The Daily Dish: Mediterranean Pork Chops

pork chops

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Pork has come a long way in recent years, so don’t look to your grandmother’s old cookbook for a recipe. If you do, chances are you will overcook the meat ending up with tough chops. These days most people like to cook pork to a medium pink – I like to lightly dust the chops with flour before cooking which helps protect the meat when you sear it.

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Start to Finish Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients
4 1/2-inch-thick pork chops
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons capers
1 14-ounce jar whole artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained, and halved
3 to 4 cups hot cooked couscous or rice

Directions
Sprinkle pork chops with salt and pepper; dredge in flour and shake off excess. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add chops and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until browned.

Remove chops; tent with foil to keep warm.

Add broth, tomatoes, olives, capers, and artichoke hearts to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Spoon over pork chops and hot cooked couscous or rice.
(Courtesy: Yankee Magazine)

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Annie B. Copps is a senior editor at Yankee Magazine. Annie oversees the magazine’s food coverage, both as an editor and as a contributor of feature stories and columns.

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The Daily Drink: Wok Stirred Maitakes with Blood Oranges

Chef Tsai’s team recommends the 2007 Mas de la Dame Rosé as the pairing for this dish. It tastes, they say, of “subtle flavors of fresh berries and fennel with a flowery finish” and has an aroma of “fresh strawberries, peaches and roses,” all of which I love, especially since we’re talking about a rosé that’s likely served chilled on a hot summer evening.

But the added bonus of this particular wine is its label. Mas de la Dame means “Farm of the Woman.” Currently the winery and its olive grove are owned by Anne Poniatowski and Caroline Missoffe, granddaughters of Auguste Fay, a Burgundian wine merchant who founded the property in 1903. The land, and the wines, have a storied history. In 1889 Vincent van Gogh painted the farmhouse, located near the village of Les Baux de Provence in the Apilles Mountains. And Simone de Beauvoir drank the wine on her first trip to the south of France. She arrived at night, she wrote; the wind was blowing hard and lights twinkled in the valley. “A fire was crackling in the grate at the Reine Jeanne, where we were the only guests. We had dinner at a little table close to the fireplace, and drank a wine the name of which, Le Mas de la Dame, I recall to this day.”

If it’s good enough for van Gogh and de Beauvoir, it’s good enough for me.

Book review: Stir, by Barbara Lynch

If you read no other part of this cookbook (don’t worry, you will), read the introduction. That’s because you hear Barbara Lynch’s voice loud and clear, and it’s a voice that is authentic, real, and “of-Boston” as she is.

“I was born in 1964 in South Boston, a working-class town bordering Boston proper. My family lived in a four-room apartment in the Mary Ellen McCormack housing project. Like most families in Southie, ours was a big one. And, like most, we were poor, fiercely Irish, and extremely loyal. From what I saw, people hardly ever left the neighborhood. The older boys I knew grew up to be policemen, politicians, and criminals (often a mix of the three), but they stayed right there in Southie. And the girls I knew married them. If I ever had thoughts at all as to what I might be when I grew up, they were modest ones.”

Lynch describes high school in newly-desegregated Southie: “we white Southie kids were bused to predominantly black Roxbury while the Roxbury kids went to Southie.”

And she describes how, at about that time, she had a first food epiphany: “I began to hang out with a girl down the street whose dad was Irish but whose mother was Italian and therefore exotic. On the steps that led to their apartment were huge pots of basil, parsley, and rosemary, none of which I had ever seen fresh. And instead of the Oreos and milk my mother offered to my friends, Mrs. O’Brien plied us with homemade biscotti and tiny cups of espresso from an enormous chrome and gold machine that dominated the room. Eating at her house, you could forget you were in Southie.”

Lynch’s essential cooking advice:

  • Start with the best ingredients.
  • Get to know your stove and oven.
  • Season well and keep tasting.
  • Break rules once in awhile.
  • Find pleasure in the process of cooking.

The last is my personal favorite. Lynch elaborates: “Set aside a chunk of time, put on some comfortable shoes, play your favorite music, and give yourself over to the tasks at hand. Have a glass of wine, if that helps, and relax into the feeling that what you make will bring happiness to your family, your friends, and, most important, you.”

The photographs are gorgeous, some of them abstract, others suggestive. As for the recipes themselves, some are easy though most “are for those days when you have the time to slow down and prepare something with care to share with others.”

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Essen! Jewish Food in the New World kicks off Sunday

Western Massachusetts has its share of attractions, both natural and cultural. A fair bit of the cultural attractions are facilitated by an organization called Museums10, a consortium of galleries and museums ranging from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to the Smith College Museum of Art to the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Museums10 is on the radar of foodie folks these days for two reasons. The first is called Table for 10: The Art, History, and Science of Food, a months-long festival of cooking classes, demonstrations, lectures, and literary dinners. Most of the events take place this summer and fall — hitting just about all of the institutions involved in Museums10 — and it kicks off this Sunday.

Which brings us to the second reason foodie folks are paying attention. Essen! Jewish Food in the New World opens this Sunday, May 16, at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. The exhibit explores the idea that kitchen pots and grocery shelves chronicle the tale of the American Jewish experience from the early 20th century to today.

The full schedule of events also includes a series of paintings of jam-filled doughnuts and a public art project that transforms a traditional mobile food cart into a visual and culinary moveable feast.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Music, dancing, and loukaniko: Greek Independence Day in Boston Common

In honor of the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire (and Greek pride in general), the Greek Independence Day festival took over Boston Common on Sunday. The festival gave a hint of the wonderful culture — and food — one might experience on a visit, as with WGBH’s upcoming LearningTour.

Dancers in costume, with ethnic music in the background, help set the stage at yesterday’s Greek Independence Day celebration in the Boston Common.

Guests and participants take breaks to enjoy the weather, the crowd, and the food.

Food kiosks, even those selling products not exactly Greek by origin, fly the flag nonetheless.

Fried dough toasts in oil before being powdered with sugar.

No Greek festival is complete without gyros.

A gyro kiosk worker prepares slices of meat for cooking.

Shish kebabs and loukaniko were for sale as well. One guest described loukaniko as “like kielbasa but spicier, with orange rind in it.”

Shish kebabs for a crowd.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Sister Noella and her cheese: “The Cheese Nun” in Cambridge

Post-film cheese tasting hosted by Ihsan Gurdal of Formaggio Kitchen and Food24FPS.

Cheese is one of the world’s most beloved foods whether you’re a celebrated French chef or a scruffy American kid on a picnic bench.

But even if you love cheese, you probably don’t detect which type of flowers a cow, sheep or goat consumes or the time of day the milk is produced when you eat it. To do so takes years of experience and focused attention.

Last week Food24fps (a film society dedicated to popularizing classic and arcane movies about food) hosted a screening of Pat Thompson’s 2001 documentary The Cheese Nun: Sister Noella’s Voyage of Discovery. The film was followed by a panel with guest speakers: Rachel Dutton, microbiologist from Harvard Medical School; Heather Paxson, food anthropologist from MIT; and Ihsan Gurdal, owner of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge — one of Julia Child’s regular shopping destinations.

Thompson’s film begins in Bethlehem, CT, at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, where we meet Sister Noella Marcellino. The Abbey is located on 400 acres and includes a non-commercial working farm. It is there that Sister Noella develops her skills as a cheese maker, and earns a Fulbright scholarship for a PhD in microbiology (the microbial ecology of cheese ripening) as she travels the French countryside.

We see Sister Noella go from collecting samples of microorganisms from ceilings of ancient cheese caves in the Auvergne to wearing a white lab coat over her habit while examining the tiny microbes in order to intimately understand how they work to flavor the cheese and preserve the milk solids.

Even though productivity and demand for artisanal cheeses have never been higher, the actual number of cheese farmers is greatly reduced. Traditional cheese making is done by hand with wooden paddles and barrels, but stainless steel is slowly replacing them. Temperature regulation has been traditionally done by setting the cheese caves in cellars or mountains, not through air conditioning.

Something more fundamental also is at stake: local food traditions and interest in where our food comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect our environment, health, and economy.

The film ends with Sister Noella assuming the role of guardian of traditional cheese making, a champion for biodiversity, and an inspiration for the growing number of artisanal cheesemakers here in the US. At the Benedictine Abbey in Connecticut, she and her sister alchemists create the raw-milk Bethlehem Cheese with, of course, a little help from their healthy, happy cows.

Most importantly, though, they do not make the cheese as a product to sell. Rather, they create it as sustenance for their own community — as a delicious, complex heritage and legacy.

Germaine Frechette is the guest author for today’s Foodie Blog and part of the WGBH Membership team. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, where we explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Mollie Katzen and a celebration of spring, with recipes

Mollie Katzen's Mediterranean Yogurt which, she says, "started out as a multi-herb Mediterranean pesto with a touch of fruit."

The timing couldn’t have been more perfect: it was just the right day, and just the right weather, with just the right sort of food arranged around the right theme, presented by the right person.

That person was Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood Cookbook and restaurant fame), at a recent lunchtime seminar at Dudley House in Harvard Square, organized by Theresa McCulla and the Food Literacy Project at Harvard University.

Herbs were Katzen’s focus, and guests received recipes showcasing herbs for all the dishes available at the lunch: Mediterranean Yogurt, Persian Eggplant Appetizer, Spring Vegetable Herb Salad, Couscous-Quinoa Tabouli, Creamy White Beans, Chimichurri (either with tofu or salmon), and Crispy Sage Leaves.

Katzen — no surprise to anyone who’s used her cookbooks — is at her best with a wide variety of fresh (but not exotic) ingredients, guiding cooks through easy, yet revelatory, preparations.  In addition to their signature Katzen style, the recipes evoke visions of the Mediterranean — the sights, sounds, and tastes travelers will experience on WGBH’s Mediterranean Voyage of Discovery.

For the Mediterranean Yogurt recipe, for example, she uses many ingredients you’d expect such as cilantro, mint, and lemon juice. But then she throws a curveball you never saw coming: dried apricots, giving the recipe all manner of “special something” to it. Whether that came from the apricots, or the mix of herbs, or the raisins, or the walnuts, or the combination of all of those is deliciously hard to tell.

Here’s the recipe. Give it a whirl, and see for yourself.

Mediterranean Yogurt

Reproduced from the handout at Katzen’s lunchtime seminar, “Fun & Creative Uses of Fresh Herbs,” sponsored by Harvard University Dining Services and the Food Literacy Project.

1 medium clove garlic

1/3 cup parsley

1/3 cup cilantro

1/3 cup fresh dill

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves

1/3 cup fresh mint leaves

2 tablespoons fresh thyme

3 or 4 dried apricots (a soft, tart variety)

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup toasted walnuts

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Preparation: Place garlic, all herbs, dried fruit, and walnuts in a food processor, and pulse until it forms a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon juice and yogurt. Add salt and cayenne to taste. Cover tightly and refrigerate until serving. Just before serving, you can sprinkle a little extra cayenne on top and decorate with small sprigs of parsley and a few walnut halves, for a finished look.

Optional garnishes: a light dusting of cayenne, small sprigs of parsley, and/or walnut halves.

This sauce can be served alone, as an appetizer, or as a light lunch entrée — and it is amazingly compatible with a number of foods. You can serve it as a dip for raw or steamed vegetables, in pita bread with anything and everything, as a sauce for vegetables or grains…the list is endless. Mediterranean Yogurt keeps for about a week in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.