Calabrian Pork Chops with Peppers and Potatoes


Last week, a friend sent me a recipe for Calabrian pork chops. Upon reading I thought that it was a great example of Italian-American cooking and prepared it a few days later. It was simple and straightforward, required minimal prep, and yielded some of the most delicious pork chops I’ve ever made.

When I called my friend to report on the dish, he started to laugh and said “If you had known the source, you’d never have made it.” Later that day, he arrived at our apartment with a copy of the cookbook from which he had copied the recipe: Fabulicious!: Teresa’s Italian Family Cookbook. The author, Teresa Giudice, plays a leading role in Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey and is known for flipping tables in restaurants, lavish spending, and yes, going to Federal prison for declaring fraudulent bankruptcy.

I doubt that I would have ever purchased this book even though I admit that the the Bravo reality show is one of my guilty pleasures. Having paged through the book, however, I think its a good collection of authentic Italian-American recipes, some of which may find their way into future posts on this blog.

When I prepared this dish, I opted to used jarred vinegar hot and sweet cherry peppers that I had in my cupboard and that author suggested as an alternative to fresh cherry peppers in her recipe. I also chose to deglaze the pan, after browning the pork, which I think enhanced the flavor.

I guess this experience confirms the adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Calabrian Pork Chops with Peppers and Potatoes (Adapted from Fabulicious by Teresa Giudice)
4 serving(s)


7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) boneless pork loin chops, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup white wine for deglazing
1-1/4 pounds medium red potatoes, cut lengthwise into sixths
6 hot or sweet fresh cherry peppers, tops removed, seeded and quartered
(In a note to her recipe, Giudice writes “If you can’t find fresh cherry peppers, you can use pickled cherry peppers. . . .These won’t need cooking, so just add them to the potatoes with the browned pork.)

In a medium glass or ceramic mixing bowl, whisk 3 tablespoons of oil with the vinegar, basil, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes. Mix in the pork and let stand another 15 minutes.

The marinade
The marinade

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, letting the excess marinade drip back into the bowl.

Marinating the pork
Marinating the pork

In batches, add the pork to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until the pork is browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer the browned pork to a plate. Leave any remaining fat in the skillet.

Browning the pork
Browning the pork

(At this point in the cooking, I chose to deglaze the pan with a 1/4 cup of white winning, scraping up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan.)

Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the skillet and reduce the heat to medium. Add the potatoes and fresh peppers and stir well.

Browning the potatoes
Browning the potatoes

Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the water evaporates and the potatoes are almost tender and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Return the pork to the skillet; cover and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

The finished dish
The finished dish

Wine Pairing: Primitivo

Oven-Baked Ratatouille


Perhaps owing to the bounty of summer produce at the market at this time of year, I inevitably wind up making ratatouille. Usually, I prepare it on top of the stove, cooking most of the vegetables individually. This year, however, I was lazy. (I’ll blame the excessive heat.) For this reason, I chose to make Mark Bittman’s oven-baked version from his book How to Cook Everything. What I especially liked about his recipe was that it called for cooking all the vegetables at the same time in the oven.

I admit that I was not totally faithful to Bittman’s recipe when it came to the amount of vegetables, the sizes in which they were cut, and the amount of olive oil. I also erroneously covered my casserole, which may have produced a more watery, though no less delicious result. The next time, I’ll choose the uncovered route. It will probably give the dish a more roasted flavor. I will also not make the mistake of scattering the fresh-herb sprigs over the vegetables, as removing them at the end of cooking was a chore.

Oven Baked Ratatouille (Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything)


1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 onions, chopped
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch pieces.
2 round tomatoes, cored cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup grape tomatoes
10 cloves of garlic, halved
Several sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary tied with a string for easy removal
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to tasteThe prepped vegetables

The prepped vegetables

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Film a casserole or heavy oven proof skillet dish with a couple tablespoons of the olive oil, then make a layer onion, followed by one of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, a sprinkling of salt and pepper, and half the the garlic (the order doesn’t matter at all). Repeat and make a second layer. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.

The layered vegetables
The layered vegetables

Bake for about 1 to 1.5 hours, pressing down on the vegetables occasionally with a spatula, until they are all completely tender. When they are tender remove.

About mid-way through
About mid-way through

Garnish with more herbs and drizzle with a little more olive oil, and serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

I chose to serve the ratatouille as a side dish with a roasted chicken.

Wine Pairing: Dry Rose

Leftover Roast Lamb with Tomatoes, Scallions, and Parsley


Last week, we acquired a new (“used” would be more accurate) kitchen appliance, a vintage Farberware open-hearth grill and rotisserie. Actually it is a replacement for the one I had in storage, which hurricane Sandy “washed” away a while back. I came across this one on e-bay while I was searching for something totally unrelated to cooking, which made me feel that fate brought us together.

The fact that this rotisserie cooks a hefty roast or whole chicken without any smoke and a minimum amount of heat and is easy to clean and store makes it perfect for a NYC-apartment kitchen, where smoke alarms are overly sensitive and space is at a premium.

The first food I cooked on this one is the same that I made on my last one: a roast boneless leg of lamb. Because I wasn’t sure if this used appliance would work, we didn’t take any photos of the lamb and its preparation until its final minutes of cooking. But after a little more than an hour of steadily turning over the glowing cooking element, the roast was a thing of beauty.

Lamb on the rotisserie
Lamb on the rotisserie

The recipe I used is by Joshua Bousel on and is relatively simple. That it uses only a marinade to flavor and baste the meat, as opposed to making holes in the meat for stuffing it with herbs and garlic, keeps the leg juicer during cooking on the spit. Basting it every fifteen minutes with some reserved marinade and a brush made from fresh herbs also helps. While the original recipe is for an outdoor gas grill/rotisserie, I adapted it for my indoor one.

Because we had plenty of meat left over from this 4.5-pound roast, I turned to one of my older cookbooks for a recipe. Published in 1967, a time when America seemed to rediscover serious cooking, Michael Field’s Culinary Classics and Improvisations is a collection of classic recipes for meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables, each of which is followed by a variety of improvisations for the leftovers from the classic dish. Many of these improvisations, like the one I chose for my leftover lamb, reflect America’s fascination at that time with international cuisine. Today, however, many may question these recipes’ authenticity or their ethnic accuracy. Yet one must remember that when Field wrote his book, a lot of the imported ingredients and spices we readily find today, not only in gourmet shops but even in supermarkets, were not widely available.

Field titled this improvisation for leftover roasted lamb, “Lamb in a Skillet with Fresh Tomatoes, Scallions, and Parsley in the Turkish Style.” I must confess that I cannot explain what is Turkish about this dish. Nonetheless, it has long been one of my favorites for repurposing a leftover roast.

In his recipe, Field calls for peeled, seeded, and cut tomatoes and provides instructions for peeling. However, while I cut and seeded the tomatoes as directed, I opted to skip the peeling.

Lamb in a Skillet with Fresh Tomatoes, Scallions, and Parsley in the Turkish Style (from Michael Field’s Culinary Classics and Improvisations)


2 cups roast leg of lamb cut into ¾- to 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into julienne strips 1 inch by ½ inch
½ cup scallions, cut into paper-thin rounds (include some of the green stem also)
½ cup parsley (flat-leaf is possible), coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon lemon peel, grated
Lemon quarters

Prepped ingredients
Prepped ingredients

Combine in a small bowl the pieces of lamb, the chopped garlic, salt to taste, and the freshly ground pepper. Mix together thoroughly.

The seasoned lamb
The seasoned lamb

Choose a 10-inch traditional sauté pan or any deep heavy frying pan attractive enough to bring to the table.

Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan until it almost begins to smoke. Add the seasoned lamb and, over high heat, brown the pieces quickly, turning them with a large spoon or spatula for about 8 minutes, taking care not to let them burn.

The browned lamb
The browned lamb

Toss in the tomato strips* and, stirring continuously, cook them for about 3 minutes with the lamb; they should be barely cooked through and should retain more than a hint of their original texture and freshness.

Lamb with tomatoes
Lamb with tomatoes

With a spatula, push the meat and tomatoes toward the center of pan and surround them with the scallions and parsley, arranged in a ring. Sprinkle meat with the lemon peel and cover the pan tightly.

After adding the parsley, scallions, and lemon zest
After adding the parsley, scallions, and lemon zest

Turn off the heat and let the residual heat in the pan warm the herbs through. Serve directly from the pan after about 5 minutes.

The finished dish
The finished dish

Lemon quarters are the perfect accompaniment to the lamb and French or Italian bread should be served to sop up the tomato and herb-flavored olive oil.

*Note: To prepare the tomatoes, drop them into boiling water for about ten minutes. Peel them at once and cut them into quarters. Run a small sharp knife under the pulp of each quarter and cut it away, leaving the thin outer shell of the tomato. Cut the shells into julienne strips and use the tomato pulp for other purposes.

As I said earlier, I skipped the blanching and peeling of the tomatoes to preserve their texture. I also added a bit of cumin to the initial seasoning of the lamb and, as may be seen in the photos, took some liberties with measuring the ingredients. Finally, rather than serving bread, I opted for basmati rice to sop up the delicious sauce.

Field’s book is out of print, but can be found used here on Amazon: Michael Field’s Culinary Classics and Improvisations, Creative Leftovers Made From Main Course Masterpieces, 1967.

Wine Pairing: A cru Beaujolais, Pinot Noir