Monday, August 30, 2010

Breaded Pork Chops Stuffed with Figs & Cheese ~ A Pantry Confession

A funny thing happened today. I decided to spruce up the pantry in preparation for Fall, when something on the top shelf caught my attention. It was blue and yellow with hints of red and carefully positioned in the far back corner. It was a box of sorts...with big, bold letters, obscured by flour and wheat. Whatever it was seemed playful...fruit snacks... cream cones perhaps?

A little maneuvering and there I my own kitchen staring down an unopened, expired box of, Kraft Shake N'Bake, Pork Original Recipe. For the life of me, I don't recall buying the box, but I seem to recollect shoving it in the pantry (years ago) right before company arrived. I couldn't possibly have our guests believe, I would stoop to using such mass produced, sodium rich, culinary rubbish! If memory serves me right, it was with great vigor, I mounted a step stool and before the doorbell could finish its tune...that Shake N'Bake... was history!

Until today.

{Insert Self-Reflection Here}

How did I end up with Shake N'Bake anyway? (A moment of weakness? A yearning for childhood?)

If it's "rubbish," why did I go to such extremes to hide it? Why not just throw it away? (Was I looking for a rush? Was I begging to get caught?)

What other grocery items do I have stashed away? (Crap is that !#@&@?!)

Oh my... I do have a problem!

So there you have it...a pantry confession. You'll be glad to know the Shake N'Bake found its way into the trash (it was severely expired!). Instead, here's a simple stuffed pork chop with a no fail breading where you control the sodium! Delicious every time...the crunchy, savory outside pairs beautifully with the mildly sweet, rich and creamy center - the figs and cheese adding a touch of sophistication you and your guests will adore!

Breaded Pork Chops Stuffed with Figs & Cheese
adapted over time

4 Boneless thick cut pork chops (about 1+ inch thick)

10-12 fresh figs diced
4-5 Tablespoon crumbled blue cheese

4 Tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves of garlic sliced

3 to 2 ratio homemade or prepared Italian Bread crumbs to grated Parmesan cheese

3 eggs
2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 325.

Whisk together eggs and milk to make egg wash. Mix together bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese to make breading. Set aside.

S&P both sides of pork chops. With small pairing knife cut a slit in chop lengthwise along the side about 3/4 the way through (forming a pocket), set aside.

Mix together figs and cheese.

Stuff pork chops with fig & cheese mixture (about 2 T per chop).

Dip stuffed chops in egg wash and then coat well with breading.

Add olive oil and garlic to frying pan over medium heat.

When garlic begins to brown slightly, remove it from pan (discard or
save for another use.)

Fry pork chops about 3 minutes each side (or until nicely browned but not too dark)

Place in roasting pan, secure open side with toothpicks and bake approx. 12 minutes.

Let rest 10 minutes, discard toothpicks and serve.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Egg Strata ~ A Prelude of Things to Come

I'm back from my brief trip...and yes...most of my cargo made the return trip home. After a long, difficult summer things are looking up. I can not recall ever wanting a season to end as much as this one. I try to refrain from thinking this way, because we all know we get to a point in our lives where we're stopped dead in our tracks, wondering where on earth the time went? A point where we're sending our last born off to college questioning, why oh why were we ever so anxious for change?

If only we had the power to rewind time...go back instead of what we know were good times. But seeing that's impossible, I'm left with the only option of wishing this summer move along now...and move along fast!

So at least for me (and knowing it's wrong to wish away time) be gone summer 2010! Bring on the cooler weather, the pumpkins and the leaves! Bring out the chimineas, leather riding boots and favorite hoodie! Here's to football, seafood chowders, tailgates and pie! Here's to mums, hot cider and magazines with turkeys!

It's a beautiful day. The mornings and evenings are cool...a prelude of things to come! Here's an Egg Strata recipe my friend Amie introduced me to ~ there's a lot going on here but with just a few adjustments (noted below) it is unbelievably delicious! Keep this in mind for this fall and the next time you have company...I promise it will blow them away!

Egg Strata Vermont,
Cooking for Company, by Nicole Aloin

*Great cooked the night before and reheated in the morning
*I didn't use the entire loaf of bread
*I used 9 eggs
*It cooked for 1 hour 2o minutes
*I peeled half the apples and 1/2 left the skin on

1 loaf challah or egg bread
1/2 lb thick cut bacon (we get ours from a local pork farm)
3/4 -1 cup chopped onion
4 cups thinly sliced and halved Granny Smith Apples
1T Maple syrup
5 eggs (we added closer to 9)
1 extra egg yolk
1 3/4 - 2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 t salt
1/4 t nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
1 t white pepper
8 ounces chevere cheese
4 cups grated Vermont white cheddar
1/4 cup chopped fresh thyme (or basil) or 3T minced rosemary (we did a combo of mostly thyme and a touch of rosemary)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

- Butter 3-3.5 quart casserole. Cut bread into 3/4 inch cubes. Toast the bread lightly and set aside.

- Sautee bacon over low heat for 3-5 mins, until cooked thru but not crisp. Add onion, apples and maple syrup, sautee 5 mins until onion softens. Remove from heat, drain fat and set aside.

- In large bowl combine eggs, egg yolk, milk, cream, salt, nutmeg, cayenne and white pepper and set aside.

- Cover bottom of casserole w/one layer of the bread, evenly with half the chevere, cheddar, apple mixture, bacon, and herbs. Cover w/remaining bread, cheese, bacon apples and herbs. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.

- Pour egg to within one inch the top of the casserole. Let dish rest covered for a few hours or preferably in the fridge overnight.

- Preheat oven to 350, bake uncovered 35-40 min (or longer) until bubbling, puffed and knife inserted into center comes out clean.

- Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with coffee.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Traveling with Shallots

I'm away from home, spending time with my family. It's a mere 40 minutes from where we live, but I'll be staying a few days and not sure how much blogging I'll accomplish. That being said, I noticed something while unpacking today, that half made me laugh and half made me question whether I need professional help.

While most females can't leave home without their make-up bag, comfy t-shirt, and favorite jeans... I arrived bearing:

2 red onions
4 shallots
3 lemons
3 limes
6 shitake mushrooms
Bosc pears
Blue cheese
Baby spinach
Hot peppers picked from the garden
Chili Garlic Sauce
2 inch piece of ginger
Huge bunch of scallions
One avocado... AND...
2 pounds of vacuum packed, frozen beef filet tips

The perfect combination of food for either one large, eclectic salad or surviving the first few days at your local fall out shelter.

And that's when it dawned on my little girl reaching for her dolly or my baby boy cuddling his bear...I'm a grown woman who finds extreme comfort in traveling with shallots.

The kicker...we ordered take-out for dinner.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tandoori Chicken Wraps - Boneless, Skinless, Thin Chicken Made Sexy!

Few things in life are as unsexy as boneless, skinless, thinly sliced chicken breast. A pound sitting in my fridge for four days, it kept being usurped by finer, more extravagant proteins. Every time I opened that meat drawer, it was as if that chicken was sitting there wondering... could this finally be my night to shine?!

Like a leader in gym class picking my team, I kept avoiding eye contact with the skinny chicken, strategically reaching for its bigger, bolder cohorts. Halibut, pork tenderloin, a pound and a half of skirt steak...all spent a brief stint in the drawer right along side that poultry...all of which when prepared, lived up to their awesome potential!

But on day four...alas there was one...and as the chicken breast sat alone, idle in the bottom of my fridge, I swear it spoke to me...

"Sure, I may not be fancy. I may have been stripped of my skin and bones that offered such succulent flavor. I may not have originated from the cool, crisp waters of the Pacific, but I have potential damn it! With me, you are only limited by your own culinary imagination (or lack there of). So what's it gonna be woman? Are you going to make me delicious? Are you going to give me a proper showing or falter so my life was one lived in final days spent in the bottom drawer of your refrigerator - that by the way - could use a good cleaning."

The challenge called for bold flavors, vibrant colors and hints of heat to bring it all together. A caterer or entertainers dream... I like to think with this recipe...I made that chicken breast proud.

Tandoori Chicken Sandwiches (Wraps)
Bon Appétit, August 1994

6 skinless boneless chicken breast halves (obviously we used thin sliced, marinated for 5 hours and broiled in the oven approx 1.5 -2 minutes each side - awesome!)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
12 slices sourdough bread (we used wraps, but reviews online mentioned naan was perfect w/these sandwiches too!)

Indian mayonnaise (A MUST!)
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 jalapeño chili, seeded, minced
3 tablespoons chopped onion
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise

For Sandwiches:
Arrange boneless chicken breasts in single layer in large glass baking dish. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice: season with salt. Mix plain yogurt, chopped fresh ginger, chopped garlic, ground cumin, ground coriander, cayenne pepper and turmeric in medium bowl. Pour yogurt marinade over chicken breasts and turn to coat. Cover chicken and refrigerate 3 to 8 hours.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat) or preheat broiler. Remove chicken breasts from marinade (do not wipe clean). Grill or broil chicken until just cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Cool slightly. (Chicken can be prepared up to 2 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

Lightly toast (or grill) sourdough bread. Spread 1 side of each piece of bread generously with Indian Spiced Mayonnaise. Slice chicken breasts diagonally. Place slices of 1 breast atop each of 6 sourdough bread slices. Top with remaining bread slices. Cut chicken sandwiches in half. Serve sandwiches warm or at room temperature.

For Mayonnaise: (YUM, YUM, YUM!!!!)
Combine 1 cup mint leaves, 1 cup cilantro leaves, minced jalapeño chili and chopped onion in work bowl of processor. Process until very finely chopped. Mix in cider vinegar. Add mayonnaise and process just until combined. Season mayonnaise to taste with salt and pepper. (Mayonnaise can be prepared 3 days ahead. Cover tightly and refrigerate.) Makes about 1 scant cup.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Neapolitan Pizza, Four Reasons I Rarely Stray

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about pizza toppings. The President could be on television warning of an asteroid destined to destroy earth and I'd still be contemplating Thai basil and coconut curry pie. So why then, is what you see here...sauce, garlic, basil and cheese...the pizza I end up making 90% of the time?

Here's four reasons:

1) Kids. With their love of pizza came a world devoid of toppings. What was once just my husband and me dishing out our favorites... sausage, peppers, onions, now a family of four...two pint sized ones who wont even touch their slice if they suspect close contact with an onion.

2) No time for frivolity. I could be staring down a bounty of fresh mushrooms, roasted peppers, leafy spinach and farm fresh bacon, but the understanding that homemade pizza is in my immediate future renders those laborious ingredients (in need of peeling, rinsing, slicing and dicing) time bandits - plain and simple.

3) Analysis Paralysis. While dreaming up unique pizza toppings, I begin imagining flavor combinations that simply shouldn't go together...the likes of tuna, cheese, mint and lemon. Thankfully, I have yet to act on any impure thoughts and instead (to the delight of all) revert back to my "safe place" of tomato, basil, garlic and cheese.

4) A lover of all things classic. Like the little black dress, Huckleberry Finn, The Beatles White Album and the BLT...with the classic *Neapolitan Pizza, you simply can not go wrong!

*My pizza here did not adhere to all the following...but amazing nonetheless!

To call a pizza a true Neapolitan pizza, one must adhere to the guidelines outlined by the Verace Pizza Napoletana Association, based in Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza. According to their rules, an authentic Neapolitan pizza must be:

•Cooked in a wood-fired oven. Gas, coal, and electric ovens do not qualify.

•Only fresh, high quality ingredients such as San Marzano tomatoes, 00 flour, fresh mozzarella, and other high quality toppings may be used.

•The dough must be formed by hand, be no more than an eighth of an inch thick, and should be cooked for approximately 90 seconds at temperatures over 800 degrees Fahrenheit. (SOURCE:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Garlic Rosemary Lamb Steaks with Chickpea Puree, I'm Still Cooking...

It's been weeks since my last post, a first for me and criminal in the world of food blogging. A family member is ill. When I first learned - in an instant - this blog seemed too time consuming and blithe to continue.

How with such a heavy I to cook, photograph and write about food?

How with still so much I to sit here and pretend this is easy?

The truth is, not much is easy right now. Just when I have a moment where I forget and drift back into the world of two months ago (when what to make for dinner consumed my every thought) it takes one ring... to bring me right back to our new reality.

I miss writing. I miss expressing myself through these virtual pages. I miss exchanging with my food blogging buddies. In groups, we find comfort. What I'm struggling with most (aside from the obvious), is keeping to Design Wine and Dine's mission. I'm afraid I'm turning a blog that some people visited to possibly catch a smile...into a one-sided, cryptic emotional purge...a vagueness and sadness no one signed up for. So I guess consider this "chapter" in my blog a diversion to my usual posts...posts I hope will return.

I am still cooking, because like most of you I find comfort and solace in the kitchen. When I feel sad, I can chop an onion and not have to explain why I'm crying. When I am pensive, I can escape to my stove and stir for an hour. When the day is painfully mundane, I can retreat to my pantry and dream, not only about food...but life. And when I am feeling up to sharing, I will sit in my kitchen and write.

Chickpea Puree
Follow the Chickpea Soup recipe but only add 2 cups stock (as oppose to 4) to get a puree consistency (not soup). We find this a nice alternative (as there is no substitute) to mashed potatoes. Though chickpeas are not a "low carb" food, they are packed with good carbs and high in dietary fiber.

Garlic Rosemary Lamb Steaks (use this concept with any cut of lamb)
Early in the day (or at least 2 hours before) place lamb steaks in a single layer in a low rimmed bowl. Drizzle both sides with olive oil. S&P both sides. Lightly press into the meat fresh & finely chopped garlic, rosemary and thyme. Grill for approx. 2 minutes each side. Start out lamb on hot portion of grill and move to low heat side to finish cooking. These steaks were made on our Weber Charcoal Grill - love the smokiness and depth the charcoal lends a lamb dish. Lamb should be slightly pink inside to be sure it's not overdone.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wild Alaskan Salmon, Sunday's Dinner

I'm officially in a funk and trying to find a way to post and not bring all of you down with me. I mean this is a food blog, right? Not a place to share (with anyone who will listen) my life's issues, concerns and worries. We all have enough problems of our own, and you surely didn't come here to be burdened by mine. In fact, if you are here (I mean reading this) you're most likely one of my dear followers whom I love and adore or a poor soul who Googled "hot dog social taste test" and inadvertently ended up on my site~ don't panic ~according to my bounce rate, it's apparently way easy to get out!

I'm feeling better since last Wednesday, but am still awaiting news and not completely focused on food. Rest assure we've been eating. The weekend began with my brother-in-law (who was in our area for work) surprising us with a basil and tomato brick oven pizza from one of our all time favorite restaurants! The gesture was perfect, as it was a rare Friday evening we had no grand plans for dinner.

Saturday morning found us at the farmer's market picking up 4 1/2 lbs of pork spare ribs. Operation dry rub led to a photo worthy dish followed by a devouring of succulent ribs so fast and fierce... without photos (there was no time)... no one's even sure they really existed.

Sunday morning was scrambled eggs with slice of thick cut Amish bacon, coffee and a side of headache. Tonight this beautiful piece of wild Alaskan salmon was doused in ginger, garlic and soy with subtle hints of sesame oil, honey and lemon. Cooked in the oven at 375, 18 minutes later it was perfectly done and so delicious... I wanted to share it with you.