June 11, 2018

Creole Grilled Pork with Corn & Okra

I'm doing a lot of traveling around the south lately, which doesn't really seem fair given that I know literally dozens of people that are going to Europe, going on safari, and going seemingly everywhere around the world. It's fine though, since I get plenty of great lowcountry and Gulf Coast eats. Plus, it turns out that Father's Day, summer produce, and that southern inspiration make the perfect storm for a delicious dinner. These pork cutlets (or pork chops, if you prefer) come together quickly with a fresh, summery salsa-esque topping for a meal fancy enough to celebrate Dad but quick enough for those weeknights when you inevitably make it again and again.

The pork part of the dish is pretty simple. I whip up a quick spice blend with plenty of Louisiana kick and add a splash of oil to distribute it and let the pork soak up all the goodness. Tonight, I went with a boneless pork cutlet, but this recipe would work just as well with pork chops (bone in or boneless) or even a pork tenderloin. I thought these pork cutlets were tender and tasty, plus they cooked in less than 15 minutes and stayed perfectly juicy. I used a grill plate so I could stay indoors and still get a nice char, but other options include an outdoor grill or a big, heavy skillet.

In all honesty, though, the pork is really just a vessel for this salsa/slaw/vegetable medley what-have-you. I'm still not sure what to call it; I just know it's one of the best ways I've come up with to get your veggies and take advantage of fresh, local, in-season produce. Like all the best veggie dishes, it starts with a bit of meat. Here, I use diced ham to add texture and saltiness and enhance the flavor of the pork underneath. I cook off some onions in the flavorful ham fat as a base for the rest of the veggies.

Corn and okra are up next: you might not be familiar with okra or you might think of it as a fuzzy, slimy thing you never willingly ate (sorry, Dad). However, once you slice it thin and toss it with all these other vegetables and a hint of a dressing, it transforms into a delicate, tender bite that adds a pop of color and that unmistakable southern flair. Just be careful to serve it quickly after cooking because it can go from tender to gummy very quickly. The 'salsa' just needs to be finished with a handful of diced fresh tomatoes (as much as I love canned tomatoes, they're not the best fit here) and a drizzle of honey and apple cider vinegar. To kick it up a notch, you can add cayenne or minced jalapeno as well.

To serve, I like to heap some of the veggies on a plate, top it with the pork, and spoon some more veggies on top so the juices drip down as sort of a mini sauce. It can be easily scaled up or down for any occasion, too. Just make sure you follow food safety guidelines by using different plates and grilling utensils for the meat to avoid cross-contamination, and refrigerate any leftovers quickly, though it's unlikely there will be much. There's a reason why foodborne illnesses spike in the summer, so don't let it happen at your cookout! I still have faith you can whip this dish up for Father's Day without any trouble, and you may even have time to make a frozen lemonade tart or caramel pretzel blondies for dessert.

1.5 lbs Pork Loin Cutlets, Pork Chops, Pork Tenderloin, etc.
4 T Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 tsp Onion Powder
1 tsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Cayenne
1/4 tsp Thyme
1/4 tsp Oregano
4 oz Ham, Diced
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
1 Jalapeno, Minced (Optional)
2 Ears Corn
1/4 lb Okra, Sliced Thinly
1 Tomato, Diced
1 T Honey
1 T Apple Cider Vinegar

Combine the garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, 1 tsp cayenne, thyme, and oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste, approximately 3/4 tsp of each. Add 2T oil to form a paste. Add the pork and rub to coat evenly. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2T oil in a large skillet. Add the ham and cook until crisp and browned, about 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the onion to the remaining fat from the ham and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the jalapeno, if using, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the corn kernels and okra and cook for 2-3 minutes or until just tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato, honey, apple cider vinegar, and remaining 1/2 tsp cayenne (to taste). Cook for 1-2 minutes or until heated through.

Heat a grill, grill pan, or skillet. Add the pork and cook until cooked through, about 10 minutes total for cutlets. Let rest for a few minutes, then serve with the vegetables.

Serves 4
Recipe Adapted from Food Network

May 27, 2018

Frozen Lemonade Tart

Memorial Day is generally regarded as the start of summer, at least for those of you who don't live where it's been 90 degrees for the last month (yes, I'm back in Atlanta!). My family has a barbecue lined up for tomorrow, which means that we will have plenty of burgers, hot dogs, watermelon, corn, and other tasty treats. For reference, "a barbecue" refers to grilling burgers, hot dogs, etc. while "barbecue" encompasses all those long-smoked meats like pulled pork and brisket. I can rant on for a while, but I'll spare you the details and get right to dessert. This year, I'm thinking a frozen lemonade tart, much in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo's frozen margarita pie, but more kid-friendly and suited for any summer festivities you may have planned.

Since it's already Memorial Day weekend and you may be looking at this for a last-minute dessert, you can speed up the process by turning it into a pie and using a store-bought graham cracker crust. However, I'm a crust girl and prefer the look and crust-to-filling ratio of a tart, so I tend to take 15 minutes to make my own graham crust in a tart shell. It's just graham cracker crumbs (again, save time by buying a box of crumbs instead of grinding your own), butter, and sugar, and it only needs to bake for a few minutes until golden and toasty.

The filling is essentially a frozen mousse: it has a delicate, airy structure that is set by freezing for a few hours. See how the tart looks kinda droopy in some of my pictures? That's because I'm very impatient and just had to try it before letting it freeze fully. Make sure your cream is whipped to stiff peaks and is gently folded in to avoid destroying the foam when you combine it with the sweetened condensed milk, lemon, and sugar, and let it freeze for as long as you can stand it. I use both lemon zest and lemon juice for an acidic punch of flavor and unbeatable freshness.

I like to garnish this tart simply with some fresh whipped cream and decorate it with some fresh fruit. Here, I just used some extra slices of lemon I had on hand, but you can decorate it with berries for a red, white, and blue patriotic feel for the holiday weekend or just with some of your favorite fruits. I'd recommend garnishing just before you serve because freezing berries in particular tends to ruin them and leak juices everywhere. Like I said, though, this tart is so tempting you might just eat it too fast for that to matter.

1 1/2 Cups Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/3 + 1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Stick Butter, Melted
2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
4 Lemons, Zested & Juiced (2/3 cup juice, 2-3T zest)
3 T Powdered Sugar

Heat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-11" tart pan.

Combine the graham crumbs, 1/3 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt. Stir in the butter and quickly press into the prepared pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes or until golden. Alternatively, use a pre-made graham cracker pie crust.

Whip 1 cup cream until it holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

Whisk the sweetened condensed milk, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1/4 cup sugar, and a pinch of salt together. Gently fold into the whipped cream. Spread into the cooled pie crust and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.

Whip the remaining 1 cup cream until it holds soft peaks. Add the powdered sugar and whip until it holds stiff peaks. Use to garnish the tart, along with lemon slices and graham crackers if desired.

Serves 8

May 19, 2018

Summer Vegetable Tart

Based on my observations at the farmers' market this morning, the best way to take advantage of summer produce is to eat it all at once. I'm talking corn, tomatoes, zucchini, and more summer squash. And what's the best way to combine them? With plenty of cheese in a buttery, flaky crust. Yep, that's right: a savory tart. There's minimal cooking involved so you retain the freshness of the veggies (plus you get to eat it that much faster).

I typically make this tart with some sauteed onions, zucchini, and yellow squash. I then add tomatoes, herbs, and garlic and let a lot of the water cook off so the crust doesn't get soggy during baking. The trick is to cook it just enough so you lose some moisture but not too much that they turn to mush in the oven. Since the corn doesn't need to be cooked beyond the time in the oven, I stir it in at the very end with the olive oil and the parmesan.

The crust is my traditional buttery crust for savory recipes. I'm firmly in the all-butter camp, so no lard or shortening here. Butter just has the best flavor and a superior flakiness that can't be beat. Like with all my pie and pie-esque recipes, keep all the ingredients cold (especially the butter) and work them as little as possible. Once you roll it out to fit the tart pan, keep it chilled until you're ready to bake. I like to blind-bake my crust before adding the veggies, meaning that you bake it while covered until mostly cooked through. This prevents it from getting too soggy if the vegetables are too liquidy and ensures it is cooked through without overcooking the vegetables.

To dress the tart up a bit, you can add more of your favorite veggies, sub in colorful cherry tomatoes, or even throw in some bacon or crispy ham. You can also add some cheese to the crust, like in this mushroom galette. For extra cheese, try spreading a layer of ricotta or your favorite soft cheese on the base of the crust. If summer vegetables haven't quite hit you yet, this would be delicious with some asparagus or mushrooms as well. It's easily adaptable to your taste and to the season, so don't limit this recipe to just the summer.

1 Recipe Savory Crust, Blind Baked in an 11" Tart Shell
1 Small Zucchini, Sliced Thinly
1 Small Yellow Squash, Sliced Thinly
1 Small Onion, Diced
2 Roma Tomatoes, Diced
2 Sprigs Thyme
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Ear Corn
2 T Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Shredded Parmesan

Heat oven to 375F.

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the onions and cook for 4 minutes or until translucent. Stir in the zucchini and squash and cook of 3 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Add the tomatoes, thyme, and garlic to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes or until some of the liquid has evaporated.

Combine all the sautéed vegetables with the kernels from the corn. Refrigerate for 15 minutes or until cool. Toss with the oil and parmesan and transfer to the crust.

Bake the tart for 12-15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the crust is golden.

Serves 8
Recipe Adapted from Smitten Kitchen