July 31, 2012

ratatouille stuffed pattypan squash

You should know from the get-go that this is not a strict recipe, no, not at all. This dish fits more into the wing-it, go-with-your-gut, whatever-makes-you-happy type of recipe. At least that is how I approached it. I'm currently struggling with an apricot addiction, which severely limits my ability to think about things besides compote, crumble and jam. And in all honesty I only bought the squash after looking into my market bag and realizing that I had approximately three kilos of fruit and not a single vegetable. Eager to create some semblance of equanimity in the produce department I bought a beautiful, well nourished - read thoroughly water-logged - pattypan squash. 
Okay, great, so I had a vegetable, a beauty at that, but I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it, not even an inkling of an idea. It was a process of elimination really. I knew what I wasn't going to do with it: I wasn't going to set it on a cutting board and chop it up, nope too pretty for such an end, I also knew I wasn't going to use it on the mantle as decoration - it's not fall yet and my mantle is currently busy showing off driftwood and smooth beach rocks. No chopping or mantle trimming meant I had to stuff it, so I did. 

It might have been my recent trip to Paris or perhaps it was the fact that Zach recently informed me that he loves eggplants, but either way I decided to stuff it with a make-shift ratatouille. I love ratatouille. I always forget how much I love it. It's all things homey and comforting and delicious, wrapped into a few vegetables, some salt and a bit of stirring. Ultimately the pattypan squash proved to be an edible vessel, a beautiful one at that, for ratatouille eating. That said, I do think the softness of the squash, in flavor and texture, helped to balance the mushy acidity of the tomatoes and eggplants, a little bit like eating ratatouille with rice or cous cous. 
// ratatouille stuffed patty pan squash //
serves 2

As mentioned above, this is really a little-bit-of-this-little-bit-of-that type of recipe. Feel free to add and subtract as your taste buds dictate. I think it would be delicious with feta cheese instead of parmesan. It would also be good with a drizzle of good pesto on top. If you can't find a patty pan squash you can easily substitute something from the zucchini family. 

This makes more stuffing than will fit in the squash. Once the squash was done we spooned extra ratatouille on our plates. 

1 medium sized pattypan squash
olive oil
1 spring onion, chopped
1 medium eggplant
1 zucchini, thickly chopped
10 or so cherry tomatoes, halved
1 recipe Marcella Hazan's tomato sauce  
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400ºC/200ºC

Slice the top off of the squash, flip and slice the bottom off. With the bottom facing up scoop out the flesh and seeds, and reserve. Place the squash in an oven safe cast iron pan, drizzle with oil and place in the oven. Cook the squash until it is fork-tender, about 30-40 minutes (check starting around 20 minutes, because heck you never know). 

Slice the eggplant into thick slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt and let them sit for about 20 minutes. This will allow them to sweat out their bitterness. If your eggplants are small and young, then you can likely skip this step. Blot the eggplants and chop into dice size pieces, or even slightly larger. 

Heat one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and saute and until softened. Chop the pattypan squash remnants and add them to the onions along with the zucchini and eggplant. Continue to stir and saute until soft - you might want to add a bit more butter and oil. Add the cherry tomatoes, stir. Starting with a little bit at a time add the tomato sauce until the ratatouille reaches a consistency that you like. Season with salt and pepper. 

Fill the pattypan squash with as much ratatouille as will fit and top with grated cheese. Return back to the oven for about 15 minute or until cheese has melted and juices are dripping. Keep the remaining ratatouille hot on the stove. Cut in half and enjoy with an extra scoop of ratatouille. 
We've been eating on the balcony recently, it's been heavenly. 

July 27, 2012

it was grey and rainy and green

Paris makes for a wonderful escape, but you already know that. I left Zach in Zürich and made the jaunt solo. I visited with my friend Tala at night and spent the days wandering around the city eating bread and pastries. My when-in-Paris attitude led me to a lot of pastry shops and a lot of delicious food. Generally if I saw a line outside a boulangerie or patisserie I waited, eyed what the people ahead of me ordered, and ordered the same thing. At one point I think I had two baguettes in my purse, both with ends missing, seven madeleines and four financiers.

This photo is my favorite. I think it captures the I'll-have-what-your-having theme perfectly.

Here are the highlights, and yes, I know, they are mostly food related.

- blé sucré really does make the best Madeleines 
- You can make them by following along with pastry chef Fabrice Le Bourdat
- Take note that there is 410g of butter in only 24 Madeleines. Wow. 
- If that seems excessive follow this recipe - It was inspired by the real thing, but only uses 120g

- I surprised myself here by trying foie gras mousse with rhubarb and strawberry and loving it. 
- My friend Tala bought Frenchie's new cookbook and had him sign it. Now I just need her to translate the recipe for the chocolate pot de creme with passion fruit and caramel. 

- This chocolate eclair made the torrential rain feel like a summer sprinkle. 
- When I wasn't eating eclairs to escape the rain, I hunkered down with a syphon coffee at Coutume Cafe and an espresso and a borrowed book at Merce and the Muse

- We ate an amazingly satisfying lunch at Cafe de la Croix-Rouge. Poilane bread, toasted and buttered, topped with thinly sliced roast beef and served with a side salad - tartine heaven.

- Verjus wine bar has a killer bar menu - there's nothing like tucking into a cave-like spot for some buttermilk fried chicken after wandering around eating Madeleines in the rain. 

- The Luxembourg Gardens - likely Zach's favorite spot in Paris and I can see why.

July 24, 2012

buttermilk french toast

More than lingering over dinner, I love lingering over breakfast. Reading material is welcome at the table, the music is mellow but upbeat, the house smells like bacon soaked in sugar, there's no pressure to be witty, sharp, or stylish; at breakfast you can be your slipper-loving, Richard-Buckner-on-repeat listening, cooking-book-reading self. (My breakfast self might just be my best self). These long affairs are, of course, the breakfasts of weekends and vacations, and even such I love them more if it's raining. I think it's because the rain means I can linger longer. 

In my mind the verb to eat doesn't accurately capture the crunch of crispy bacon, the puddle of syrup caught inside a raspberry, or the ease at which we sit at the table for hours. It should really be to breakfast. And in German it is - frühstücken. It literally translates to to eat/have breakfast, but I like to think of it simply as to breakfast. 

I breakfast
you breakfast
Shall we breakfast?

It even sounds like breakfast - frühstücken - like a bacon pancake with blueberry flavored umlauts on top. I could linger over a pile of those all day, any day. Although that's not really true. I could linger over them on Saturday and Sunday, but on Monday through Friday I've got a date with a humble bowl of almond milk oatmeal and fruit. We've been dating for a while, maybe even a year. Before oatmeal I had a long relationship with greek yogurt. Considering how hard I've fallen for both yogurt and oatmeal it surprises me still that there was a long stretch, like college and grad school long, where I didn't eat breakfast. What was I thinking? Older and wiser now and in love with oatmeal, I am happy. It might not be as exciting as pancakes or French toast, but to me it still deserves to breakfast; to eat is too simplistic to account for all the staring into space that I do between bites. Sometimes it's day dreaming, sometimes it's just staring, but either way I like to think of it as the weekday version of the linger. 
Let's get back to breakfasts we can linger over. Last weekend Zach and I lingered over a pile of buttermilk French toast. It was damn good. I had just gotten back from a quick, two day, trip to Paris where the sole mission besides visiting with my dear friend Tala and picking up more vanilla extract at G.Detou, was to eat good bread. I ate a lot of good bread. I think it's all I ate. Nervous that I'd get back to Zürich and find nothing to eat I brought some financiers and brioche home with me. We ate the financiers right away, but the brioche lingered for a couple days on the counter (practicing for it's lingering on the breakfast table I think), turning from brioche to stale brioche. I thought about bread pudding for about half a second before settling on French toast. It seemed like a fitting end for bread schlepped back from France - French toast - voila!

I love French toast, maybe even more than I love waffles and pancakes. But unlike with waffles and pancakes, which are more forgiving, I have a list of French toast requirements....

I like thick slices
Not too soggy
Crisp around the edges
A good ratio of berries - I like some bites with and some bites without
Brioche is good
Challah is good
French bread cut on a diagonal is good
Pre-sliced packaged bread is bad
Pure maple syrup is a must
Extra cinnamon is always nice

Judging from my criteria, this recipe makes the perfect French toast. It's a layering system really: the outer edges are crispy, then there is layer heavy with egg, cinnamon and syrup, and then stuck in the middle is a layer that is just barely holding on to it's bread-like stiffness. All the layers sandwiched together make for the perfect bite. And then there is the buttermilk, a common ingredient for pancakes and biscuits, but a wonderful addition to French toast. The buttermilk adds a little tang, barely noticeable against the sweetness of the brioche and the cinnamon flecked egg coating. This French toast is good. It's linger worthy, It's to breakfast worthy. 
// Buttermilk French Toast //
adapted from Gourmet 
4 servings


1 1/2 cups well shaken buttermilk
4 large eggs
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
12 slices of brioche or challah 3/4" thick 
4 1/2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 200ºF/95ºC (to keep the french toast slices warm while you continue to make the rest)

Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pour the liquid into one large rimmed baking sheet or two small ones. Add the bread in one layer to soak. Turn it occasionally until the bread has absorbed all or most of the liquid, but is not falling apart, about 15-20 minutes. 

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet set over medium-heat until the foam subsides. Place as many pieces of bread as will fit comfortably into the pan and cook, turning once, until slightly puffed and golden brown, about 3 minutes total. (In the beginning the slices might take longer and towards the end you might need to turn down the heat so the edges don't cook too quickly leaving the inside soggy). Place the done pieces on a large baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you continue with the other batches. Add butter before each new batch. Eat with berries and pure maple syrup. 
Oh and have you read Alice Let's Eat by Calvin Trillin? It's a must. Zach and I both read it and absolutely loved it. It is laugh-out-loud funny the entire way through. I highly recommend it. We're now on to his other two books in the 'Tummy Trilogy' - American Fried and Third Helpings.

July 19, 2012

apricot tart with rye crust (and Zermatt)


That Mountain! This Tart!

You might be sitting there wondering why I've paired a picture of the Matterhorn with a picture of an apricot tart. Let me explain: while we were hiking in Zermatt I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about apricot tarts. I think it might have something to do with the hike-reward relationship I have established in my brain. It goes something like this; if you hike, you get a reward. I think it's a pretty good system, but what I want to know is why none of the mountain huts we stopped at had apricot tarts. The Swiss seem to consider buttery-bacon Rösti and creamy-cheese Spätzle a reward, which is a decent consolation prize, I admit, but where are the slumped apricots with pastry pulled up over their marigold middles smelling sweetly of cinnamon and sugar?

I should know better than to expect galettes in Switzerland. The fruit tart favored by the Swiss is a custardy concoction with stray pieces of fruit floating about like toddlers in a kiddy pool. The fruit is merely a decoration, the jiggly yellow base a priority. I know, I get it, dairy is kind of a big deal in this country. But perhaps the middle of summer, in the middle of the apricot region of Switzerland, an exception could be made and the rainy day custards could put aside in favor of fruit-centric tarts. It's too much to ask, I know that too, because as much as they love their dairy they love their traditions more. I give in and up. I'll just eat my lamb knuckle and follow it up with some vivid imagery of an apricot tart.

Apricot tart, instead of plum or cherry or raspberry, was on my mind for a couple of reasons; I had already eaten two in the previous week, and canton Valais, where Zermatt is located, is the the apricot mecca of Switzerland. It's something about the warm sandy soil and the glacier streams that make the Valais perfect for growing plump sweet apricots. Anyway I think it's safe to say that apricots were in the air that weekend, or at least in the air I was wandering about it. Come to close and you might have been struck by a sudden apricot craving.
As my hiking companions were taking in the beauty and pondering the steady movements of glaciers and the habits of mountain goats I was scouting for fugitive apricot trees and keeping my fingers crossed that I'd happen upon an apricot stand on our way out of town so I could bring home apricots straight from the source. I didn't see any trees or roadside stands, but I did duck into the supermarket before getting on the train and bought a kilo of apricots. My mind was calm. But only until I had my first slice. It was tart, and sour and my face puckered up as if I'd just eaten a lemon. OooEeee! What on earth? This was the mecca! The Hub! The fruit should be sweet and tender and flavorful, but all I tasted was tart. Hmpf! 

Not all was lost. I was still thinking about a galette. And you know what? A tart is a good place for a bad apricot. I should specify. This tart is a good place for a bad apricot. It's all about the nutty, slightly sweet, rye crust and how it balances the tartness of the apricots. They are a perfect pair, an unlikely pair, an atypical pie pair. Pies are usually built around a sweet jamey middle held in by a buttery shell. It's a sweet filling - plain crust type of relationship. The rye crust to apricot filling is different, it's a tart filling - sweet crust relationship. Most pie fillings can be eaten and enjoyed plain, but apricots hover on being too tart for solo consumption, they need the malty, sweet undertones of the rye flour.

And don't try and tell me you don't like rye bread, because this tart is a distant relative of the caraway seed speckled rye bread that we eat along side our eggs. And if you don't trust me, then trust Kim Boyce, she knows what she's doing.
// Apricot Galette with Rye Crust //
adapted slightly from Kim Boyce, Good to the Grain

 a couple notes
- this tart is not something that can be whipped up. The dough needs a long stay in the fridge and then once the tart is assembled it needs to be put in the freezer before baking.
- I first followed Boyce's crust instructions but found that the resulting dough was not quite as flakey as I wanted. Using the exact same ingredients but the Tartine method resulted in a flakier dough. I don't think it's Boyce, I just think that the Tartine method insures you don't overwork the butter and the dough, which results in a flakier, lighter crust.
- Boyce calls for boysenberries to pair with the apricots. I couldn't find boysenberries, but I did use blueberries for one tart and blackberries for another. I also think it's good without berries, just apricots.

ingredients for the dough
needs to be made ahead
for two galettes

6 oz / 1 1/2 sticks butter, cold
3/4 cup ice water

1 cup rye flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Cut the butter into 1 inch cubes and place it in the freezer. Place the water in the freezer as well. Chill both for about 10 minutes.

Measure and mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Spread the dry mixture into a rectangle - 1/3 inch deep - on your work surface. Place the butter cubes over the flour. Toss a bit of the flour over the butter so that the rolling pin won't stick. Apply pressure to the rolling pin and start rolling. When the butter flattens out into long thin strips use a bench scrapper to fold the mixture back to it's original size. Repeat the roll and scrape 3 or 4 more times. Make a well in the center of the dough and pour in 7 tablespoons of ice water. Scrape and scoop the dough over the water, cutting the water into the dough. Once you have a shaggy mass squeeze the dough to see if it comes together. If it is too dry add additional ice water a tablespoon at a time. Roll the dough into an 8.5 x 11.5 inch rectangle. It will be shaggy, but don't add more water as it will come together during rolling. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter. Roll out again into a rectangle. Repeat this fold and roll about 3 times, until you have a cohesive dough. Transfer the dough to plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight. (the dough can also be frozen in rectangle form and thawed out before rolling and adding fruit)

rolling out the butter - before adding the water
ingredients for the fruit filling
enough for two galettes

2 lbs ripe apricots
1 1/4 cups apricot jam
2 - 4 tablespoons sugar depending on the sweetness of the fruit.
1 1/2 cups boysenberries (I used blueberries in one round, blackberries in another and left them out in the third tart - the tart featured here)

1 egg
1/4 sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon (or if a little more if you're like me and love cinnamon)

Cut the apricots in half and discard the pits. Mix the apricot halves with the sugar and 1/2 cup of apricot jam. In a separate bowl mix the berries with 1/4 cup of jam.

Divide the dough in half, keeping one half chilled while you work with the other. Flour the work surface and roll the dough into a circle about 15 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Smear 1/4 cup of jam in the center of the dough. Pile half of the apricots and half of the berries into the center of the dough. Fold and an edge of the dough over the fruit and towards the center of the tart, leaving about 3 inches of fruit showing. Continue folding the dough over the fruit, pinching the edges where there might be gaps, until the fruit is encircled.

Make the second tart the same way

Freeze both tarts for at least hour. While the tarts are freezing preheat the oven to 350ºF / 180ºC.

Whisk the egg until there are no streaks of whites and the yellow is a cohesive color. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together. Take the baking sheet out of the freezer. Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mix over each tart, on both the crust and the fruit. Don't skimp, the cinnamon-sugar makes for a wonderfully crisp shell.

Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the tart is golden brown and juices have begun to bubble and seep.

Unbaked tarts will keep well wrapped and frozen for up to one month.

July 14, 2012

carrot and coriander soup

If you tell me I can't have something it inevitably makes me want it more. I'm guessing you know the feeling. So say you are in a restaurant and you smile and make small talk with the chef about Swiss chicken farms and then in a tone bordering on begging ask if perhaps just maybe he would share his recipe for that edible spiced velvet that he referred to as carrot and coriander soup, and all you get in response is a sideways smile and a quick topic change. Frustrating, right? Gosh Darn it! If you are anything like me it means that all hopes of a productive afternoon are lost into the black hole - commonly known as the internet - as you search for a recipe that hints at the magic of the original. 
I had a head start: I knew that the soup was a vegan soup. In a country where soup seems to be another name for hot cream with a faint murmur of flavor stirred in, this was nothing short of amazing; a thick, smooth and richly flavored soup without any of the cream ladled guilt. None of us ordered the soup because we simply assumed it was cream based, and to our credit so did the waitress when we asked her, "Oh, there is definitely cream in there" she said. Hmpf! Here's to educating the wait staff. Anyway, surprised that we had all chosen the salad to start the chef came to ask us why and we all feigned cream aversion. Disgruntled that we had made false assumptions and that our waitress had bolstered them, he sent out shot glass sized soup portions for all of us to try. Before I even had a chance to swallow the sweet spiced soup I thought, "Best Soup Ever?"

Isn't it funny how one meal, generally the meal you are eating, if it is good, can overshadow ever other meal you've eaten? What about my favorite onion soup at that cute little restaurant in Providence with the yellow and green striped awning that serves warm slices of french bread alongside bubbling bowls of cheesy-oniony goodness? Totally forgotten; at least momentarily. 

The sweetness of the cooked carrots and the nutty lemon spice of the coriander mingle in a way that will make you question if there are carrots in the soup at all, and if not, then what on earth is the magic ingredient that renders the soup so darn tasty. Since the chef wouldn't share, I can't be sure that his recipe doesn't include love potion #9 and unicorn horn, but I can tell you that I made something pretty darn similar with only carrots, onions, coriander and vegetable broth. 
I guess the question a lot of you might have right now is not about magical ingredients, but about why on earth I want to make a hot soup in the middle of July. If you are one of those people I'm guessing that you are in the States, riding the standing-wave of an intense mid-summer heat that shows no signs of relenting. But, you see, here in Zürich it has been rainy and grey. It seems that every sunny day is followed by four rainy days. In a country without air-conditioning this is really more of a gift than a curse. And if rain is a gift, then this soup is a stocking stuffer. 

It's a bit surprising that I love this soup so much considering that generally I prefer soups with texture and chunks. I guess this soup is an exception. I resisted the urge to plop big crusty croutons in it, and instead ate some toast smeared with goat cheese and honey. I brought the bread and cheese back from Paris. It was rainy and cold there too and since I couldn't make soup I ate pastries and torn baguettes slathered in butter and cheese. It was only there for three days; I left on Wednesday and got back yesterday, but apparently that is enough time to form a madeleine habit, a goat cheese addiction and a full blow crush on Paris, even rainy Paris. 
// carrot and coriander soup //
Jamie Oliver


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb / 450 g carrots, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
4 cups / 1 liter vegetable stock
bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro) chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook until they start to get soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the ground coriander and continue to cook for another minute. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring it to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, about 20-25 minutes. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend the soup until super smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and perhaps a little more ground coriander if you wish. Stir in the freshly chopped coriander and serve.
Rain seems to follow visitors into town, obscuring the mountains and making touring a soggy activity. To show our friends that the mountains really are there at the end of the lake we took a quick day trip to Flumserberg where we ooo'd and ahhh'd at the Wallensee, hiked through the clouds and rode the Floomzer back down. Assured that the Alps exist they left for Iceland in search of rotten shark.

July 09, 2012

pork chops with apricot stuffing

There are a couple thoughts running on a loop in my head; the first has to do with place names. So here's my question, why do we call it Milan when all of the Missoni-wearing, gelato-eating folk who live there call it Milano? The same goes for Roma, Lisboa, Genève and continues through to España, Schweiz and Deutschland. Personally I kind of like the way Rom-a rolls off my tongue. And not only is it the smooth pronunciation but images of lofty churches, buildings the shade of salmon and egg-shell and the whispering scent of basil that the a brings with it that make me want to swap the e for a, permanently. Perhaps this simple adjustment will work it's way into the language learning area of my brain (which is currently sitting in the corner with a dunce cap), flip a switch, and Alora!, I'll be able to speak fluent Italian by the end of the summer. 

That theory holds little weight considering I say Schweiz all day everyday and still show no signs of comprehending, let alone speaking, Swiss German. And no, I'm not being modest. Right now I communicate not in the loopy guttural language of the locals but in a unique facial sign language highly reliant on the blank stare; eyebrows bend down, eyes glaze over, mouth drops to a place just north of a frown, head tilts to the right, and mind thinks, "holy f*ing cow - in a country with a lot of g*d d*mn cows - I have no idea what they are saying!"

So back to looping question numero uno - place names. What got me thinking about place name is our own name, which we have changed since moving to Switzerland, from Mayer to Meier. Not permanently, and just in pronunciation, but still different. Mayer (May-er) leads to confusion and questions, whereas somehow the über similar Meier (My-er) results in that oh-so-satisfying look of comprehension. In a day played out in a series of staring matches, it is a welcome change. But here's my question, is it really such a jump from Mayer to Meier, or Meier to Mayer? I don't think so. I'll say Schweiz if you say Mayer? I  guess it's a po-tay-toe / po-tah-toe kind of issue, in which no one wins. 
The other thought that has been looping in my head is about apricots; specifically I want to know why NO ONE TOLD ME THEY WERE SO GOOD?! No really, why didn't you say anything? Mom? Dad? Friends? There are plenty of apricots to go around, no need to hoard them all for yourselves. 

I bought some on a whim at the farmer's market last week. Everyone else was doing it. The small downy fruits with sunburnt shoulders and mahogany freckles were disappearing into paper bags so I claimed my stake on part of the pile and bought half a kilo. As the vendor was feeling for ripe ones amongst the pile I was thinking, "Will it taste like a dried one? How have I not had a ripe one? What do I even do with a ripe one?" Some things slip through the cracks, we can't have it all, but that just meals I'm on a mission to make up for lost time. Yesterday I ate nine apricots. I ate them all the same way; I slice them top to bottom all the way around, twist slightly to separate the halves and then proceed to slice each half in to smaller apple-like sections, always eating a section before slicing the next one. 
Fruit tastes better sliced and you can slice an apricot without worrying about napkins and sticky fingers making it all the more enjoyable (I am admittedly sticky-finger adverse). I've come to think of apricots as a peach's serious, buttoned-up older sister. It's more refined, certainly subtler, and definitely way less juicy. (At least that is how I see myself as an older sister, that and somewhat more predictable and risk adverse). The marigold flesh reveals it's sweetness slowly and it might even mask it with a touch of tartness. I ate one yesterday that was super tart, but tart in a good way, kind of like a sour patch kid where the extreme tartness revealed a little bit of sweetness, and that little bit of sweetness was just enough to keep me eating. 

It's the firm, slightly sweet, slightly tart nature of apricots that made me think they'd be a good company for a pork chop. Pork chops need a little somethin' somethin' and apricots make the perfect stuffing; they become sweeter and softer in the oven, but no so sweet that they risk turning dinner into dessert, and not so soft that they collapse entirely. Add some toasted pine nuts for texture and some rosemary for flavor and fragrance and you'll likely start eating the stuffing plain, I did. No, but really, it makes for a fresh and colorful companion for a cut of meat that tends towards grey and tough. Nestled in the center of the pork chop the apricots release their juices into the meet, ensuring that every bite is tender. 
// Pork Chops with Apricot Stuffing //
inspired by Martha Stewart

5 ripe apricots
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 spring of rosemary
2 tablespoons of olive oil
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops
1 cup chicken broth

Slice the apricots in half and remove the pits. Cut them into pieces slightly smaller than a marble - a rough chop will work too. 

Place the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Add the pine nuts to the chopped apricots. Chop the rosemary and add it to the apricots and pine nuts. 

Cut a 2-inch slit in the side of each pork chop, cutting all the way to the bone. Fill each chop with apricot stuffing, shoving more in than you think will fit. Press down to flatten and season both sides with salt and pepper. 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sear the pork chops until browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Pour 1/2 cup of chicken stock in the skillet, reduce the heat to low and simmer over low heat for about 6-8 minutes, until the pork chops are cooked through. Remove the pork chops from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Add the rest of the stock into the skillet, scrapping up the brown bits and stirring uncovered until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Strain the sauce and drizzle over the pork chops. 

July 06, 2012


This gnome is for you. A gift for being patient while I gather my wits and recipes for this space. I thought I'd tip toe back into posting with a gnome and some pretty pictures of a hike in the Alps. Just perhaps they will make you salivate as much as pictures of chocolate cake, probably not, but everyone has a soft spot for a garden gnome right? I can't wait to have a garden so I can place a few gnomes amongst the hydrangeas and perhaps a few more nestled near the raspberry bushes. I'll likely have to book a few extra tickets on the flight home, so each gnome can have it's own seat. I'm sure Swiss Air is accustomed to the occasional traveling garden gnome 
We didn't really have any idea where we would end up when we got on the train in Zürich last Saturday. The general direction was clear - southeast - but other than that we weren't sure what we would see or where we would walk. A train to another train to a bus eventually led us to this beautiful valley where we hiked between towns until eventually finding our way back on to the bus and back to Zürich. The little town where I spotted the gnome is called Lumbrein, and from there we hiked up and then along the ridge listening to jiggling of cow bells the entire time. 

Switzerland is crazy scenic. It doesn't get old, ever. The minute I feel an expat funk coming on we immediately rush to the mountains and I'm rejuvenated and humming tunes from The Sound of Music. 

The hills are alive...

Now if only I could sew some matching outfits out of drapes and then Zach and I would be all set. 

We've titled this summer The Summer of Switzerland, which basically means we are going to try and do as much exploring as we can and save other European adventures until the throngs of tourists have left and the cities have cooled down. This weekend we are headed to Zermatt, and even before booking the hotel I made a reservation at Chez Vrony - I've been dreaming of that hamburger since last July. 

Also...now that I think about it, I'm going to get a gnome for our balcony. Perhaps he'll be a good luck charm and my plants will stay alive for once.