Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer Cobb Salad

August got away from me.  I had plans for more...not fewer...posts this month.  But it was not to be.  Now that I think about it, the whole summer has flown by.  Perhaps yours has too.  And here we are, approaching Labor Day weekend...the official last blast of summer fun.  

Cooking an elaborate meal is probably not what you had in mind for this last relaxing weekend of summer.  Maybe you have plans for a quiet weekend with your family—or maybe a not so quiet weekend with friends—at a cabin....or a lake house.  Or maybe you're plans are to just hang out at home....maybe finishing up your summer project....  Whatever your plans, my recipe today is just the thing for your relaxed weekend.  It requires little cooking...can be expanded or contracted to accommodate any size group....and will make salad lovers and meat lovers alike happy.  It is a summer variation on the classic Cobb Salad.

I first made this salad a few summers ago when I was visiting my best friend.  We love to cook together...  but we also love to talk.  Sometimes our days get away from us and before we know it, it's time for dinner.  I whipped this up on just such an evening.  We enjoyed it by her pool as the sun slipped down over the horizon.  The salad was so pretty and colorful, bathed in the late evening light reflected off the pool, that I took a quick picture.  I was reminded of that easy and delicious meal when that picture showed up in my Facebook memories earlier this month.  It looked so good to me that I wanted to make it again.  

Classically, a Cobb Salad is a composed salad (all of the ingredients are arranged individually on the platter...rather than tossing them all together as for the appropriately named "tossed" salad) that includes cubed/shredded roast chicken (or turkey), crisp bacon, chunks of avocado and tomato, wedges of hard cooked egg and blue cheese. These items are arranged in neat rows on a bed of crunchy greens (most often romaine or iceberg).  The greens and several of the individual components are dressed in a tangy vinaigrette.  It is almost an anti-salad it is so rich and substantial.  I don't think I know anyone who doesn’t like a good Cobb Salad.

My friend is not fond of eggs or blue cheese, so these items didn't make the cut for our summer variation on the Cobb.  But we both love roasted corn.  And roasted corn just happens to be delicious with bacon, tomatoes, and avocados.  I think I may even like this version better than the original.  I have not yet added blue cheese...but I'm pretty certain it would be a fine addition.

I am giving instructions for cooking the chicken the way I like it when I'm having it in a salad...but you may cook it however you please.  Roast it, grill it, sauté it, poach it...  Use white meat or dark...  You can even use a purchased rotisserie chicken if you like. 

The only other cooking required is frying up the bacon...and roasting the corn.  If you prefer to not turn on your oven, the corn can be thrown on the grill...or shucked and boiled on the cob.  Everything else is a matter of slicing and dicing...a little mixing...and then arranging it all.  

To complete the meal, add a loaf of crusty bread....a nice bottle of Rosé...and a simple dessert (ice cream...cookies or brownies...maybe pound cake with fresh fruit....).   Then, sit down...  relax....  and soak up the last rays of the summertime sun as it slips out of sight.

Summer Cobb Salad

I am giving the ingredients and the quantities for the salad I made recently for two.  These quantities were perfect for us...but they might not be perfect for you.  Multiply and alter the quantities and relative ratios of each of the ingredients as you prefer and choose a platter that is shallow and wide.   Start out with a base—spread over the whole patter—of well dressed greens.  As is evident from the pictures, I like to create a symmetrical platter of items...but classically, each ingredient only appears in one strip.  If you have equal quantities of each ingredient, this approach works well...but if you have a lot more of one or two ingredients, laying them out in two places at opposite sides of the platter is very attractive.

1 split chicken breast—about 10 to 12 oz.

1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. sherry vinegar
1 small shallot, finely diced (about 1 T.)
1/3 c. olive oil
Salt & pepper

1 to 2 T. minced flat leaf parsley (optional)
3 oz. trimmed Romaine hearts, cut cross-wise in 1/2-inch ribbons
1/2 of a large avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 large or 2 small vine ripened tomatoes (about 7 oz.), diced or cut into wedges
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (about 7 oz) roasted corn kernels (see note)
3 oz. bacon, sliced cross-wise and cooked until crisp (or simply cook the strips and crumble when cool)

Rub the chicken with a light coating of olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a baking dish and roast in a 450° to 475° oven until the skin is crisp and golden and an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion reads 150° to 155°--about 25 to 30 minutes. (The chicken will easily reach the safe temperature of 160° as it rests.)  As the chicken roasts, regulate the oven temperature to maintain an active sizzle. Remove the chicken from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. If desired, deglaze the baking pan with water. Degrease and reserve the resulting jus. When the chicken has cooled, remove the skin and bones and discard.  Dice or shred the meat into bite-sized chunks.  Toss with jus if you deglazed the pan.  Set aside or chill if not using right away.

While the chicken cools, make the vinaigrette and gather/prepare the remaining ingredients.  To make the vinaigrette, place the shallot, vinegars, and a couple of good pinches of salt and some pepper in a bowl and let sit 5 minutes.  Whisk in the olive oil.  Taste for balance and seasoning.  Correct as necessary.  Rewhisk before using.

Season and dress the greens with the vinaigrette and a scattering of parsley.  Spread the greens over the platter.  

Similarly season and dress separately the chicken, corn, tomatoes and avocado.  As you dress them, arrange them in strips on top of the greens.  

Place the bacon in a strip that runs perpendicular to all of the other strips.  

Serve, passing more dressing on the side.

Note: To roast corn, place the corn (in the husk) in a preheated 375­° oven.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and remove the husks as soon as you are able to handle the corn.  Cool and cut the kernels away from the cob.  A large ear of corn will produce 1 to 1 1/2 cups of kernels. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Pasta with a Creamy Yellow Bell Pepper & Tomato Sauce

Sometimes simplicity is deceptive....  Today's pasta sauce is a good example.  Other than its brilliant...almost neon...color, one might be tempted to pass it by as plain and boring...there just isn't much to see.  The few ingredients are cooked in a straightforward way and then puréed into a smooth and uniform sauce.  Visually, it could probably pass for baby food.  But when you put what turns out to be a rather silken textured sauce in your mouth, you find that it sings with the concentrated flavors of sweet ripe bell peppers and tangy summer tomatoes.   Furthermore, it has a pleasant but unobtrusive kick from a generous pinch of hot pepper well as a few nice aromatic exclamation points from a handful of shards of sweet basil.  It is anything but boring...  The few ingredients surprise with their collective intensity of flavor.

I ran across the recipe for this pasta in one of my favorite pasta cookbooks—Four Seasons Pasta by Janet Fletcher.  There are a lot of pictures in this book, but not one for this recipe.  If there had been a picture, it is likely I would have passed it by.  But since I was scanning titles and ingredient lists (rather than browsing pictures) looking for a late summer recipe, I noticed this one.  I love the red and yellow bell peppers of late summer (the hot house ones available all year pale in comparison).  When I stopped to read the recipe, I was intrigued by its simplicity.  And because it really is different than the chunky, vegetable "sauces" that I gravitate towards this time of year, I decided to give it a try.  I was not disappointed. 

I have altered the original recipe in one respect:  I roasted the pepper instead of chopping it up and adding it raw with the tomatoes.  I did this first and foremost because the final sauce is puréed, but not strained.  I didn't really want bits of tough pepper skins floating around in my otherwise smooth sauce.  Roasting the pepper has the added advantage of concentrating the sweet pepper flavor.  Furthermore, puréed roasted peppers create a velvety smooth sauce.  There really isn't a downside to this change...unless you object to turning on your broiler (or grill).  To this I would say that you can roast the pepper ahead...when you already have your oven or your grill turned on for something else.  Or, if you really object, you could simply follow the original recipe:  Core and seed the pepper and cut it into a quarter-inch dice.  Add it to the pan with the tomatoes.  Cover and simmer until the peppers are tender...about 15 minutes...and purée as directed. 

This simple sauce is delicious on pasta, but I have already been thinking about other ways to use it.  I think it would be wonderful with fish (something hearty like swordfish...or tuna...).  And its simplicity makes it perfect for pooling on a plate and topping with some freshly cooked gnocchi (tossed with a little olive oil or butter) and some shaved Parmesan. 

Pepper and tomato season will easily extend through the end of I plan on making this sauce a few more times before the season is through.  And since I'm certain this sauce will freeze well, I'll probably make an extra batch or two for the freezer.  I think its bright summery presence on the dinner table will be the perfect antidote to a gray and blustery autumn or winter day.

Pasta with a Creamy Yellow Bell Pepper & Tomato Sauce
(Penne Saporite "Il Frantoio")

1/3 c. olive oil, plus more for roasting the peppers
1 large yellow or orange bell pepper (about 8 to 9 oz.)
1 small red onion (about 6 oz.), finely diced
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
A generous pinch hot pepper flakes (to taste)
1 lb. vine ripened or plum tomatoes
Salt & freshly ground pepper
1 lb. penne rigate or fusilli
12 fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
1/3 c. (1 oz.) finely grated pecorino, plus more for passing at the table

Preheat the broiler.  Rub the pepper with a bit of olive oil, place on a small baking sheet or the broiler pan and broil until the skins have blackened and begun to split—2 to 4 minutes on each side.  Cool.  Peel and seed the pepper over a sieve set over a small bowl to catch the flavorful juices.  Cut into an even dice and add to the juices.  Set aside.

While the pepper roasts, heat 1/3 cup of olive oil in a large skillet over moderately low heat.  Add the onion along with a pinch of salt and sweat until very soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes and cook briefly until the garlic is fragrant.

While the onion cooks, prepare the tomatoes.  Core the tomatoes.  If using plum tomatoes, halve them lengthwise.  If using vine ripes, halve them horizontally (through their equator).  Scoop out the seeds into a sieve set over a small bowl (to conserve the juices).  Discard the seeds.  Using a large-holed grater set on a plate or pie pan, grate the tomatoes by holding the cut side of the tomatoes against the grater and grating until just the skin remains in your palm.  Add the grated tomato pulp to the tomato juices. 

When the onions and garlic are ready, add the tomato pulp—along with a few good pinches of salt—and simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly (about 10 to 15 minutes). 

Add the peppers, cover and simmer gently to blend the flavors and finish softening the peppers—about 5 to 10 minutes more—and adding a splash of water if the sauce seems dry or tight.

Transfer the contents of the pan to the blender cup (either a traditional blender or an immersion blender) and purée until smooth, adding water in small increments if the sauce is too thick to move well in the blender (see note).  

Scrape the sauce back into the sauté pan and taste for salt & pepper.  Keep warm while you cook the pasta. 

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Set aside 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.  Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat—adding enough pasta water to create a fluid sauce that coats and clings to the noodles.  Add the basil and the cheese and toss to combine.  Add more pasta water if needed.   Serve immediately, passing cheese separately. 

Serves 4 to 6.

  • I prefer to wait to purée the sauce until I'm cooking the pasta so I can use pasta water to thin the sauce in the blender (if necessary).
  • This may seem like a very small amount of sauce...but it is really just perfect.  Pasta should be sauced so that there isn't a pool of sauce left on the plate when you are finished...rather, you should finish the last bite of pasta with the last bit of sauce.  That said, if you like more sauce, simply increase the recipe so that the pasta is sauced to your liking.

Monday, August 8, 2016

A Simple Salad of Zucchini, Corn & Arugula with Lemon Vinaigrette

I have never understood why some people don't like leftovers.  In my house, leftovers lead to the discovery of new favorites all the time.  This summer, the presence of some leftover roasted corn kernels...and a leftover lemony vinaigrette...brought about the "creation" of a simple summer salad of nothing more than roasted corn, raw zucchini, arugula and the aforementioned vinaigrette.  

The vinaigrette (from Suzanne Goin's Summer Succotash Salad in her book Sunday Suppers at Lucques) is what sets this streamlined little salad apart.  It is admittedly very lemony—some might consider it to be out of balance—but as I discovered when I made Goin's succotash salad, it is just the thing to set off fresh midsummer produce.  I figured it would be equally delicious on my corn and zucchini salad:  I always knew that lemon was particularly good at brightening the subtle flavor of zucchini...and that an excessively peppery bunch of arugula could be magically tamed by a generous dose of lemon...  Still, I was surprised when I tossed these few ingredients into a bowl with my roasted corn (always delicious with zucchini and arugula) at the abundance of flavor.  

Other than the tangy vinaigrette, what makes this salad special is in fact the small number of elements.  Sometimes it is so tempting to just continue to add more...particularly this time of year when there are so many delicious fresh things to eat.  But restraint is almost always a good idea.  I admit that I have expanded this salad on one occasion (to make a more substantial, entrée-appropriate, salad) by tossing in a handful of salty Feta and piling it all on top of a platter of sliced vine ripened tomatoes.  It was delicious this way too.  But I encourage you to try it in its simplest form first....if for no other reason than to experience just how good such a small number of ingredients can be.

I have made this salad on multiple occasions.  It makes a fine vegetable side at dinner (some may have spotted it next to the tart in my previous post).  I think it would be particularly good with fish...or chicken....   And it is perfect for lunch...with a cheese quesadilla...or a grilled cheese...or that big platter of sliced tomatoes with Feta.... 

I have enjoyed it so much that I have started keeping a container of roasted corn on hand...sort of an "on purpose" leftover.  I don't know why I never thought to do this before.  I love summer corn salads.  Now, I can whip up this—or another favorite—at a moment's notice.   So don't throw away that last little bit of vinaigrette or sauce, or those few remaining roasted or blanched vegetables...or that last spoonful of rice or couscous.  These things can always be turned into your next delicious meal.  You never know when you'll come up with a new favorite.

Corn & Zucchini Salad with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

For each person:
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 oz. zucchini (preferably from a very small zucchini—less than 3 oz.—so that the seed cavity will be less developed and the flesh dense and firm)
1/2 c. (2 3/4 to 3 oz.) roasted corn (see note), chilled
1 T. Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette—more or less, to taste
1/2 oz. arugula

Using a mandoline slicer, slice the zucchini very thinly lengthwise (less than 1/16th inch thick, if possible).  Place in a small bowl along with the corn and season to taste with salt & pepper.  Drizzle in the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Add more vinaigrette if the vegetables seem dry.  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt, pepper and more vinaigrette as necessary.  Add the arugula, toss well and plate. 

Notes & Additions:
  • To roast corn, place the corn (in the husk) in a preheated 375­° oven. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the husks as soon as you are able to handle the corn. Cool and cut the kernels away from the cob. A large ear of corn will produce about 1 cup of kernels.
  • Sliced vine ripened tomatoes—Slice, season and fan on plate. Top with salad.)
  • Feta (3/4 to 1 oz. per person)—Crumble and add with arugula...or sprinkle over plated salad.

Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette

1 T. finely diced shallot
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more to taste
1/2 t. kosher salt
5 T. olive oil

Place the shallot, 3 T. lemon juice, and 1/2 t. salt in a bowl and let sit 5 minutes.  Whisk in 5 T. olive oil.  Taste for balance and seasoning.  Rewhisk before using.

Makes about a half cup of vinaigrette.  Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.  Bring to room temperature before using.

(From Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Savory Summer Galette with Ricotta, Vine-Ripened Tomatoes & Swiss Chard

We have been enjoying evening meals that feature Swiss chard at least once a week this summer.  The chard at the farmers' market has been so beautiful that I have not been able to pass it up.  I guess it's a good thing that chard is so versatile.  Besides being a simple and delicious side dish that compliments almost any protein you might want to pair it with (salmon, lamb, chicken...just to name a few...), it makes a fine addition to a pilaf or a frittata or a quiche.  It can also be the star of the meal in a ricotta gnocchi.  And of course I love it folded into a pasta.   If you saw my post from earlier this month, you know it makes a pretty great addition to a lasagne, too. 

As versatile as it is though, I don't often think of chard as being an "easy" green vegetable.  This is probably due to the fact that it takes up lots of space in the fridge...and then it shrinks dramatically when it's cooked.  Furthermore, it has to be thoroughly rinsed in lots of water...which is kind of messy...and also takes up a lot of space.  It doesn't require quite the same effort as spinach or kale because it doesn't tend to be quite so embedded with sand and grit, but it can be pretty dirty.  I would never cook it without first giving it a good rinse or two in a big bowl...or sink full...of water.  But, once it is trimmed and cleaned, it cooks to tenderness very quickly (much more quickly than kale, for example).  And of course, it tastes delicious. When it comes down to it, it is totally worth the little bit of extra work that it requires. 

Even so, since I have already posted one thing this month that includes chard, I wondered if posting another would be too much.  As I was considering this, I happened to fall into a conversation after one of my classes with someone who follows my blog.  When I told her about the tart—and said that I was thinking of posting the recipe—she commented that she would look forward to it...that everyone who has a CSA membership is always looking for new recipes that use Swiss chard.  I hadn't thought about this, but it's true...Midwestern CSA's are almost always filled with hearty greens like chard (and spinach and kale).  So... this post is for those of you who have opened up your CSA share and discovered yet another big, beautiful, bunch of chard.  (You can find lots of other ideas by browsing through the many other recipes I have posted using chard over the years.)

A friend of mine has been traveling in the south of France this summer...and her pictures have made me long to be in what is one of my favorite places in the world.  So it is probably not a coincidence that I thought to make this tart one evening: the flavors in it remind me of Provence.  Chard is abundant there....and it goes beautifully with the vibrant flavor of vine-ripened summer tomatoes and the briny black olives.  It is in fact a very Provençal dish...both in its style and its combination of flavors.  The tart is delicious right out of the oven.  But on a hot summer day, you can let it cool to room temperature before serving.  Then, if you serve it with a small fluff of lightly dressed greens...or simple vegetable salad... and enjoy it on your shady patio or deck along with a nice chilled glass of Rosé...  It is possible that you might feel like you have been transported...just for a the south of France. 

Provençal Swiss Chard & Summer Tomato Galette

1 recipe Pâte Brisée (see below)
3/4 lb. vine ripened tomatoes
2 T. olive oil
1 small red onion (4 to 5 oz), diced
A generous pinch hot pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch Swiss Chard, stemmed, cut into a wide chiffonade and rinsed well (6 to 7 oz. trimmed weight)
1 c. (240 g.) Whole milk ricotta cheese
1 T. olive oil
2 t. flour
Salt & Pepper
1/4 c. (40 g.) pitted Kalamatas, halved
2 oz. (55 g.) freshly grated Parmesan 

To roll out the dough, let it warm up for a moment or two at room temperature. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle that is about 1/8-inch thick and is about 15 to 16 inches across. Brush off the excess flour. Trim any ragged or uneven edges if you like. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Wash and core the tomatoes.  Using a serrated knife, slice the tomatoes 1/4-inch thick and spread out on a double thickness of paper towel. Sprinkle the tomatoes evenly with salt and let them sit for about 20 minutes so they can give up some of their liquid. When you are ready to build the tart, blot the tomatoes with paper towels to absorb the excess liquid.

While the tomatoes sit, heat the olive oil in a sauté pan set over medium heat. Add the onions along with a generous pinch of salt.  Cook gently until the onions are tender and translucent and beginning to caramelize a bit (10 to 20 minutes).  Add the garlic and hot pepper flakes 

and continue to cook until fragrant.  Begin adding the chard to the pan a handful at a time, turning it to coat in the olive oil and onions as you add it.  Add another handful as each successive handful begins to collapse.  When all the chard has been added to the pan, cover and cook over very low heat until tender (about 10 minutes).  Uncover and increase the heat a bit and continue to cook until any remaining liquid has evaporated (another five minutes or so).  Taste and correct the seasoning with salt & pepper. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature. 

In a small bowl, combine the ricotta with the olive oil, flour and salt & pepper to taste.  Set aside.  

To build the tart, spread the cheese mixture in a circle in the center of the chilled pâte brisée, leaving a 1 1/2- to 2-inch border of dough. Arrange half of the chard over the cheese 

and top with 2/3 of the blotted tomatoes.  Scatter half of the olives 

and half of the cheese over all.  Repeat these layers with the remaining ingredients. 

Pull up the edges of the crust and gently flip them over the filling to form a rustic edge. Pleat the dough as necessary, pressing lightly into place.

Bake the tart in a 400° oven on the lowest rack (or in the middle with the sheet pan sitting directly on a preheated baking stone). Bake until the filling is bubbling in spots, the tomatoes are puckered slightly, the cheese is melted and tinged with brown, and the crust is crisp and golden brown—about 40 to 45 minutes. Slide the tart onto a rack and let rest for 5 minutes (or cool until just tepid) before serving.

Tart serves 6 to 8.
Pâte Brisée (Short Crust Pastry)

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour (200g)
1/2 t. salt
10 1/2 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces (150g)
1/4 to 1/3 c. ice water

Combine the flour and the salt in a medium-sized bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the butter is in small pea-sized pieces. Drizzle 3 T. ice water over the flour/butter mixture. Using your hands, fluff the mixture until it begins to clump, adding more water if necessary. Turn the dough out onto a counter and form into a mound. Using the heel of your hand, gradually push all of the dough away from you in short forward strokes, flattening out the lumps. Continue until all of the dough is flat. Using a bench scraper, scrape the dough off the counter, forming it into a single clump as you do. Form the finished dough into a thick disk. Chill for at least 30 minutes.


Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pork Chops with Bing Cherries

Bing cherries are one of my favorite summer foods.  Juicy, sweet, easy to eat out of hand...they are a perfect snack.  Occasionally in my kitchen a few of them will find their way into a batch of scones...or a cake...or a tart....  But mostly, I don't cook with them—I just want to enjoy them raw.

That said, one way I do enjoy Bing cherries in their cooked form is in a compote.  I usually think of a Bing cherry compote as being something for spoon over vanilla ice cream...or accompany a slice of pound cake.  But not always.  A few years ago I ran across a recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks for pork tenderloin with Bing cherries.  The cherries in this recipe are the foundation of a reduction sauce that is really just a savory compote....and it is truly delicious with the pork.  Best of all, if you are willing to pit a few cherries, it is a fast and easy center piece for a simple summer meal (just roast some potatoes...or make some rice or couscous...and blanch a green vegetable ... and you have dinner). 

I have made only one change to the original recipe.  I use boneless pork loin chops instead of pork tenderloin.  I'm not a huge fan of pork tenderloin.  It tends to be a bit dry (because it is so very lean)...and its tapered shape makes it so that it is difficult to cook to a uniform doneness.  Either the narrow portion will be overcooked and dry, or the fatter end will be too undercooked for most people's liking.  Pork loin chops don't have any of these problems.

While on the subject of doneness, I would like to make a case for cooking pork to a lower temperature than the traditionally recommended 145° to 160° F.  The trichinae parasite which for many years was associated with pork has been virtually eradicated in the U.S.   Even if you did have in your possession a piece of pork harboring this parasite, cooking the pork so that it reaches (and maintains for a few moments) a temperature in the range of 135° to 140° F will eradicate the parasite.  (If you are interested in the technical details, there is a lot of information on this USDA site.).  When I cook pork, I aim for an internal temperature between 130° and 135°.  The temperature will continue to rise as the meat rests, stopping somewhere between 135° and 140°.  Cooking to this lower temperature range will result in a nice juicy piece of meat.  Pork with a final internal temperature much over 140° can be pretty dry.

Finally, I want to draw attention to the section of the recipe concerning pan size.  It's very important that the pan be large enough to hold all of the halved cherries in a single layer.  If the cherries are piled on top of one another (in a smaller pan), they will overcook and fall apart while the port and vinegar are reducing.  While I'm sure this would taste fine, it wouldn't be nearly as beautiful on the plate.  It is much better to use two pans than try to crowd everything into one. 

The original recipe for this dish is large, and I should admit that in practice, I almost never make the full recipe.  At home I am only feeding two...and neither of us are very big meat eaters.  We find that one 8 oz. pork chop is sufficient for us...and as long as I prepare a one third recipe of the sauce to go with our one chop (sliced and divided between two plates), we are more than satisfied.  I mention this for a couple of reasons:  First, to show that the recipe is quite flexible...that it can be easily altered to suit your family's needs....and secondly, to point out that all the pictures for this post were taken with these altered quantities (i.e. 1/6th recipe of pork...and 1/3rd recipe of the sauce).

If you have never had Bing cherries—or any of the other dark, sweet varieties that fill the markets during cherry season—in a savory preparation, you should definitely give this recipe a try.  I think that you will find this to be a dish that you will want to revisit each summer... at least once or twice. 

Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Bing Cherries

6 Boneless Pork Loin Chops (about 6 oz. each)
3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
12 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
1 to 2 T. olive oil
2 shallots, finely diced
1 T. minced fresh thyme
3 c. Bing Cherries (a generous pound), halved and pitted
2 T. sugar
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. port
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (or to taste)
2 T. butter

The day before you plan to serve the pork, place the pork in a non-reactive baking dish.  Add the thyme, crushing it with your fingers to release its fragrance, along with the garlic.  Rub the pork all over with the thyme and garlic.  Season generously with salt (about 1/4 t. per chop...more or less, to taste) and freshly cracked black pepper.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 

Heat an ovenproof sauté pan (large enough to hold all of the halved cherries in a single layer*) over medium high heat.  Add the oil and then the pork chops.  Sear, turning once, until the chops are nicely browned.  Transfer the pan to a preheated 400° oven and cook until the chops are done to your liking (an instant read thermometer will read between 130° and 135° for medium).  Total cooking time (including the time on the stove and in the oven) will be about 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.  Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the chops to a platter.

While the chops rest, make the sauce: Place the pan over medium-high heat and add the shallots and thyme.  Sauté until translucent and fragrant—a minute or so.  

Add the cherries.  Cook, shaking the pan, until the cherries are beginning to sizzle.  

Continuing to shake the pan, scatter the sugar over 

and cook until melted and beginning to caramelize.  

Increase the heat to high and add the balsamic vinegar and port.  Bring to a boil and cook until thickened.  (If the cherries are tender before the sauce is sufficiently reduced.  Remove the pan from the heat and using a slotted spoon, transfer the cherries to a plate.  Return the pan to the heat and continue to reduce the sauce.)  If you are not yet ready to serve the pork, set the pan aside. 

To serve, return the pan to high heat and bring the cherry sauce to a boil, adding any resting juices from the pork to the pan (and returning the cherries to the pan, if they have been removed).  Taste the sauce and add a squeeze of lemon juice if the sauce is overly sweet or flat in taste.  Season to taste with salt and a generous grinding of black pepper.  Swirl in the butter and spoon the cherries and their sauce over the pork (you may serve the chops whole, or slice each on a slight angle for a more elegant presentation).  Serve immediately.  Serves 6

* If you don’t have a sauté pan this large, use 2 smaller sauté pans.  Consolidate all of the cherries and reduced sauce to one of the pans for the final warming with the butter and pork resting juices.

(Recipe adapted from The Vineyard Kitchen—Menus Inspired by the Seasons, Maria Helm Sinskey)