Way back in the early 70s, I used to watch “The Romagnolis’ Table,” a cooking series on PBS that attempted to do for Italian cooking what Julia Child did for its French counterpart in the United States. Featuring a husband-and-wife team, Margaret and G. Franco Romagnoli, it sought to bring authentic Italian dishes to an audience who thought spaghetti and meatballs with its long simmering Sunday sauce epitomized Italian cuisine. In a Christian Science Monitor interview, he declared: “Ninety percent of pasta sauces are made by the time you bring that pasta to a boil.”
My Neapolitan aunt, with whom I used to watch the show, enjoyed it as much as I did and found their style of cooking similar to hers. Her only objection to their no-frills show came at the end of each episode when Margaret and George sat down to sample their food at their kitchen table. “Why can’t they be like Julia,” she said, “and have their meal in the dining room.”
We keep reading over and over in the news about the rising cost of food owing to the rate of inflation. Indeed, even so-called economy cuts like short ribs and oxtails might today be considered luxury items. In my opinion, one of the best options these days, in terms of value and flavor, is pork; and for entertaining, a boneless pork loin a great choice.
I’ve posted a couple of recipes on this blog for this cut: one for a Bolognese roast braised in milk and another for a Tuscan pork loin roasted with rosemary and garlic. This post, however, features a recipe from a pioneer of California cuisine, Sally Schmitt, who perhaps is best known as the founder of two of Napa Valley’s most famous restaurants: Mustard’s Grill and The French Laundry. Her recently published, beautifully illustrated cookbook, Six California Kitchens, traces her culinary career in Northern California from her childhood kitchen through her five restaurants accompanied by recipes from each of them. The recipe I chose, “Roast Loin of Pork with Mustard Caper Sauce” was from the French Laundry, where she worked from 1978 to 1994.