Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pork Chops Milanese with Arugula Salad

Another night, another great recipe from Mario’s Babbo cookbook. My husband picked this one out, and said he knew I’d like it because it “only has one tablespoon of butter”. He’s so thoughtful! I am not usually a fan of anything breaded and pan fried, I just prefer to use other methods of cooking and make healthier meals for my husband and I. I wasn’t really looking forward to this one, and for me the breading was a little heavy, but the flavor was certainly delicious.

Pork Chops Milanese with Arugula Salad
Adapted from Mario Batali
Serves 4

4 center cut pork chops
Salt & pepper to taste
2 eggs
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
Olive oil cooking spray
1 tbls. butter
4-6 cups of arugula
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 tbls. lemon juice
1 tbls. olive oil
1 lemon, cut into quarters (optional)

Using a mallet or a small heavy pan, pound each pork chop to about ¼ inch thickness. Season pork chops liberally with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl or plate combine the breadcrumbs with salt, pepper, garlic, basil and oregano (if you’re using Italian seasoned breadcrumbs you can skip this whole step). In another bowl beat eggs with a splash of water, salt and pepper. Heat a large non-stick pan over medium heat and spray with olive oil and add butter. When the pan is warm and the butter has melted, dip each pork chop first in the egg, then into the breadcrumbs, pressing the crumbs so they adhere to the pork. Place the chops in the pan (you may need to do this in two batches) and cook, turning once, until brown on both sides – about 10-12 minutes total.

In a large bowl, combine the arugula, tomatoes, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil. Be sure to add the lemon juice before the olive oil, or else the juice won’t be able to start breaking down the greens. On each plate place one pork chop and top with the salad. Serve each plate with a wedge of the lemon for squeezing over the pork, it really brightens up what is otherwise a pretty heavy breading.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fennel and Orange Salad

This would have been infinitely easier and quicker with a mandolin, but given my track record of cuts, scrapes, burns and stabbings in the kitchen, my husband wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if there were a mandolin in the house – so, I had to do it the old fashioned way.

Fennel and Orange Salad
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich
Serves 4 as a side

1 large or 2 small bulbs fennel
3 oranges
¾ cup black olives (use your favorite – we like kalamata)
1 tsp. salt (plus more to taste)
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbl. olive oil

Cut fennel bulb(s) in half and cut out the hard inner core. Thinly slice fennel and place in a medium bowl. Cut the peel from the oranges, being sure to remove all of the bitter white part. Segment the oranges by cutting them into “supremes”, cutting the flesh away from the membrane that separates the segments. Cut each segment in half, and add to the bowl. Cut the black olives in half and add to the bowl. Add the salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil and toss to combine. We like to let this sit at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before eating to soften the fennel a bit and let the flavors combine, but it’s perfectly delicious right away too.

Pollo Con i Carciofi

This Christmas I really made out in the cookbook department!! I got books from two of my favorites, Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich, as well as another amazing country-style Italian cookbook and both volumes of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Let’s just say we better renew the gym memberships for 2010, because it’s going to be a year of eating very well!

I love Lidia’s book because it’s arranged with recipes by region instead of by course. This might be annoying to some, but I love it, since it means less work for me when it comes to the question of what to serve with what. And, since flavors from the same region tend to naturally go well together, she kind of makes creating an entire meal a no-brainer.

Last night’s dinner was from the Lazio region, which includes Rome. Romans are all about bold flavors, and letting their food speak for itself instead of “covering” it with seasoning and overloading it with fancy ingredients. Two staples of Roman cooking happen to be two of my favorite vegetables, artichokes and fennel, and what could be better than putting them together? The chicken was cooked perfectly, and we had some homemade bread on the side for mopping up all of the sauce, yum!

Pollo Con i Carciofi
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich
Serves 4

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves of garlic (peeled and crushed)
4 artichokes (chokes removed and quartered) (or 8 baby artichokes, much easier!)
1 cup dry white wine
2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp. salt
1 large (48 oz.) can San Marzano tomatoes (with their juice)
1-2 cups water
2 tbls. parsley (finely chopped) for serving
Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for serving (optional)

To prepare the artichokes fill a bowl with a few cups of cold water and the juice of one lemon. Remove the tough bottom leaves of each artichoke until you reach the softer, pale inner leaves. Cut about ¼ inch off the bottom of the stem, and peel the remainder of the tough skin off the stalk. Cut the top 3rd off of the artichoke and cut it in half the long way (cutting the stem in half). If you’re using baby artichokes there is not usually a “choke”, and you can just place the halves into the acidulated water. If you’re using mature artichokes, you’ll need to remove the fuzzy “choke”. We’ve found the best way is to use spoon to scoop it out. Once you’ve removed the choke, cut each half into two pieces and place them all into the acidulated water.

In a large heavy-bottom pot (like my brand new 6.5 quart Le Cruset oval – thank-you in-laws!) heat the olive oil over medium heat until almost smoking. Season chicken breasts with salt and place them in the pot, browning on both sides – about 8 minutes. Remove chicken and add the crushed garlic cloves. Remove the artichokes from the water with a slotted spoon and add them to the pot. Cook the artichokes and garlic about 4-5 minutes, or until the artichokes begin developing a golden brown color. Add the wine and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook until almost all of the liquid has reduced, about 5-6 minutes. Using your hands (this is the fun part!) crush the tomatoes into large pieces and add them to the pot. Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are slosh the 1-2 cups of water around the tomato can and add to the pot, along with the salt. Reduce heat to simmer and cover. Cook 10-15 minutes, then remove lid and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick you’d like the sauce to be.

On the plate, spoon sauce and artichokes over chicken, sprinkle with parsley and cheese and enjoy!

Monday, December 21, 2009


I know, it's been forever since I posted, but for good reason (and not a pregnancy, which seems to be in the water lately!) - My husband and I were planning and then enjoying our Thanksgiving holiday in Spain! We flew to Madrid the Wednesday before Thanksgiving week and stayed until the Sunday after. Our itinerary was mad-dash in order to squeeze the places that were on our "must" list...and this was AFTER we both made some concessions of places we wanted to see. This was our schedule:

Day 1 - Arrive in Madrid at 10am, taxi to the AVE train station, then high-speed train to Cordoba to spend the afternoon and night.
Day 2 - Cordoba in the morning then high-speed rail to Seville for the afternoon and night.
Day 3 - Seville in the morning, then (very) slow train to Granada
Days 3/4/5 - Granada - we planned a little more time here than some other locations in order to spend one entire day touring the Alhambra, and it's a good thing we did, we could have stayed there another day!
Day 5 - Granada in the morning, then we picked up our Mini and were off to the Costa Blanca. We drove along the coast until we reached Altea, a gorgeous Mediterranean seaside town that I would happily spend the rest of my life in!
Day 6 - Altea in the morning then we drove inland through Castille La Mancha to Cuenca, where we stayed at the only Paradore of our trip, and got to view the gorgeous "hanging" houses.
Day 7 - Depart Cuenca for Toledo, and say goodbye to the Mini :( We spent the afternoon and night in Toledo.
Day 8 - Toledo in the morning, then high-speed rail for the quick trip back to Madrid.
Days 8/9/10/11 - Madrid. We wanted to spend a good amount of time here for two reasons, 1 to relax from our whirlwind, and 2 to see everything without feeling frantic. It was amazing, we were able to go to the Prado, Thyssen and Reina Sofia museums, the Royal Palace, Botanical Gardens, El Retiro park and SO much more. Even better, they were setting up for Christmas when we got there, and the next night there was a tree-lighting and huge concert outside in one of the squares a few blocks from our hotel. There was so much energy, it was amazing to be there to be part of it!