Pan-seared pork chops with grapes-0153

Last week we ate low on the hog, flavoring a polenta and squash dish with a bit of pancetta.  This week we’re stepping up our pork game, way up, with Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Grapes and Lemon. Fatty pork is once again becoming available for those without restaurants or the price of airfare to Italy.  Real pork chops–as versus the pink things wrapped in plastic in most supermarkets–are uncomplicated to cook, and delicious to eat.  Personally speaking, this recipe marks a turning point for me, a return to cooking chops at home after a 20-year hiatus.  Somebody cast a spell on this country’s pigs a couple of decades ago, morphing their chops and loins into a tough, flavorless substance called “the other white meat.”  If your experience with pork has been barbecue or bacon, then you owe it to yourself to get down to a farmers market to suss out some chops from heritage breeds of pork and taste the real deal.

Tomato and Farro Soup


Tomato-Farro Soup-282-14242


Back in 2001, when we were working on our cookbook, farro was still rare.  If you went to the right restaurants, if you frequented the vortices of culinary hipness.  Italian delis, in New York or San Francisco maybe.  Specialty food stores, the occasional sighting.  How the world has turned in a dozen years!  Now you can often buy farro in grocery stores, which is a good thing if you want to make this week’s Tomato – Farro Soup.

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans-13163

Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70’s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.  Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken.  Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl.  I growled and stomped around.  I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie.  Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.

Fig, Plum and Hazelnut Tart

Fig, Plum and Hazelnut Tart-530-8819

Oh, the things we do, the torments we endure, so you don’t have to.  The week’s Fig, Plum and and Hazelnut Tart didn’t start out as the walk in the park below.  After helping everyone become a tart shell master last week we thought we’d put the technique to good use with a simple fig and mascarpone tart.  However, after half our figs disappeared the night before we were scheduled to blog, we had to rethink our plan.  Nearby Allandale Farm had no figs, but they did have plums.  Voilà fig and plum tart.

Celery Root and Sunchoke Soup with Gorgonzola

Hey, wait, didn’t you guys make Celery Root Soup with Gorgonzola last year?  Well, uh, yeah, holy crap, heh-heh, looks like we did.  OMG, I’m living in Groundhog Day.

Unfortunately we didn’t realize it until after we cooked and photographed this soup.  But this is different!  [Insert pleading face.]  Seriously.  This is Celery Root and SUNCHOKE Soup with Gorgonzola.

Did you carve a pumpkin last year?  Did you carve a pumpkin this year?  Did you carve the exact, same face on both?  I thought not.  Keep reading.