Pan Roasted Asparagus

Well, here it is, Monday again.

Oh, and I’ve lost 11.5 pounds in a little over a month.  Just by changing the diet (I have yet to go down to the basement and confront the treadmill and Bowflex…don’t push me, it’s coming).  Yay, me.

(Beloved has lost 12 pounds in like 3 weeks, but we won’t go there right now.)

Anyhoo.  Monday.  Boooooooooo.  Well, that’s all right – we’re going to take a mini-vacation and leave town Wednesday afternoon to go to Wisconsin for Beloved’s family reunion, returning Sunday.  We’ll be stopping overnight in Chicago on our way there – anyone know of any good restaurants in the downtown area?

Today’s recipe is easy and delicious – Pan Roasted Asparagus.  We love asparagus and you can still find it relatively cheaply at the store and farmer’s markets.  It is particularly good pan roasted in a hot, cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper, fleur de sel or kosher salt and a little freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Nomilicious stuff.

Pan Roasted Asparagus

Pan Roasted Asparagus

serves 3 to 4

1 pound of fresh asparagus, trimmed, washed and well-dried

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Heat a small, cast iron skillet over high heat until it is almost smoking. Add the asparagus to the dry skillet, stirring it occasionally, until it begins to brown but is still crisp. Remove the skillet from the heat, drizzle the olive oil over the asparagus, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle it with the cheese if desired. Serve immediately.

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Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

Here in the States, cherries are in season.  They aren’t something I cook with very often, and when I made this dish Friday night, I wondered why – it was really simple and absolutely delicious.

We had scored some really nice, bone-in pork chops at the little retail store of the people who butchered our half a cow (more about the marvelous Perkins family of White Feather Meats in a later post) and I was rather at a loss with what to do with them.  Then I spotted the inexpensive cherries I’d picked up earlier in the week and wondered if they could be used to sauce the chops.  The answer was a very happy “Yes!”

After an extensive search of my cookbooks and the internet, I found this recipe on the Serious Eats website and immediately thought, “This is it!”  Unlike most cherry sauces, this was low in sugar and didn’t use cornstarch to thicken it (a lot of the recipes I found online used canned cherry pie filling, which I have never liked).  The original recipe did call for a pinch of sugar on the pork chops themselves, as well as pan-frying in canola oil – both of which have been banned from my kitchen.  I simply seasoned the chops with a little salt and pepper and cooked them in a little beef tallow I’d rendered myself a few days earlier, and they came out just fine.  The recipe also called for placing the pork chops on a cold skillet and turning the heat on underneath – a sure-fire way to get them to stick.  Heat the skillet first, then add your fat and the meat, and you will greatly reduce any problems with it sticking to the pan.

And if you don’t eat pork, this would be just lovely on roasted or grilled chicken.

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

Pork Chops with Cherry Sauce

serves 4

1 cup cherries, pitted

3 tablespoons water

1/4 cup dry red wine

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Pinch of salt

4 thick, bone-in loin pork chops

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of fat – oil, clarified butter, lard, etc.

Place the cherries into a small pot and pour in the water, red wine, red wine vinegar, honey, thyme, mustard, and a pinch of salt.  Bring to simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes, smashing the cherries with a wooden spoon about half way through, or until the sauce becomes slightly syrupy.

In the meantime, heat a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat until quite hot.  Place your fat of choice in the pan, making sure to coat the bottom.  Season the pork chops lightly with salt and pepper, reduce the temperature slightly and pan fry them until they reach an internal temperature of 140º F, or are no longer pink in the center or close to the bone, 4 to 5 minutes on each side.

Serve immediately with the cherry sauce.

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Pico de Gallo

I am tired today – even Tech Guy here at the office mentioned how tired I look.  He’s a sweetheart, and as a Type II diabetic who struggles with his diet was quite sympathetic when I told him that although I’d tried very hard to eat right this weekend, we ate out so much that it knocked me all out of whack – Bob Evans and Cheesecake Factory don’t exactly do local and sustainable.  I further botched things up last night; we stopped on a whim at our absolute favorite restaurant in Ohio.  They do serve locally obtained, unprocessed food, but if you throw alcohol and dessert into the mix, well…

Cut me some slack – I’m paying for it this morning.  (It sure was tasty, though.)

At any rate, I’m back on track today and will remain there until I’m seduced once again by the siren song of a four-star restaurant.  Which doesn’t happen with any regularity, thank goodness.

So – pico de gallo.  There’s some debate about the origins of the name, but it’s basically a fresh, uncooked salsa often served with Mexican dishes.  It’s easy and delicious and has the added bonus of being extremely good for you, too.  I don’t care much for cooked tomatoes, but I love them raw and this is one of my two favorite ways to eat them (I’ll get to the other way later in the summer when my own tomatoes ripen).

Note: Seed the jalapeños unless you like it really spicy.

Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

makes 3 – 4 cups

2-3 medium sized fresh tomatoes, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2 jalapeño peppers, finely diced

Juice of one lime

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the ingredients except the salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl; taste and season.  Let it sit, covered, for an hour or so at room temperature, to allow the flavors to combine.

Can be served as a condiment, side dish or as a dip with good quality tortilla chips.

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I think that I mentioned here recently that I’m a wee bit tired of beef.  Don’t get me wrong, I love it but we’ve been eating quite a bit of it lately in our quest for some grass-fed, 100% pastured beef (which we found, but that’s a subject for another post).  So there’s been a lot of chicken and pork and not enough fish on my table lately.

I think I’ve also mentioned before that Podunk isn’t the best place in the world to get Mexican food (there are “Mexican” restaurants here that give you a hunk of bell pepper wrapped in ground beef and deep fried when you order a chile relleno).  Then there’s the fact that Mexican food isn’t exactly the best thing in the world if you’re reducing refined carbohydrates and grains in your diet.

However, there are Mexican dishes that are lovely and delicious and perfectly acceptable if you’re willing to bypass the rice and tortillas (or even if you’re not; if, unlike me, you can eat rice and tortillas without blowing up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters, go for it I say).  Carnitas is one of those dishes.

Carnitas literally means “little meats” in Spanish and is traditionally made from the rich, heavily marbled shoulder sections from the animal.  It’s usually braised or simmered, then roasted briefly at high heat until the outside is brown and crisped, then shredded or cut into bite-size chunks.  It’s usually served with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and eaten with tortillas – and is absolutely delicious.

I made the process a little easier by putting a bone-in shoulder roast in the crock pot, then shredding and chopping it before roasting.  Not quite traditional, but still quite good, especially served with homemade guacamole and pico de gallo (recipe to follow this week).  The Young One ate his in tortillas, but Beloved wrapped his in lettuce leaves.  I simply layered mine on the plate and ate it with a fork.

Whichever way you choose to eat it, it is delicious.



serves 6 to 8

3 to 4 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (it might be labeled “boston butt roast”)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

about 1 cup water

1/2 cup chopped onion

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 cup spicy salsa (any jarred variety is fine)

Rub the outside of the roast with the salt and pepper, then place in the crock pot.  Pour the water around, but not over, the roast – you want to surround it, not cover it.  Spread the onion and garlic over the top of the roast, then pour the salsa on top.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until the pork is very tender.

Preheat the oven to 400º F.  Carefully remove the roast from the crock pot, and shred the meat with two forks or cut into bite sized cubes (or both).  Place the meat on a large, shallow baking pan and pour a little of the cooking liquid over it.  Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges are brown and crispy.

Serve with lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and tomato, salsa, guacamole, refried beans and
tortillas, if desired.

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