Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pork Chops With Cumin


This way of making pork chops is a tradition in my family. It's a simple recipe that my grandmother taught her two daughters (Christine, my mother, and Sofia, my aunt and godmother), how to make. I too make it, especially in winter. I learned how just by watching.



The dominant seasoning in this recipe is cumin. When I think of cumin I think of pork chops, and vise versa. Cumin has a smoky flavor and is a favorite spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Here it's combined with Greek oregano, garlic and onions, and the results are fragrant and delicious. These pork chops were made on a blisteringly cold January day. I broiled them indoors, in my warm kitchen. If you can brave the winter cold, fire up the grill and cook them outdoors. You will deserve an extra pork chop for your efforts.



I don't have specific measurements for the ingredients in this recipe. I just "eye" everything. Make sure that you use a little extra cumin, but remember that cumin has a strong flavor so don't use so much that it overpowers the dish.
Here's what to do:
Wash and dry the pork chops. Sprinkle some balsamic vinegar and vegetable oil on both sides. Combine ground cumin, dried Greek oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Sprinkle it on both sides of the pork chops. Slice an onion into rings. Place half of the rings on the bottom of a flat food storage container. Place the pork chops on top of the onions and cover them with the rest of the onion rings. Cover the container and let rest in the refrigerator for about four hours. Place on a pan, onions included, and broil on both sides. As I said before, summer or winter, these can also be cooked on the grill.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Apple Streusel Cake


Ingredients for the batter:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
rind from one large lemon
2 large eggs, separated
1&1/2 cups self rising flour
1/2 cup milk

Ingredients for the fruit:

3 or 4 baking apples (enough to completely cover the batter)
Juice of one lemon



Ingredients for the streusel:

1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cold butter, cut into pieces

Directions:

Have the ingredients at room temperature before beginning to make the cake. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease an 8 x 8 inch square pan or an 8 inch round cake pan.

Make the streusel topping:

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, and ground cinnamon. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside while you make the cake batter.

Prepare the fruit topping:

Peel the apples and cut them in quarters. Slice each quarter lenghwise into four pieces. Place the apples in a bowl, pour the lemon juice over them and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside. The lemon juice will give a wonderful flavor to the apples and it will also prevent them from browning while the batter is being made.

Make the batter:

Cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat in the vanilla and lemon peel. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Add the flour in three batches, alternating with the milk and ending with the flour. Do not over-beat, beat only until combined.


In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.
Very gently fold them into the batter in two additions. Spread the batter onto the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.

Arrange the apples evenly on the batter. Here, I've chosen to sprinkle some cinnamon on the apples before topping with the streusel. Cinnamon goes really well with apples, doesn't it?

Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apples.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let the cake cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Friday, January 8, 2010

HERBED BEEF STEW


This recipe serves eight, an ample amount to provide leftovers for next day's dinner. A good thing, since stew tastes better the next day! The wine and herbs bring aboard a lot of flavor and make this an irresistible meal for a cold day.


Ingredients:

  • 2 lb cubed stew beef, such as chuck roast. The meat should be trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes.
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil mixed with 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, minced
  • 1 & 1/2 lb red potatoes
  • 5 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups frozen Italian (flat) string beans at room temperature
  • 1 cup frozen peas


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Season the beef with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven heat 3 tablespoons of the oil and brown the meat well on all sides. Make sure you do not overcrowd the meat. You may need to cook it in two batches. Add some more oil to the pot if needed for the second batch. When the meat is browned well, remove it from the pot, sprinkle the oregano on top, cover and set aside.



Add the rest of the oil to the pot and when it's heated saute the onions and celery until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and mix. Add the flour and cook for about 1 minute. Stir in the wine slowly, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, thyme, parsley, and the beef.


Bring to a simmer, cover and place in the oven. Cook for one hour.


Add the potatoes and carrots, mix well, and cook for another hour.
Add the string beans. I've chosen flat Italian string beans because I find them more flavorful, even when frozen.


Continue cooking the stew until all the vegetables are soft, about another 30 minutes.


Ten minutes before the stew is finished add the peas and season with salt and pepper if needed.


Remove the pot from the oven: the stew is now ready to serve.