Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Schnitzel, schnitzel, schnitzel: Not only is it fun to say, but it’s also hard to go wrong with thin cutlets of breaded and fried meat. Pounding them flat with a mallet is both good stress relief and a way to ensure quick cooking and maximum crispy surface area. Although I’ve got several chicken recipes that use this technique, my growing fondness for pork made this recipe catch my eye in a recent issue of Cooking Light. There’s nothing especially revolutionary here, but pork chops are still an undiscovered country for me, and an easy weeknight dinner of them seemed like it wouldn’t go amiss, especially with the added enticement of buttermilk ranch sauce.

The verdict? Would make again, although the sauce needed a little enhancement. Cooking Light, of course, calls for fat-free sour cream, which I dutifully obeyed, but next time I’ll just spring for the real stuff. With only 1 tablespoon per serving, I don’t think it’ll ruin my health. If you want to go lighter, 2% or nonfat Greek yogurt might be a better choice. As written, the sauce didn’t taste as ranchlike as the recipe title in the magazine led me to suspect, so I took a cue from my ranch dressing recipe and added a bit of minced garlic and parsley, which perked it up. (I almost wonder if next time I should just make the ranch dressing instead?) Despite my fears of blandness, the sauce tasted great with the pork, and we both enjoyed this meal. I’m afraid I can’t remember what I served on the side (roasted broccoli or green beans, or maybe a kale salad), but any green vegetable will do.

¼ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 small garlic clove, minced (optional)
¼ cup milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ teaspoon garlic powder
4 4-ounce boneless center-cut loin pork chops, trimmed and
pounded to 1/8-inch thickness
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream, dill, buttermilk, 1/8 teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and minced garlic if desired; set aside.

2. Whisk together milk and egg in a shallow dish. In a second shallow dish, combine breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic powder, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Dip pork in milk mixture; sprinkle with salt. Dredge pork in breadcrumb mixture.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Place two pork chops in pan. Cook 3 minutes on each side or until done. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining two pork chops. Serve with sauce.

Serves: 4
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: OK; breadcrumb coating will get soggy, but the flavor is still good.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


Will I ever tire of kale salads? Probably not, especially if they contain apples and cheese and roasted squash. I love the fresh, grassy flavor of raw kale, and I love how sturdy and convenient the leftovers are. This recipe might seem similar to others I’ve made in the past, but it might even better, because it’s rounded out with croutons that give it enough heft to be a main course. Throw in an assertive maple-mustard-balsamic vinaigrette and the satisfyingly meaty flavor of smoked cheese, and who could resist?

I’m not sure where I stumbled across a link to this post at Five and Spice, but I was immediately taken with the idea of a wintery spin on the classic panzanella. The original recipe included roasted beets, but beets are one of the few vegetables I just can’t find a love for no matter how hard I try (they taste like dirt to me), so I skipped those and increased the squash quantity instead (I hate using only part of a squash anyway). I also increased the kale amount (to use a full bunch and because I adore it), decreased the bread (so all the croutons fit in my 12-inch skillet in an even layer) and replaced the smoked mozzarella with smoked Gouda (because I love Gouda but don’t remember to buy it often enough). All good moves, but I’m particularly proud of my two final touches: throwing the red onion in the oven with the squash instead of leaving it raw (because roasted onion is crazy delicious and raw can be overpowering), and adding dried thyme to the croutons (which I know from experience makes them extra irresistible).

The end result is an incredibly pleasing jumble of textures (crisp, crunchy, tender, creamy, chewy) and flavors (sweet, tart, smoky, salty, savory) that makes a great lunch or light dinner. It’s so good, I’m almost sad that winter is over and soon butternut squash will be out of season…. That is, until I remember that soon I’ll be able to eat my delicious summer kale salad.

1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 3-4 cups)
1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges (eighths or sixteenths)
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
6-8 ounces ciabatta or other good, crusty bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 4 cups)
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
1 small garlic clove, crushed and minced (about ¼ teaspoon)
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stemmed and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 large, tart, crisp apple (I recommend Granny Smith), cored and cubed
About 4-6 ounces smoked Gouda, cut into ½-inch cubes (about ½-¾ cup)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment, place the cubed squash and onion wedges on it, and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste. Spread the vegetables out in a single layer, put the baking sheet in the oven, and roast until tender and browned, about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and toss well. Season with salt and pepper and the dried thyme. Toast, tossing frequently, until croutons are crisp and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup oil, mixing until emulsified.
  4. Place the sliced kale in a large bowl and pour about half the dressing over it. Toss well to coat, massaging the dressing into the kale with your hands. Let the kale sit in the dressing for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Once the butternut squash and onions have cooled to about room temperature, add them to the bowl with the kale. Add a little more dressing and toss again. Add the cheese and apple cubes, finish with dressing to taste (you may not quite use it all), and toss thoroughly until well combined.
  6. About 15 minutes before serving, add the bread cubes and toss well. (But if you are saving some salad for later, store the bread cubes for those servings separately and don’t add them to the salad until shortly before you plan to eat it.)
Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Great (store bread cubes separately from rest of salad).

Thursday, March 06, 2014


I have all these exotic pizza recipes in my repertoire, from asparagus to zucchini (with hummus and strawberry in between), without a basic Margherita. We make tomato-sauce pizza at least once a month, but we always load it up with our favorite toppings: mushroom and sausage for me, pepperoni and jalapeno for A. Yet cheese pizza was my favorite as a picky child, and as an adult I’ve come to appreciate its sophisticated cousin, Margherita, as the archetypal authentic Neopolitan standard at fancy artisan pizzerias, where its simplicity lets high-quality crust, sauce, and cheese shine through. Making it at home, though, seemed like it might be too…plain, at least until I spotted a delectable-looking “Pizza Margherita, Fancified” at Annie’s Eats. With a double hit of tomatoes—in a sauce spiked with cream as well as in my favorite secret-weapon roasted form—it seemed anything but dull.

And indeed (although it is not a true Margherita), this pizza was a minor revelation for me, mostly because it threw into question why I’ve been bothering to make pizza sauce out of canned tomato sauce all these years. My old sauce recipe is pretty great, doctored up with herbs, balsamic vinegar, even soy sauce—yet this simple concoction of butter, pureed canned tomatoes, tomato paste, a tiny bit of onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes gives it a serious run for its money. The tomato flavor is so much fresher and brighter this way that I feel myself slowly gravitating toward making it my go-to sauce.

The original quantities were a bit odd, calling for less than a full can of tomatoes, but I’ve found that if I use a whole can and increase the other ingredients accordingly, I can make enough for three pizzas in one fell swoop, allowing me to stockpile reserves in the freezer for later use. (If you only feel like making enough for one go-round, for some reason, use the original version at Annie’s Eats.) The cream in the sauce is delicious but not necessary—I might add a bit if I happened to have it sitting around, but it’s almost too decadent for frequent eating, and the sauce is plenty great without it. For the roasted tomatoes, I swapped in my usual recipe. Not much else to it but crust and cheese and basil, but the results are incredibly tasty and far from plain. Even A, who tends to feel that any vegetarian pizza I make would be better with meat (usually bacon) added, really enjoys this (although I’ve also found that sprinkling on some pepperoni and sautéed sliced mushrooms doesn’t hurt when I feel like branching out from the Margherita concept). Only time will tell if this really becomes my regular tomato-sauce pizza recipe, but regardless it’s a delicious diversion.

Tomato sauce (makes enough for three pizzas; freeze the rest for later use):
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato puree (I use Trader Joe’s San Marzano)
2 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
¼-½ cup heavy cream (optional)
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
1 tablespoon Grade B maple syrup
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 pound pizza dough
4 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1-2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
¼-½ cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
  1. To make the sauce, puree the tomatoes and their liquid in a blender or food processor (or using an immersion blender) until smooth. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook about 1 minute, until it begins to soften. Stir in the tomato paste, garlic and red pepper flakes and mix just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato puree, lower the heat to medium-low, and simmer about 5-8 minutes, until the sauce is slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream, if using. Divide the sauce into three equal portions and freeze two of them for in airtight containers for later use.
  2. To make the pizza, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the tomatoes in half and place them on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, maple syrup, and salt. Pour the mixture over the tomatoes and gently toss until well coated. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer, cut side up, and roast, without stirring, until the tomatoes shrink a bit and caramelize around the edges, 45 to 60 minutes. (You can do this up to a week ahead of time if you like—just let the tomatoes cool, scrape them into a glass or plastic container along with any liquid that was left on the baking sheet, seal tightly, and store in the refrigerator.).
  3. Increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees and roll out the pizza dough on a baking sheet dusted with cornmeal. Spread with an even layer of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the mozzarella in an even layer over the sauce, and sprinkle the Parmesan over that. Dot the roasted tomatoes evenly over the cheese.
  4. Transfer the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the crust is lightly browned, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chopped basil over the top of the pizza. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Serves: 4
Time: 2 hours (some work can be done ahead)
Leftover potential: Good; reheat on a dry skillet on the stovetop.