, chopped
apricot jam (about 1/2 cup – I used 1/2 of a 9.5 oz. jar)
1/2 a hot chili pepper (such as a jalapeño, serrano, or rocoto), minced
fresh lemon juice (I used 1/2 of a fairly large Meyer lemon)

  • Place the tenderloin in a baking dish (or on a big plate) and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Using your hands, rub the oil and seasonings all over the tenderloin. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the apricot jam with the minced hot pepper, lemon juice, and some salt & pepper. Mix well. Taste and add more ingredients as necessary to balance the flavors. I ended up adding a little more lemon juice and more peppers after tasting.
  • Take the tenderloin out of the refrigerator as you prepare a charcoal grill. When coals are ready, brush the apricot glaze on the tenderloin so that it covers all surfaces. Place on the grill, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes. Brush more glaze on the top, flip the tenderloin, and glaze the other side as well. Cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Continue glazing and flipping every few minutes, until the inside of the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees and the outside is nicely caramelized. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for several minutes. Slice and serve with your starch and vegetable of choice. We had couscous, grilled summer squash, and a salad.

Gyoza


Thank goodness for gyoza. It sustained us for a couple evenings during that first week in Japan when we were still jet-lagged, everything felt so foreign, and we hadn’t yet learned how to navigate our supermarket across the street. When we got up the courage to walk in, we were bombarded with bright florescent lights, foreign sounds, and (hallelujah) the prepared foods section, where we were immediately drawn to something familiar – plastic packages containing 6 perfectly browned gyoza, with a packet of dipping sauce on the side. We threw several packages into our basket, fumbled our way through the check-out line, and made it home. We heated them up in a pan (the one pan that was in our furnished apartment), poured the prepared dipping sauce packet into a small bowl, and made our first batch of rice in our rice cooker. It was one of our first dinners in our little Japanese apartment, and to this day we still talk about how delicious and comforting that supermarket’s gyoza was. It was also a good opportunity to practice our chopstick skills before going out in public :).


Toward the end of our two and a half years in Japan (and after buying countless packages of that prepared gyoza), we finally learned how to make it from one of our dear friends and colleagues, a woman named Chihiro. We sat around a table one spring afternoon, spooning a ground pork and cabbage mixture into gyoza wrappers and pinching the ends together. Even though we didn’t have much proficiency in each other’s languages, we still managed to share plenty of stories and laughs. It’s amazing how food crosses language and cultural barriers and brings people together. We hope that you’ll try this recipe and enjoy assembling the gyoza with the people you care about as well.


Sadly, in the move from Japan back to California, the recipe that Chihiro shared with us got lost in the shuffle. To make this gyoza, I looked at several recipes to try to find something similar. We ended up using Morimoto’s recipe, but added several things to the filling, including minced garlic, fresh ginger, a splash of soy sauce and sake, and sesame oil.


Gyoza

(Adapted from Morimoto: The New Art of Japanese Cooking)

For the Gyoza:

3 cups finely shredded Napa cabbage
2 green onions, chopped
1 TBS. coarse salt
1 lb. ground pork, preferably something on the fatty side like shoulder
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1 TBS. soy sauce
1 TBS. sake
1 TBS. sesame oil
1 package gyoza wrappers (10-12 oz.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil

For the Dipping Sauce:

soy sauce
seasoned rice vinegar (if unseasoned, add salt & sugar to taste)
sesame oil
agave nectar
Japanese chili pepper blend (Nanami Togarashi)
water to dilute

  • Toss the cabbage with the chopped green onions and the salt in a medium bowl. Let stand for 10 minutes or until cabbage is very wilted. Rinse and drain in a colander. Squeeze the cabbage and green onions, a handful at a time, to extract as much liquid as possible.
  • Place the cabbage and green onions in a mixing bowl. Add the ground pork, pepper, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, sake, and sesame oil. Add a tiny pinch of salt, but not too much because the cabbage has already been salted. Mix everything together gently, but thoroughly.
  • Fill a small bowl with water. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust it with cornstarch. Place 1-2 teaspoons of the pork and cabbage filling into the center of a gyoza wrapper. Dip your finger into the water and moisten the edges of the wrapper. Bring one edge of the wrapper up over the filling to meet the other edge. Press the edges together firmly. Place the gyoza on the parchment pepper, plumping the bottom of the gyoza so that it stands with the pinched-together part facing up. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook (can be made up to 4 hours ahead).
  • Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat 2 TBS. of the oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is very hot but not sizzling. Place half the gyoza in the skillet, pinched part up, letting the gyoza touch each other (traditionally, they are served attached to each other, but it’s fine if they don’t!) Let cook for several minutes. Add 2/3 cup of water to the skillet and cover tightly. Cook for 5 minutes, adding more water if it evaporates before the 5 minutes is up. Cook until water is evaporated and the gyoza are nicely browned on the bottoms, about 7 minutes total. Invert the gyoza onto a platter and place in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining 2 TBS. of oil and gyoza. Depending on the size of your skillet, you might need to do a third batch, adding a little extra oil.
  • To make the dipping sauce, combine equal parts soy sauce and rice vinegar in a small bowl. Add a little splash of sesame oil, a sprinkle of Japanese  chili pepper blend, and a little agave nectar for sweetness. Stir together. Add water to dilute the sauce slightly. Taste and adjust amount of water or ingredients until it tastes right to you. It should be a nice balance of salty, sweet, and sour, with a little spice.
  • Serve the gyoza with a bowl of steamed rice and the dipping sauce on the side. Add a salad with sesame dressing and you have a comforting Japanese dinner!

Spicy Pork with Asparagus & Chile


I enjoy meat – don’t get me wrong – but I’d also be perfectly happy with a main course that consisted entirely of cheese. Because of this, I often let Dustin decide what protein we should have with dinner. When he came home from the butcher shop (yes, the same place I’ve mentioned in several posts now) on this particular night with some course-ground pork, I immediately thought of stir frying it with some asparagus. It is spring after all, and we’d just been talking about how much we miss the beautiful cherry blossoms in Japan, so I had Asian food on my mind. Later, I was casually flipping through the new issue of Bon Appetit and lo and behold; there was exactly what I had in mind: Spicy Pork with Asparagus & Chile. It was meant to be. In true stir-fry nature, this dinner comes together quickly, so make sure all of your ingredients are chopped, measured, and ready to go. We loved the flavor of the pork, seasoned with soy sauce and sherry (we didn’t have any Chinese rice wine, alas), with the crisp-tender asparagus. Some red jalapeño chile added some heat, which was balanced by the savory and sweet flavors of oyster sauce and honey. Next time we would actually add a little more honey, as well as a little more heat. I’d have your Sriracha bottle handy when you’re eating, or better yet, add some to the oil when you add the chile and ginger and let it really infuse the oil.


The first thing I do when I sit down for dinner is start cutting everything on my plate into little bits, so that I can give them to Levi. (But the other day I found myself doing the same when it was just me and my lunch! I realized what I was doing and laughed at myself). The good thing about this meal is that the ground pork could go straight from my plate to Levi’s. Only the asparagus had to get the special knife treatment. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of my little foodie’s version.


Spicy Pork with Asparagus & Chile

(From the April 2011 issue of Bon Appetit)

3 TBS. soy sauce, divided
1 TBS. Shaoxing Chinese rice wine or dry Sherry
2 tsp. cornstarch
12 oz. ground pork (preferably coarsely ground; sometimes labeled chili-grind)
3 tsp. Asian sesame oil, divided
12 oz. thin to medium asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on extreme diagonal into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
1 red jalapeño chile, minced with seeds
1 TBS. minced peeled fresh ginger
2 TBS. oyster sauce
1 tsp. honey
2 green onions, thinly sliced on diagonal
fine sea salt

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice wine, and cornstarch. Add the pork and toss to blend.
  • Heat 2 tsp. of the oil in a heavy large wok or deep skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, chile, and ginger. Toss until asparagus is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer asparagus mixture to plate.
  • Add remaining 1 tsp. oil to wok. Add pork mixture and stir-fry until browned, using wooden spoon to break up pork into small pieces, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Return asparagus mixture to wok. Add remaining 2 TBS. soy sauce, oyster sauce, and honey. Stir-fry until pork is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Add water by tablespoonfuls if it becomes too dry.
  • Add green onions; toss to incorporate. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve over steamed rice.

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.