Old School: Pork Chops with Pickled Cherry Pepper Sauce

pork chops cherry peppers, bamonte's

Old School Style
Thick Bone-In Pork Chops
Pickled Sweet Cherry Pepper & Garlic Sauce 

I remember these pickled sweet cherry peppers from my childhood. They’re slightly tart and mildly spicy. In the ’60s, my mom would serve them on her relish tray. When I saw this recipe for pork chops topped with cherry peppers at Saveur here, I thought of my dad.  That very evening I picked up a jar of peppers and stopped at the butcher shop on the way home from work. The recipe comes from Bamonte’s Italian-American restaurant in Brooklyn, NY and has been a favorite on their menu since the 1950s. Bamonte’s is one of Saveur’s TOP 100 in the Travel Edition, chronicling the greatest gustatory hits of journeys abroad and close to home. They say, “Each one is worth going out of your way for.”

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Pan-Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops in a Korean Seaweed Soup

미역국 korean seaweed soup, miyeok guk, miyuk guk
Pan-Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops in a Korean Seaweed Soup

Traditionally this satisfying soup is savored by Korean mothers who have just given birth as a restorative meal, to replenish vitamins and nutrients. Consequently, it is also enjoyed on one’s birthday, as a way to commemorate that special day.  Here, the addition of some gorgeous huge Atlantic Sea Scallops definitely adds to the celebration!

This soup, miyeok guk or miyuk guk, is simple but super-flavorful and the scallops add a luxurious component. It’s made with seaweed known as miyeok in Korean/wakame in Japanese, lots of garlic and ground pork  in an ocean-y broth. It is garnished with a drizzle of toasted sesame oil, a sprinkling of crunchy sesame seeds, while a restrained amount of Korean red chile flakes called gochugaru adds a lively quality. The scallops are seasoned with Kosher salt and seared in a hot pan with just a bit of canola oil to let their natural flavor shine.

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Persimmon “Pico de Gallo”

persimmon salsa, pico de gallo, branzino

Pan-Seared Branzino (Mediterranean Sea Bass)
Fuyu Persimmon “Pico de Gallo”

The fuyu’s shape and size, plus its firm but supple texture is somewhat reminiscent of a tomato…which gave me the idea to try it as a substitute for that unseasonal fruit in a wintery version of pico de gallo. The Korean market where I often shop has huge displays of both fuyu and hachiya varieties of the persimmon, in season October through February. This salsa fresca is savory but has a hint of honey-apple sweetness. It has bracing acidity from the fresh lime juice and medium spiciness from the jalapeno. In addition to making a bright refreshing topping for this sea bass we thoroughly enjoyed it paired with a crispy-skin salmon too.

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roasted japanese eggplant with pomegranate, pistachio, garlicky cream sauce

japanese eggplant pomegranate pistachio
roasted japanese eggplant with fresh thyme
garlicky yogurt cream sauce
pomegranate & pistachio

I wasn’t shopping for another cookbook. I was actually at Anthropologie shopping for some kind of platform or stools on which to display some my overflowing unruly cookbook collection. But there on the shelf along with some darling Morrocan tea glasses and heavenly spiced candles was PLENTY, Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi. On the cover, a bejeweled eggplant dish…I was smitten.

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Hot Spicy Fish Soup (Maeuntang)

korean fish soup
Fresh Local Swordfish over Spicy Fish Soup with Gochujang and Gochugaru
Doenjang Braised Beech Mushrooms, Red Jalapeño, Scallion, Cilantro

This version of Korean Maeuntang, a hot spicy fish soup is bright, fresh, and fiery. Chili paste, chili flakes, and fresh chilies layer on the heat while beech mushrooms add slightly crunchy slightly nutty texture and flavor to the fragrant fish broth. Pan-seared fresh local swordfish sits atop the soup, retaining its crispy exterior. Fresh cilantro and scallion add verdant sparks. The flavor comes from the various forms of red chili, not from a long simmer, so this mouthwatering red-hot meal can be on the table in about 20 minutes…

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Quite Possibly The Best Salmon Ever?

Morro Bay King Salmon, troll-caught hook and line

Crispy-Skin Morro Bay King Salmon, Miso-Braised Buna-Shimeji
Diced Daikon Sautéed in Sesame Oil, Vietnamese Herbs, Bonito Flakes, Dashi Broth

Being a salmon aficionado and curious about the unusually complex rich flavors of this particular fish, I called the fishmonger at Bristol Farms. Salmon from Morro Bay, just like her famous Northern sister, the Copper River King, has unique qualities that come from “lifestyle” – the environment where they hatch, what they feed on, the temperature and strength of the currents they swim in and against, and finally how they are harvested and brought to market.

LL: “I purchased Wild California King Salmon from you yesterday. Can you tell me more about it?”

FM: “Oh yes! They are troll fishing for King Salmon in Morro Bay right now, using hook and line, bringing one fish at a time on board the boats. The fish are handled with the utmost care.”

LL: “I think it is quite possibly the best salmon I’ve ever had.”

FM: “We think so too. It’s extraordinary.”

Morro Bay King Salmon is the star of this dish. All the other components play a supporting role while creating an ethereal experience. Unlike the super-fatty Copper River chinooks, the Morro Bay is perhaps more balanced? While Morro Bay kings are still very rich in the omega-3 fats, there is also a depth and complexity of flavor that is unmatched by any salmon I’ve ever enjoyed. Unwittingly, I chose a light preparation for the dish, so glad I didn’t overshadow the bright character of the fish with heavy sauces or competing ingredients.

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