April 12, 2006

Roasted Cauliflower and Pesto Stuffed Pork Chops

I was so pleased with myself last night. I tried 2 new recipes and 1 was a vegetable. I made Pesto Stuffed Pork Loin Chops, Roasted Cauliflower and the previously posted Salade au Chevre Chaud.

I think I'm the last person on earth to try this, but I roasted cauliflower for the first time. I must say that, outside of a gratin and covered in cheese, this is indeed the most delicious way to eat cauliflower. I was inspired by Molly of Orangette's description of this dish and I must agree. It's like eating cauliflower candy. There is a delicious nutty sweetness to it that I can't describe any better than that. You'll have the see for yourself.

Ever trying to expand my vegetable repertoire, I decided I needed to give cauliflower a second chance. Not quite broccoli and not quite cabbage, this white budded gem is in the family of cancer-fighting veggies. Though cruciferous or not, it's still very high in vitamin C and folate, if you cook it in a way that retains it's nutrients. It turns out that roasting vegetables, in general, is a very healthy way to consume them. High heat and quick cooking mean a minimal loss of nutrients. It's known that cauliflower, along with broccoli, gives off a sort of unpleasant odor, so boiling the vegetable does work to disperse these odor-causing acids, which increase with the cooking time, but it also disperses the nutrients in the water. Roasting cauliflower and thereby reducing the cooking time works beautifully to keep the odor to a minimum and the nutrients in tact.

I did have to laugh about my struggle with the way choufleur is sold here. I kept walking around the produce isles searching for an easier way but none presented itself. They sell it with a huge amount of the stem still attached and many leaves coming up and over the gigantic head. It was probably 12-15 inches across. I was fairly intimidated to lift this beast into my little basket, not to mention struggle for 5 minutes, in vain, to get one of those plastic sacks around it. Picture me, forcing that damn sack around the white exposed part of the cauliflower, while having to ever so discreetly break off a majority of the branches (and stuff them next to the cabbages) in order to do the job. My cart and I strolled away hoping like hell I wouldn't have to pay for this baby by the kilo.

Difficulties aside, this just tastes good! I decided to keep it plain, just with olive oil, salt and pepper and see how I liked it. I think next time the critic wants more spices. I'm excited to try it with some curry or cumin. Make this your next side dish!
Roasted Cauliflower

1/2 large head of cauliflower
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
kosher salt or sea salt
ground pepper

Place the large chunk of cauliflower on a cutting board and slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. It will crumble and fall apart a bit which is fine. Cut thicker slices if needed. Trim most of the stem off the pieces, but leave enough to keep the pieces intact. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast at 400 or 425 degrees F (200-210 degrees C) for about 25-30 minutes. Stir after the first 15 minutes and check frequently to prevent over cooking. The cauliflower will be crisp-tender. I prefer the bites with lots of brown caramelization! Yum! You can roast these at a lower heat, but they will be softer. Serves 2.

Pesto Stuffed Pork Loin Chops
recipe from Italian Cooking and Living website

2 boneless pork loin chops, about 1/2 - 3/4 inch thick
10 basil leaves, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp pine nuts, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp grated parmesan or pecorino

1 shallot or small onion, thinly sliced
8-10 cherry tomatoes

Combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, oil and cheese in a small bowl to form a sort of loose paste. Butterfly the pork chops by making an incision horizontally along one side of the chop almost all the way through to the other side but leaving one side intact. You are creating a pocket within the pork chop. Scoop 1/2 the pesto filling inside the pocket and press firmly to seal the pork chop, or you can use toothpicks to secure it. Do the same with the other pork chop.

Heat a Tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Season the pork chops on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear in the hot oil until nicely browned on both sides. Remove and transfer to an oiled baking dish. Scatter the shallot or onion and cherry tomatoes around the dish. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 15 minutes. Serves 2.
This was good but not amazing. I liked the method of searing it on the stove and finishing in the oven, but it could have been more flavorful. I would have like a sauce or maybe a true pesto sauce over the top. I'll be trying this again though. It was so easy! The roasted cherry tomatoes went wonderfully with the pork and the roasted cauliflower.

So you see, I share with you my successes and my disappointments. Anybody got a great but easy pork chop recipe?


lovemily88 said...

I keep telling everyone that cauliflower is nature's candy... I feel triumphantly vindicated now that someone else has said it too. :)

Chez Megane said...

Emily, you're a wise woman. Why don't you cough up some of your veggie recipes and enlighten me? You seem to love almost all of them. Sadly, just as my love of brussel sprouts was blooming, they are out of season and gone from the markets! Damn it!

Anonymous said...

Ooh, Ooh. I beg to differ. Adam made the pork chop recipe for me the other night and it was so good! I don't know if he strayed at all from the recipe, but i'll get back to you on that. As an entusiastic eater, I have loved everything from your blog that we've tried! Love, Em

Chez Megane said...

Emily - Hey, glad you tried it! Upon further reflection, I do remember it as being pretty tasty. Definitely full of flavor. I may have overcooked the pork, which is easy to do. Thanks for eating your way through my blog! =)

Thomas and Sarah Sherman said...

I tried this recipe, but I used a pork tenderloin instead of chops which I unrolled, stuffed, and then re-rolled. Took a bit longer to cook, but it was very moist and delicious. The juices from the tenderloin mixed well with the tomatoes and shallots for a "saucier" feel. My husband and I both loved it and will be adding into the dinner rotation!