Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

David and I have not, historically speaking, been big fans of polenta. My first experiences with polenta were way back when my mom was doing Weight Watchers in the late 90’s, when someone on the message boards convinced her to try the pre-made kind. It came in a tube, we sliced it and tried to pan fry it with olive oil, or maybe even cooking spray. Yuck. No flavor at all. Weird texture. No thanks.

Then, Alton Brown convinced me to try again. Not really compatible with Weight Watchers this time, since his recipe calls for plenty of cheese, butter, and whole milk.  It was also mildly complicated, as he extolled the virtues of “real” polenta, and asked me to avoid the instant stuff. Trusting Alton, I did. This was better than the first time, but I still remember being disappointed. Handfuls of good-quality cheddar, wasted. I ate my spoonful, but I didn’t really like it at all. It was mildly better sliced and pan-fried, but not great. I was ready to write off polenta altogether.

Except…

Something makes me WANT to like it. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know why I’m so determined. I’ve had it at restaurants, and still wasn’t a fan. Cheese couldn’t save it. But for some reason, when I saw this recipe at the Cooking Light site, I was willing to give it another try.

And this time, I was pleasantly surprised. The fresh sweet corn adds additional flavor and texture that the other recipes I tried were lacking. The parmesan added a salty richness, but the flavor wasn’t overwhelmingly cheesy. The fresh tomato and basil balanced the flavors. I subbed shallots for onions (I do this often—where onions are too much for me, I’ve learned to like the milder taste of shallots) and even liked the flavor that they added. It was really good. I went back for seconds. I’m pretty sure David did, too. And I even ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

I never got around to slicing and frying this batch, but next time I make it, I’d make sure I got to try that with the leftovers. And there will be a next time.

Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, June 2008

Ingredients

  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (2 medium)
  • 4  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 2  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 2  garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1  cup  instant dry polenta
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  chopped tomato
  • 1/2  cup  chopped fresh basil

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 8 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in broth, corn, and garlic; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Slowly add polenta, stirring with a whisk until polenta is thick (about 5 minutes). Add cheese, stirring to melt. Stir in salt and pepper. Remove from heat; sprinkle with tomato and basil. Serve immediately.

Note: Bonus points for this recipe—I got to use my dutch oven! A heavy saucepan would work just fine though.

Chicken Cacciatore

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

For David’s birthday this year, we had quite a feast. Normally, we spend Wednesday nights watching Glee, (and by “we,” I mean my friends and I, not David. He’s not a fan.) which means that our dinners on Wednesdays are usually more of the quick-and-easy variety than other nights of the week.

Rather than the typical simple fare, I tried for something a little fancier. We sat at the table, for one. Opened a bottle of wine, and had this pasta dish and garlic bread. Finally, topped it all off with Coconut Cake, which you’ll be hearing more about tomorrow. All in all, I think David was happy with his birthday dinner. It did make me wish that we’d do that kind of thing more often.

Pasta was an easy choice when planning a dinner for David, but I wanted to try something new, AND pick something he’d especially like, which is how I ended up with Chicken Cacciatore. Veggies (mostly peppers and onions) and tomato sauce and pasta–I knew he would be a fan. The sauce was made with balsamic and red wine, both of which David loves. It was a natural choice.

Chicken Cacciatore

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 breast halves)
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 29 oz canned stewed tomatoes, Italian-style
  • 2 tsp dried Italian seasoning (Ours is the Little Italy NYC-Style, from the Spice House)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, snipped
  • 1 13.5 oz box whole wheat spaghetti

Directions:

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add olive oil and heat. Add chicken breasts and cook over medium heat until browned and juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

Add onions, pepper and garlic to skillet. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 2 minutes.

Stir in wine, balsamic vinegar, tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve over cooked pasta.

Note: I thought this was good, and I’m sure we’ll make it again. I did add a tiny bit of sugar at the end, to balance out some of the acidity in the sauce. David and I liked this because we really like balsamic, but if you aren’t a fan, I wouldn’t recommend this recipe. Also, I skipped the mushrooms for David, but I think they’d be very tasty in this dish.

Spaghetti Sauce

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

I’ve been crazy-busy at work lately, traveling at least a couple of days a week. That’s why the blog’s been so quiet–between the actual being on the road part, and the being exhausted when I get home part, there hasn’t been a lot of noteworthy cooking going on. There also hasn’t been a lot of grocery shopping going on. Much of what’s happened lately has been thrown together at the last minute, based on whatever’s in the cabinet.

Which led me to make my own spaghetti sauce. We had tomatoes, tomato paste, shallots, garlic—just no actual spaghetti sauce. I could’ve gone to the store, I guess. But instead, I took the “lazy” way and made the sauce from scratch. It turned out to be quite tasty!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning mix
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup red wine

Heat the oil and saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently. Add the tomatoes, sauce, sugar, Italian seasoning, red pepper and wine. Simmer 30 minutes or more over very low heat, stirring occasionally. For meat sauce, add one pound of browned ground beef or cooked Italian sausage. Serve over hot spaghetti noodles.

Bruschetta Grilled Chicken

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

This simple recipe was the perfect weeknight meal: very quick, easy cleanup, and delicious. I love the tomato/basil/mozzarella flavor combination just about any time I come across it, so this was sort of a no-brainer to throw together. Marinated chicken is flavorful and juicy when grilled (or cooked in a grill pan, for us apartment-dwellers!), then topped with fresh tomato salsa-style sauce and a bit of mozzarella. The result was kind of like a Chicken Parmesan, but much lighter (both in a caloric sense, and in the sense that it’s June, and it’s hot outside, and Chicken Parmesan sure feels like a winter dish). For a quick and easy side, I tossed warm penne pasta with olive oil, garlic, a bit of the fresh tomato “salsa” and some Parmesan cheese.

Bruschetta Grilled Chicken

  • 1/2 cup Balsamic Vinaigarette salad dressing, divided
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/8 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

1. Pour 1/4 cup of dressing over chicken in a ziploc bag, refrigerate 20 minutes.

2. Grill chicken over medium heat on a grill or in a heavy-bottomed grill pan (about 6 minutes). Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, garlic, basil and remaining dressing.

3. Turn chicken over, top each piece of chicken with a spoonful of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle a bit of cheese over the top of each chicken breast. Cover, and cook an additional 7-8 minutes, or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Note: I used a new Basil & Parmesan vinaigarette by Kraft to marinate the chicken, and it was very tasty, but any Italian style dressing that you like would work here. Because we don’t have a grill, or a lid for our grill pan, I stuck the chicken under the broiler for a few minutes to melt and crisp up the cheese. Totally optional.

Bruschetta

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

One of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh, ripe tomatoes. While summer isn’t quite here just yet, the tomatoes at our local supermarket have been showing some promise–enough that I took a chance on them and went ahead and made some Bruschetta.

Bruschetta is actually one of the very first things that David and I started to make when he moved into his first apartment and we started cooking. The tricky part is that our Bruschetta is one of those “a little of this, a little of that” kind of recipes. I’m going to do my best to capture it below.

Fresh Tomato Bruschetta with Pannetini

Ingredients

  • Tomatoes (Roma tomatoes, if available)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Minced Garlic
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes (optional – can be dry-packed or oil-packed, diced)
  • Garlic Bread, thinly-sliced & toasted (other options include crackers, toasted Italian or French bread, or Panetini. The Panetini can be found at your grocery store, near the Bakery, with the bagel chips).

Directions

  1. Seed and dice the tomatoes and put into a bowl with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar. The exact amounts depend on how many tomatoes you use, but for about 10 servings, I use about 10 full size tomatoes, with ½ Cup of Olive Oil & 3 or 4 Tablespoons of Balsamic.
  2. Add sun-dried tomatoes.
  3. Add approximately 3 cloves of garlic, minced.
  4. The basil needs to be chopped very finely or minced in a food processor (I have also used what we call “Basil Paste,” which you can find in your produce department with the little clamshell packages of fresh herbs).
  5. Add the parmesan cheese…about ½ Cup to ¾ Cup.
  6. Then, just mix together and add salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  7. Serve with the bread, crackers, or Panetini for dipping.

I don’t really measure as much as I mix and taste, until it comes out right. If your tomatoes are very acidic, a Tablespoon of regular table sugar added to the mix (strange as it sounds) will go a long way. You can add more or less balsamic vinegar, depending on your taste. The ingredients themselves can be very forgiving…the Parmesan can be anything from imported Parmigiano-Reggiano to the stuff in the green can for this, though I prefer the real stuff. Same with the basil…if you want to use dried basil, you can. It won’t taste quite as bright, but it will work. You need much less dry basil than fresh.  The bruschetta gets better the longer it gets to hang out, so making it the night before is best, but give it at least 30 minutes to an hour before eating, if you can.

Leftovers can be mixed with canned chicken to make an Italian Chicken Salad, put over
lettuce for a Bruschetta Salad, or put over cooked pasta to make a pasta sauce. You can also add diced fresh mozzarella if you want. (Like I did for this batch).

David’s Variable Hotness Chili

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

This post isn’t really about making chili. I mean, I’ll tell you how we make chili, and you can choose to follow our recipe. The chili we make around here is good, but not a whole lot better or worse than most other homemade chili, in my experience. (Of course, that could because I grew up in a home that had excellent chili). It’s hard to say.

This post is about making chili for everyone.

You see, I am a whimp. No, really, I am. In just about every way possible. I’ll whine about working too much, or being tired, or doing laundry, or doing the dishes. I get hurt when I trip, when I stumble, when I bang my hand on the corner of the kitchen counters, when I hit my head, when I break a nail, when I stub my toe, and when I wear high heels. And of course, when I cut my finger with scissors, a knife, or sheets of paper. I’m clumsy, and I’m whiny, and everything hurts me.

In related news, I don’t get along well with spicy, spicy foods. I can handle “medium” spiciness on most things, especially if there are mitigating factors like crackers, and cheese, and sour cream. David, on the other hand, prefers spicy, spicy foods. What to do?

When David first started making chili at his old apartment, he made a large pot of chili and pulled aside a tiny amount for me before he really flavored the batch he and his friends would eat. The good thing was that the chili wasn’t too spicy for me. The bad thing was that my tiny pot of chili was actually pretty bland, even by my standards. The other bad thing was that I never got in on any of the leftovers–one of the best parts of a big pot of chili!

So David thought and he thought and he finally came up with the solution. Put the hot “on the side.” So that’s what we do. David dices up every kind of chile imaginable (at least every kind that our grocery store can imagine) and lets them stew in their own small crockpot all day long. The result is a very spicy blend of delicious chile flavor that can be added to the larger pot of chili as you like. I usually skip it entirely, but David includes a couple of large spoonfuls per bowl of chili. Saner people might add just a spoonful.

This whole method is especially awesome for having people over for chili. It’s hard to please everyone, right? This makes it easier.

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David’s “Variable Hotness” Chili

For the Chili:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound of other ground meat (we usually use 1/2 pound of ground pork and 1/2 pound of ground buffalo meat, for a total of 2 pounds of meat)
  • 1 large can of “hot” chili beans
  • 1 large can of “mild” chili beans
  • 1 large can of tomato juice (divided)
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

1. In a large stock pot, brown the ground meat together. When browned, drain the fat from the skillet.

2. Add the next 4 ingredients to the pot and heat over medium heat. There is no need to drain the beans or tomatoes. I usually start with about half a can of tomato juice at this point. You may want to add more later, but remember to save some for the chile peppers.

3. Add the spices one at a time, stirring after each ingredient. This usually involves David and I both standing at the stove, adding and tasting, adding and tasting.

4. Transfer to a crockpot and let simmer on low until it’s time to eat. If your crockpot runs on the hotter side, you may want to start on low and then flip it to warm, since everything has been cooked through.

For the Chiles (The “Variable Hotness” part):

  • 3-4 jalapeno peppers
  • 2 poblano peppers
  • 1 cubanelle pepper
  • 3 habanero peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice (from the large can above)

1. Clean, seed, and dice all of the peppers. If you’ve never worked with these kinds of peppers before, I suggest wearing disposable latex gloves. It keeps the dangerous spicy chemicals off of your hands completely. Once you get that much heat on your hands, it can be really hard to wash off completely. If you use disposable gloves, you don’t have to worry about accidentally touching your eyes or something. That would suck.

2. Put the peppers and tomato juice in the bowl of a small crockpot. The baby ones, used for keeping dips warm, work well here. Simmer on low until the peppers are soft. We usually let this stew all day.

When you serve the chili, let everyone add their own level of heat by mixing in the warm, spicy pepper sauce.

Note: I don’t serve chili without plenty of sour cream, grated cheese, and oyster crackers, but do what you like. The last time we made chili, I also made those delicious corn muffins, which was a perfect compliment.

Company Pot Roast

Monday, February 16th, 2009

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we had a big family dinner at our place a couple of weekends ago. The centerpiece of that meal was Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook. I am obsessed with this cookbook. I want to make everything I see–it just can’t be helped. The pictures are literally mouth-watering, and everything I’ve made so far has turned out picture perfect and delicious. (Well, except the fish, but that was our fault. We don’t like fish. The fish eater among us liked it a lot).

This pot roast recipe was more of the same. A tasty, elegant spin on a classic dish, with simple instructions and awesome results. The only change I made was that I used my slow-cooker, instead of hogging my oven all day. What can I say? I had cakes to bake, and rolls to make, and I needed my oven. The slow cooker worked well, and I don’t think it took anything away from the dish.

Company Pot Roast
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook.

  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, tied
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped leeks (2 to 4 leeks)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 cups good red wine, such as Burgundy (I used 1 1/2 cups of Cotes de Rhone and 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 T. Cognac or brandy
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 3 branches fresh thyme
  • 2 branches fresh rosemary
  • 1 T. butter, room temp.

Pat beef dry and season all over with 1 T. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper. Dredge entire roast in flour, including ends. In large, deep skillet (or dutch oven), heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add roast and sear for 4-5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear other side and then sear the ends. This should take 4-5 minutes for each side. Remove roast to large plate.

Add 2 T. olive oil to the skillet. Add carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 T. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Tie thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to pot. Put roast back into pot, bring to boil and cover. Transfer to slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours until meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees internally.

Remove roast to cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (I used my immersion blender). Pour the puree back into the pot, place on stove top over low heat, and return to a simmer. Place 2 T. flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste for seasonings. Remove strings from roast and slice meat. Serve warm with the sauce spooned over it.

Note: One of the best things about doing this in the slow cooker (aside from freeing up my oven for other ventures) was that I was also able to make the sauce ahead of time. We made the sauce as listed above, and then put the roast and the sauce back into the crockpot until it was time for dinner. Gravy/Sauce making is always a little bit stressful, and at Thanksgiving, was the part that everyone ended up waiting for, so I was glad to have that task done and out of the way. I served this pot roast with mashed potatoes, using the tasty sauce as gravy. It would probably be just as good served over noodles–just comes down to personal preference, I think.

Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Basil Gnocchi

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Chicken Parmesan doesn’t need much explanation. You all know what I’m talking about. Crunchy chicken breast, tomato sauce, cheese. Usually with pasta. This recipe is a little different from how I usually make Chicken Parmesan–adapted from the Pesto Stuffed Chicken Breasts that I’d made earlier in the week. I topped these chicken breasts with provolone cheese for a change from the more mild mozzarella.

If you’ve never tried gnocchi before, they’re Italian potato dumplings–like little nuggets of pasta. I like the ones stocked by Trader Joe’s, but you can usually find them in the pasta aisle of your regular grocery store.

Chicken Parmesan with Tomato Basil Gnocchi
Adapted from EatingWell Magazine

  • 4 slices provolone or mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce, divided
  • 3 tablespoons basil pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1-1 1/4 pounds total)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning blend
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 package gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings)
  • 1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Lightly beat egg white with a fork in a medium bowl. Place both kinds of breadcrumbs in a shallow glass dish. Stir in Italian seasoning and garlic powder. Dip each chicken breast in the egg white, then dredge in the breadcrumbs. (Discard leftovers.)

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts; cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Place the chicken, browned-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Top each chicken breast with 3 Tablespoons of spaghetti sauce and one slice of cheese. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

4. While the chicken bakes, boil gnocchi according to package directions. Drain. In a medium sauce pan, stir cooked gnocchi, remaining spaghetti sauce, and pesto together and heat over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, alongside chicken.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

Bell peppers are not my favorite vegetable. I’ve gone most of my life avoiding them completely. No peppers, no onions was a kind of motto of mine.

Then, while visiting David’s family in Wisconsin, I was tricked (TRICKED!!!) into eating bell peppers on a salad. They were red peppers, and they were diced like tomatoes, and I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late. Only…I kind of liked them! Go figure.

Roasted red peppers followed, first in a dish at the Olive Garden, then in the form of hummus. And once in this roasted red pepper aioli I made, but I guess that’s another story. Even though I’ve eaten Pepper Steak for a long time, I’ve picked around the peppers themselves for as long as I can remember. But as it turns out, David likes peppers a lot, and sometimes, you learn to like things for someone you love. I guess.

Stuffed Peppers seemed like something David would really like, and that’s ultimately why I started making them. I mean, I’m happy with the insides, and when it’s a whole pepper, it’s easy enough to pick around the pepper. Even Leah, who shares my general dislike of all things pepper has become a fan of these. I find myself liking the peppers a little more each time, though, so I suppose eventually, I’ll eat the pepper themselves, instead of treating them like a bowl or wrapper. Probably not just yet, though.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 large bell peppers, cleaned, with the tops cut off and the seed pod removed. (We usually use green, but red was on sale this time around)
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup of rice, prepared according to package directions (Brown rice is what I prefer, but use what you like, even if that’s instant)
  • 1 lb of ground beef
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 6-8 ounces of cheese, either shredded or thinly sliced (think white, Italian, and melty, like provolone, mozzarella, or fontina. Again, use what you like.)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bell peppers and cook until peppers soften at the very edges but are still firm and crisp throughout, about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place into a baking dish with deep sides.

2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat. Drain beef and return to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, italian seasoning, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble.

3. Turn heat to low and add prepared rice. Stir to combine. Scoop the beef & rice mixture into the bell peppers, filling them completely. When we have extra of the filling, I put it into the baking dish around the stuffed peppers, but the amount left over depends on the size of the peppers I use.

4. Once in the baking dish, cover the peppers and any remaining filling with the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, until the filling is hot all the way through.

Note: I like the cheese to get crispy, but if you don’t, you can bake the peppers without cheese, and add the cheese for just the last 10 minutes. If you want to go crazy with the cheese, you can sprinkle parmesan over the top as well. I call these Italian Stuffed Peppers, because those are clearly the flavors I use, but I’ve heard of Stuffed Peppers being made more like meatloaf (think breadcrumbs and ketchup) or with cheddar cheese. All I can say is I like them this way, and so do David and Leah. If you like green peppers on your pizza, I’m sure you’d like this dish as well.

Valentine’s Day Pork Chops

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Last year for Valentine’s Day, David and I stayed in and I cooked for him. We were newly engaged, in the process of planning a wedding, and as a consequence, pretty broke. So we skipped the presents and just spent a quiet night together, but I made David choose the menu. (That sounds like a gift–to let him choose what special dish I would make for him–but if you know us at all, you know that it’s simply not true. We both HATE to pick what’s for dinner!)

David chose this recipe from Bon Apetit magazine: Veal Chops with Roasted Shallots, Arugula, and Soft Polenta.

At first, I thought he was kidding. Veal?! He wants veal? I don’t know how to cook that! Does he even like to eat that? I thought. And really–Shallots? Polenta? It seemed awfully complex, as well as outside of our normal culinary experience.

But then, shouldn’t a special dinner be, well, special? Yes, it should. So I decided to give it a try. I made my grocery list and headed to Dominick’s, where I learned that Veal is expensive! The whole idea of this dinner in was to save money, and by the time I bought polenta, shallots, arugula, grape tomatoes, fresh thyme and everything else I needed, I couldn’t stomach paying $19 for two veal chops, especially when I wasn’t even sure that we liked veal. So instead, I made pork chops.

I’m sure that’s not the same. I’m sure that’s not what the author of this recipe had in mind. But I’m also sure that it was delicious. I’ve made this recipe several times since last Valentine’s Day, with thick, meaty pork chops, and it’s turned out great every time.

Valentine’s Day Pork Chops
Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

  • 1 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 4 2-inch-thick boneless pork chops (each about 8 ounces)
  • 18 small shallots, peeled, halved
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 12-ounce package grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup drained capers plus 1 tablespoon caper brine reserved from jar

1. Whisk 3/4 cup oil and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Mix thyme, salt, and pepper in another small bowl. Rub thyme mixture all over pork chops; place in glass baking dish. Pour oil-lemon marinade over; let stand 15 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 450°F. Combine shallots, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup oil in medium roasting pan; toss to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until shallots are browned and tender, about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes to shallots and roast until tomatoes are soft and browned, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes longer. Remove pan from oven. Add capers and 1 tablespoon reserved brine and stir to blend.

3. Meanwhile, heat large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Drain veal chops and transfer marinade to heavy small saucepan. Add pork chops to skillet and cook until browned, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer skillet to oven and roast pork to desired doneness, about 10 minutes for medium.

4. Bring reserved oil-lemon marinade to boil; boil 2 minutes. Place 1 veal chop on each of 4 plates. Divide shallot-tomato mixture among plates. Serve Polenta alongside. Drizzle with oil-lemon marinade. Garnish with arugula and serve.

Note: This recipe turned out to be a great go-to for a special dinner. I’ve served this with homemade soft polenta, quick cooking polenta, and most recently, store-bought polenta slices, gently fried in extra virgin olive oil until the edges are crisp. The thyme brings a nice flavor to the chops, for sure, but I’ve also tried it with fresh parsley or fresh rosemary, and both have worked well. Clearly, this is a versatile recipe. Don’t be scared of the capers, either. Even if you think you don’t like them on their own, they go very well with the roasted vegetable mixture here.