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Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon and Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon

Vietnamese Pork Chops with Pickled Watermelon

I’ve mentioned in other post how much I love my subscription to Bon Appetit.  When it arrives in the mailbox, I sit down and go through it page by page, dog-earing the pages with recipes I want to make.  The August issue has been particularly good.  When I saw this recipe for Vietnamese pork chops, I knew I had to try it.  I’ve been on a hardcore watermelon kick lately so the fact that the recipe included watermelon made it a slam dunk.

I’ve had bad experiences with pork chops in the past.  In my mind they’ve always been synonymous with ultra-dry, chewy stuff.  Yuck!  I am however, obsessed with Vietnamese cuisine so I thought this might be a good opportunity to give it a go and see if I could conquer my fear of making pork chops into packed dust.

As it turns out, August has finally delivered the cold, foggy San Francisco summer we warn prospective visitors about.  After the pork chops had marinated, I just couldn’t bring myself to descend into the misty, windy backyard and stand in front of the grill while they cooked.  The cast iron skillet came to the rescue and the results were absolutely amazing.

The best part of eating amazing food is sharing it with amazing people.  We shared this meal with one of our favorite people in the universe who does her research and arrived with an amazing dry Riesling that worked magic with the food.

This one takes a little preparation because you have to pickle the watermelon rind the night before, which for us wasn’t a problem because we’re up to our ears in watermelon rind at the moment.  It sound really weird, but believe me, it’s worth it.  Make this recipe and invite your favorite people to dinner.  You won’t be sorry.

VIETNAMESE PORK CHOPS WITH PICKLED WATERMELON

INGREDIENTS

PORK CHOPS

  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Sriracha
  • 4 1″-thick bone-in pork chops 
(about 2 ½ lb. total)

SALAD

  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 4 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups trimmed purslane or arugula
  • ½ pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into pieces, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup Pickled Watermelon Rind, thinly sliced

PREPARATION

PORK CHOPS

  • Whisk shallots, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, and Sriracha in a shallow baking dish. Add pork chops and turn to coat. Cover and chill, turning occasionally, 
at least 1 hour.
  • Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Remove pork chops from marinade, scraping off excess, and grill until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side.  (I heated 1Tbsp of olive oil in a cast iron skillet and seared the pork chops on one side for 3 minutes, filled them and then transferred them to a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes until the temperature was 145 degrees.)
  • DO AHEAD: Pork chops can be 
marinated 12 hours ahead. Keep chilled.

SALAD

  • Heat 4 Tbsp. oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain; season with salt.
  • Whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add purslane, watermelon, and Pickled Watermelon 
Rind; season with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat.
  • Serve pork chops with watermelon salad topped with fried shallots.

 

PICKLED WATERMELON RIND

Pickled Watermelon Rind

Pickled Watermelon Rind

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pounds watermelon
  • 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced, seeds removed if desired
  • 1 1″ piece peeled ginger, thinly sliced
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

PREPARATION

  • Using a vegetable peeler, remove 
tough green rind from watermelon; discard.
  • Slice watermelon 1″ thick. Cut away all 
but ¼” flesh from each slice; reserve flesh 
for another use. Cut rind into 1″ pieces. (You should have about 4 cups.)
  • Bring chile, ginger, star anise, salt, peppercorns, sugar, vinegar, and ½ cup water to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring 
to dissolve sugar and salt. Add watermelon rind and return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, setting 
a small lid or plate directly on top of rind 
to keep submerged in brine, if needed.
  • Transfer rind and liquid to an airtight container; cover and chill at least 12 hours

WATERMELON GAZPACHO WITH FETA CREMA

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

Watermelon Gazpacho with Feta Crema

INGREDIENTS

GAZPACHO

  • 1 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large beefsteak tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1 English hothouse cucumber, 
 peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

CREMA AND ASSEMBLY

  • ¼ cup almonds
  • 2 ounces feta, preferably French sheep’s milk, crumbled (about ½ cup)
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk
  • ¾ pound seedless watermelon, rind removed, cut into ½” pieces (about 2 cups)
  • ½ English hothouse cucumber, peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • Olive oil (for serving)
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

Purée watermelon, tomato, cucumber, jalapeño, oil, and vinegar in 
a blender until smooth.GAZPACHO

  • Transfer gazpacho to a large bowl; season with kosher salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour before serving.
  • DO AHEAD: Gazpacho can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

CREMA AND ASSEMBLY

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Toast almonds on a rimmed baking sheet, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 8–10 minutes. (Alternatively, you can do this step in a dry small skillet over medium heat.) Let almonds cool, then coarsely chop.
  • Mash feta into sour cream in a small bowl until mostly smooth, then whisk in milk.
  • Divide watermelon and cucumber among bowls and pour gazpacho over. Top 
with crema and almonds, drizzle with oil, and season with sea salt and pepper.
  • DO AHEAD: Crema can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Sausage, Shitake, White Bean and Kale Soup

Sausage, Shitake, White Bean and Kale Soup

Sausage, Shitake, White Bean and Kale Soup

Part of being more conscious about what we’re eating involves making sure that we’re using the things we have in the fridge.  A while back we bought some spicy chicken sausage thinking we needed to supplement an impromptu dinner party for last-minute guests.  As it turned out, the guests decided at the last-minute that they weren’t coming.  We’re not really grill up a sausage and eat it kinda guys so we opted for soup. I’ve been making soup long enough to know that as long as you have tasty ingredients and you give mind to equal distribution of ingredients for bites, you can pretty much throw it together and it’ll work.  That’s your cue to go crazy with your pantry and my way of saying that the amounts of particular ingredients here should be used as a guideline; add what you have, skip what you don’t and taste throughout the cooking process and you’ll be happy.

Soup for me needs bread and as we were sitting down to eat, the garlic butter toast I had in mind didn’t pan out because I forgot to buy butter.  We’ve said for ages that avocado is nature’s butter and so instead of slathering the toast with butter, we just mashed up an avocado and voila!  All the time we’ve been right!

Weight Watchers Points:  7 (not including toast or avocado)

INGREDIENTS

  • 4  pre-cooked spicy chicken sausages, coarsely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp Avocado Oil (olive oil will work too)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 gloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cans white beans
  • 2 pint containers of Shitake mushrooms, stems removed, coarsely chopped
  • 8 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano chopped
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oil in a large pot until shimmering.  Add onions and sautee until beginning to be translucent, about 5 minutes.  In a separate pan, heat sausage until it starts to sweat.
  2. Add sausage, garlic, celery, oregano, thyme and mushrooms.  Stir until mushrooms become tender, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add white beans and kale and cook until kale starts to wilt.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  5. Season with salt and pepper and serve.  (Grate a little parmesan or pecorino cheese over the top as a finishing touch).

Wild Salmon with Rosemary Citrus Glaze, Shaved Honeydew, Fennel and Olive Salad and Wild Rice with Sage Brown Butter

Wild salmon with rosemary citrus glaze, shaved honeydew, fennel and olive salad and wild rice with sage brown butter.

Wild salmon with rosemary citrus glaze, shaved honeydew, fennel and olive salad and wild rice with sage brown butter.

One of the benefits of being back on the Weight Watchers is that it makes me so much more conscious of the food I’m eating.  That really is the point after all and I’m a little disturbed to discover just how unconscious my eating had become.  Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t become a sleep eater (thank god) but I’d completely fallen into “open mouth – shovel in” as an automatic response to every whim.  This resulted in a very happy tongue but increasingly tighter clothes.

Paying attention is much better all around.  By cooking at home and controlling what goes into the food calorie-wise, it also makes me think about the quality of the ingredients and creativity of the recipes.  The more I read about food and agriculture, the more convinced I become of the importance of selecting non-processed, sustainable foods.  They’re much more expensive without a doubt, but the fact that we’re eating less of them almost makes it a wash.

I love salmon, but I’ve come to the point where I can’t bring myself to eat anything but wild-caught fish.  The fact that farm-raised salmon has to be artificially colored to even resemble salmon is a deal-breaker for me.  A dye job just doesn’t belong on a dinner plate.

That said, tonight’s dinner was caught in the wild and you could taste the freedom and love.  I pulled the glaze recipe from myrecipes.com.  Continuing my way through this month’s Bon Appetit, we dug out the mandoline and took a crack at the Shaved Honeydew, Fennel and Olive salad as a side.  Mixed reviews on this one, I think it would have been better if we’d used fancier Spanish olives but I was too lazy to deal with pits.  To round it out, Bri made his wild rice with sage brown butter, which is just plain amazing.

Dinner clocked in at 10 Weight Watchers points.

We went with Butter Chardonnay for the pairing, because how could you resist a wine called “Butter?”

WILD SALMON WITH CITRUS ROSEMARY GLAZE

Wild Salmon with Citrus Rosemary Glaze

Wild Salmon with Citrus Rosemary Glaze

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 4-oz wild-caught salmon filets
  • ½  teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 thin lemon slices
  • ¼  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • ¼  cup dry white wine
  • ½  teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¾  cup fresh orange juice (about 2 oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 325.  Sprinkle filets evenly with salt and pepper and place two lemon slices on each filet.  Place salmon in a baking dish, cover with foil and bake until salmon is flaky, about 20 minutes.
  2. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots; sauté 30 seconds. Stir in wine and rosemary; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates. Add juice and syrup; bring to a boil, and cook 1 minute. Spoon glaze over salmon and serve.

SHAVED HONEYDEW, FENNEL AND OLIVE SALAD

Shaved Honeydew, Fennel and Olive Salad

Shaved Honeydew, Fennel and Olive Salad

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 1 ½ pounds honeydew melon, rind and seeds removed, shaved on a mandoline
  • ½ fennel bulb, shaved on a mandoline, plus 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fennel fronds
  • ¼ cup brined green olives, 
such as Castelvetrano, pitted, 
very coarsely chopped

PREPARATION

  1. Whisk orange juice, lemon juice, and 
2 Tbsp. oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add melon, shaved fennel, 
and olives to vinaigrette and toss to coat. Top salad with orange zest and fennel fronds, and season with salt and pepper.

 

WILD RICE WITH SAGE BROWN BUTTER

Wild Rice with Sage Brown Butter

Wild Rice with Sage Brown Butter

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup of wild rice
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 8 fresh sage leaves coarsely chopped

PREPARATION

  1. Prepare wild rice in a rice cooker or on stove top. (My rice preparation knowledge is limited because I’m completely dependent on our Zojirushi rice cooker.
  2. Melt butter over high heat, add sage leaves and stir constantly until butter starts to brown.
  3. Pour over rice and mix well

Peach and Blue Cheese Toasts

Peach and Bleu Cheese Toasts

Peach and Bleu Cheese Toasts

With my renewed commitment to counting Weight Watchers points and dropping the pounds that have snuck back while I was not paying attention, I’ve been trying to make really diverse meals that are big on flavor and nutrition and small on points.  My main rule above all else is that food has to be satisfying (and should pair well with wine).

This is a great, fast light weeknight dinner that makes delicious use of the amazing peaches that are in season in late summer.

I love Bon Appetit recipes!  This is adapted from the August 2014 issue.

We paired this with a moscato.

Weight Watchers Points:  6

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 slices country-style bread
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tsp while balsamic vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 ounces blue cheese (such as Roquefort or Saint Agur), room temperature
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) baby arugula
  • Freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  • Using the tip of a paring knife, score an X 
in the bottom of each peach. Cook in a large saucepan of boiling water just until skins begin to peel back where cut, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl 
of ice water; let cool. Peel; cut over a small 
bowl into wedges, collecting juices. Add lemon juice and honey and toss to combine.
  • Toast bread and season with salt. Spread cheese on toast and 
top with peaches, leaving juices behind. Whisk 
oil and vinegar into juices. Toss arugula with enough dressing to lightly coat in a bowl; season with salt and pepper. Arrange over toasts. Serve the rest on the side as a salad.