Valentine’s Day 2021, our latest holiday during this pandemic, was possibly our happiest. Perhaps, the mood swing could be contributed to our having secured our first shots of the vaccine a week ago or even to the beautiful two dozen roses that were delivered to our door that morning. But while those events may have played a part, I’d have to say my husband’s suggestion for our Valentine’s dinner deserves most of the credit.
My search for a novel recipe for pork chops led me to a well-worn cookbook on my shelves: 1,000 Italian Recipes by Michele Scicolone. Although its title might sound a tad gimmicky, the 657-page tome comprises authentic Italian recipes by one of the most respected, and prolific, authorities on Italian cuisine.
For years, I’ve been a fan of the British chef Jamie Oliver. His down-to-earth approach to food and emphasis on rich flavor have led me to add several of his cookbooks to my collection. One of my latest additions is Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals, a companion volume to his television series by the same name, which is the source of today’s recipe.
Growing up, the only ribs I ever had were those my Neapolitan aunt would make in tomato sauce. She used to brown them in olive oil and then slowly simmer them in a large pot of sauce, which sometimes contained cotenne, or pig-skin braciole. Yum! It was pork at its best.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, this hoary hound recently learned a new one when he looked for recipes for a pork loin. I had a few parameters for my search: stovetop as opposed to oven; no fresh herbs (none were on hand); and easy (it was a weeknight). Ultimately, I found one that met all the requirements in Carol Field’s In Nonna’s Kitchen: “Pork Loin Roasted in Milk.”
During this pandemic and while sheltering in place, my husband and I have been struggling to make room in our over packed freezer. One by-product of this effort has been the “mystery meal,” something frozen so long ago that we don’t know what it is. Sometimes even after opening the container, we’re not able to identify it.
Growing up, I always looked forward to my aunt’s Carnevale, or Fat Tuesday, dinner, which featured homemade fusilli pasta with a three-meat (beef, veal, and pork) tomato sauce. She made this dish only once a year to retain its special significance: a farewell to meat for the forty days of Lent.
I remember how I would salivate as the sauce slowly simmered and my aunt would use thin iron rods to roll the pasta dough into long tubes of pasta that roughly resembled the barrel of a rifle. As she made the pasta, she’d advise me to eat as much meat as I could since there wouldn’t be any more on the menu until Easter.
As I’ve probably mentioned before, I typically let what’s available in my supermarket influence what will be on my table for dinner. Such was the case this weekend when a 50%-off sale on pork shoulder led to the purchase of a five-pound roast and a subsequent search for a recipe with which to prepare it.
Our local public library has a used-book store with an outstanding, ever changing, selection of cookbooks, usually in near-perfect condition and at extraordinarily low prices. I used to visit it at least once a week and buy one or two books each time I went. For the last couple of months, however, I’ve cut back on all my cookbook purchases primarily because of space. My shelves are literally full.
But a few weeks ago my husband, who works close to the library, came home one evening and presented me with, you guessed it, another find. It was a pristine copy of Michael Lomonaco’s Nightly Specials. “Where are we going to put it?” I asked. I’m sure that was not the response my better half expected, since he knew I had enjoyed the author’s cooking both at Windows on the World and more recently at Porterhouse Bar and Grill at the Time-Warner Center. “It only cost $2,” he replied. Just look through it and. . .”
Back in the early days when The Food Network seemed more focused on serious cooking than on competition shows and celebrity, Jamie Oliver, a British chef, made his debut on the network in 1999 with a series called The Naked Chef. As might be inferred from the show’s title, Oliver took a minimalist approach to home cooking, stripping recipes to their bare essentials.
I was a fan then and still am, after twenty years of watching him on television and reading his books at home. Recently, while viewing our local PBS channel here in San Diego, I came upon what I believed to be his latest show, 5 Ingredients—Quick & Easy Food. After watching several episodes, I purchased the eponymous book spawned by the series. All the beautifully illustrated book’s recipes do actually adhere to the limit of 5 ingredients, except for kitchen staples like salt and pepper, olive oil, vinegar, etc. and most can be prepared relatively quickly, making them perfect choices for weeknight cooking. Many of the recipes can also be found online on Oliver’s website.