Tuesday, November 14

Pomegranate Pork Chops with Winter Tabbouleh

Casa Moro is a book I coveted for a long time before buying a few months ago. I'd read so much about it in the blogging world, that I knew it had to be good. It's a colorful and beautiful book. It's pages are full of the commentary of an English family living in Spain - a couple and their two adorable children. The food is full of robust flavors, but the recipes are all very authentic, and they promise meals that are simple and delicious, like the foods that families serve in their homes all over the Mediteranean.

I took one look at the Winter Tabblouleh recipe and knew it would be the first thing I would make. I'd never really seen a recipe like it, and it looked gorgeous - bulgar, cauliflower, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, mint and parsley - just the sort of dish to lift your spirits in the dark days of winter.

I had some great looking pork chops I wanted to serve with the tabbouleh, and it was a cold night, so instead of creating a raw salad, I decided to cook the vegetables before assembling the salad. I had never used pomegranate molasses before, and was excited at the chance to pull it out of my cupboard, where it's been gathering dust for over a year now. The dressing for the tabbouleh was dead simple - pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, a crushed garlic clove, water, olive oil, salt and pepper. At first taste, I was worried - the molasses tasted like cherry cough syrup to me.... but after letting it sit for awhile, I returned and found that it had transformed into a much more sophisticated version of what I had tasted just 20 minutes before - the sweetness had mellowed and I was intrigued - this was a taste I'd never experienced before.

A last minute decision on my part turned the dressing for the salad into a sauce for the pork; I had browned the chops on the stovetop, then added some stock and popped them in the oven to finish cooking. When they were done, I removed the pan from the oven, set the chops aside, and added the pomegranate dressing to the pork juices and stock in the pan and cooked briefly to make a thick, dark sauce to pour over the pork.

I was pretty excited about how this dish turned out - the sweetness of the pomegranate molasses and the warmth from the cinnamon were a great match for the pork, and the tabbouleh salad was a fun contrast of flavors and textures. It's not often I get make something that I feel is truly different than anything I've made before, but this dish was one of those - it sort of opened my eyes again to the fact that there plenty of foods and combinations out there that I have yet to discover and explore in my own kitchen.

Pomegranate Pork Chops with Winter Tabbouleh
Partially adapted from Casa Moro Cookbook

For the Pork:
2 center cut pork loin chops
1 Tablespoon pomegranate molasses
1 Tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper

For the Tabbouleh
1 cup coarse bulgar
1 1/2 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 small fennel bulb, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 leek, sliced in half lengthwise, then into 1/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine or chicken broth
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup fennel fronds, chopped

To prepare the dressing:

Combine the pomegranate molasses, cinnamon, and water, and whisk to combine. Add the garlic clove and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

To prepare the tabbouleh:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, until lightly toasted. Remove from the oven and cool before coarsely chopping. Set aside. Leave the oven on for the pork.

Combine the bulgar and boiling water in a medium bowl and set aside to let the bulgar absorb the water. Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over moderate heat. Add the leeks, fennel, and cauliflower and cook gently to release their flavors and soften. Season with salt and pepper. When the leeks are beginning to soften, add the garlic cook until fragrant, adding the wine or broth, then turning up the heat briefly, to reduce the liquid. When the pan is almost dry again, remove from the heat and add the vegetable mixture your serving bowl. Add the bulgar, draining any extra liquid before adding.

When the salad has cooled, add the walnuts, pomegranate seeds and fennel fronds. Toss lightly to combine. Drizzle with additional extra-virgin olive oil if desired.

To make the chops:

Drizzle the chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat a saute pan over medium heat, adding olive oil to the pan once it's hot. Add the chops and saute on each side until golden brown. Before adding the chops to the oven, add about a half cup of broth to the pan. Depending on the thickness of the chops, they should take anywhere from 10-25 minutes to finish cooking. When the chops are cooked through, remove the pan from the oven and set the chops aside on a plate while you finish the sauce. Return the pan to the stovetop, (be careful not to grab the hot handle - ouch!), adding the pomegranate dressing and cooking over medium heat to reduce the sauce slightly. When the sauce has reach your desired consistency, remove from the heat.

To plate the dish, add some of the tabbouleh to the bottom of your serving bowls or plates, then top with a pork chop. Drizzle the sauce over the pork, and serve!

Serves Two

Monday, November 13

Squash Ravioli with Garlic, Olive Oil and Crispy Sage

Oh my. This dish was quite possibly the best thing to ever come out of my kitchen. At least in recent memory. I've been somewhat hesitant to try my hand at homemade ravioli in the past, but yesterday was the type of day, where after our breakfast plates had been cleared, and our bellies full of the best buttermilk pancakes ever, I didn't skip a beat before pulling the flour and eggs out of the cupboard again.

I made another loaf of the Cracked Wheat Walnut Cider Loaf, which this time turned out fantastically round and domey-topped, and I decided to conquer my irrational fear of filled pasta. I used some leftover diced squash to create the filling by sauteing shallots and garlic over low heat until they were golden and tender, then I added cider and chicken stock, covered it and cooked until soft. I mashed it up, added some parmesan, and let it rest while I went on to make my pasta.

I had some pasta flour from Williams Sonoma, which I started with, but didn't have quite enough, so I made up for the difference with a blend of semolina and all-purpose flours, which turned out to be a happy substituion. The semolina gave the pasta a lovely golden-flecked appearance, and just a little more texture and bite than my normal pasta recipe. After a late-afternoon matinee, it turned out to be too late to make raviolis, so we had Chipotle (oh how I love thee), and I stayed up until 11 pm watching Brothers & Sisters new favorite show), and making these little devils. They say that raviolis are a labor of love, and they are - and they are so worth it.

When I had finished the production work, I tossed the raviolis in flour and carefully froze them for us to enjoy for the next few weeks. After work today, I made a quick garlic and sage infused oil, which I emulsified with some pasta water to create a light and fragrant sauce to coat the raviolis before they received their sprinkle of parmesan. These babies were so good, I couldn't help but profusely praise myself throughout the course of dinner - poking and prodding Dustin for some compliments to the chef on her outstanding achievement. Even better than Dustin's compliments though, were the satisfaction I got in knowing that I made something that tasted so damn dreamy.

This is a great technique to use if you're a little squimish of dressing your pasta in ungodly amounts of butter, which is the usual accompaniment to squash raviolis. The process of boiling the flavored fat with pasta water creates a light yet satisfying sauce which clings to the pasta and gives them a luxurious mouthfeel.

Squash Raviolis with Garlic, Olive Oil and Crispy Sage
My own creation
This makes about 6 servings

2 cups assorted flours, such as a blend of semolina and all-purpose
3 eggs

1 Tbsp olive oil
4 large shallots, sliced
4 good-sized cloves of garlic, sliced
1/2 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, sliced
8 large sage leaves, sliced into 1/4 inch strips

To make the pasta: Combine the flours in a large bowl and toss together with your hands. Break the eggs into a separate small bowl, and whisk with a fork. Add the eggs to the flour mixture and use the fork to gently incorporate the eggs into the flour, using your hands to finish the dough by squeezing and working it to combine the two elements evenly. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead it until it is smooth and has a uniform appearance. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge. Remove the dough 30-40 minutes before you plan on rolling it out.

To make the filling: In the meantime, heat the olive oil over low heat in a medium heavy saucepan. Add the shallot and garlic, and cook slowly until golden and soft. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Add the cider and broth, and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce the heat to low and simmer until the squash is very tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and mash the squash to an even consistency - don't worry about getting it entirely smooth. The roasted shallot and garlic with provide a little bit of texture to the mixture. Cook the squash a little longer over low heat to reduce if necessary. You don't want the mixture to be thick, but you don't want it too wet either. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan.

To assemble: Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and gently flatten the discs. Use a pasta machine to roll out the pasta into thin sheets. Line up one sheet at a time and place a tablespoon of filling at a time on the sheet, about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches apart, in the center of the bottom half of the pasta sheet. Use your finger to run water along the bottom edge and in between each dollop of filling, and fold the top half of the pasta sheet over to cover the bottom, lining up the edges if you can. Use the side of your palm to press the two halves together, working out the air bubbles as you can. Once your filling is secure inside the pasta, use a knife to cut the raviolis and trim the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. While you are assembling, take care to cover the finished raviolis so they don't dry out. I tossed my in flour then lined them up on a wax paper covered cooling rack to freeze in an even layer.

When you're ready to make the raviolis, heat your olive oil over low heat with the sliced garlic, and cook until the garlic has turned golden and soft. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the sliced sage leaves to the garlic and cook until they are crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside with the garlic.

Boil a pot of water to cook the raviolis, and salt generously. Toss your raviolis in (We did 8 per person, which was about perfect) in the water and cook gently, in batches, reserving them in a small bowl as they are cooked through, which takes about 3 minutes.

Take about 1/2 cup of the pasta water and add to the pan with the oil, turning up the heat and simmering to emulsify. Toss the water and oil in the pan to help the emulsification along. Add the cooked raviolis, reserved garlic and sage to the pan and toss several times to coat the raviolis with the sauce. Serve with a sprinkling of parmesan over top and enjoy immediately!
Vermont Farm Table