Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Lemon & Bay Pork Chops with Garlic Scape Pesto
I think by now you may have noticed how skittish I get when foods with particularly short seasons are up for discussion – recall the lack of composure with the wintered-over rabe? Or May and the ramps? Well, on Friday, Berried Treasures was the only greenmarket stand that still had a basket of garlic scapes on display.
True, the beefed-up Saturday market offered scapes from 4 or 5 different vendors. But, as my eyes darted between the ever-larger, ever-tougher, ever-more-strongly-flavored specimens, I sensed that scape season was peaking. And you know what comes next: 11 months with no scapes. So I hope you’ll forgive the repeat mention as kindly as you did with the ramps.
Making scapes into pesto is a fantastic technique for preserving their gorgeous color and flavor for the long months ahead. When raw, the scapes are quite strong, and so you’ll find this recipe calls for a fair amount of pine nuts, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil – all of which serve the purpose of balancing out their garlicky bite.
After a bit of kind advice from my friend Lenny, who grows his own scapes, I’ve settled on this formula. The further you are into scape season, the more robust your scapes will taste, and the more of the other ingredients you’ll have to use. Just trust your instincts – the resulting pesto is vibrantly green and superb with pasta or roasted meats. And Violet Hill had some lovely big pork chops this week that I knew were up to the job.
You’ll have plenty of leftover pesto here – that’s the point after all. Lenny suggests using ice cube trays to freeze the pesto in manageable portions, which I think is brilliant. Pour a layer of olive oil over each cube and seal each tray tightly. This pesto lasts under a layer of olive oil in the fridge for about 2 weeks. In the U.S., check the Local Harvest Market Finder or look into Edible Communities for scape sources near you. No scapes to be found? Traditional basil pesto makes a lovely companion for this pork too.
Serves 2 plus a big batch of pesto
2 cloves garlic, crushed
zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 ½ - 5 cups extra virgin olive oil
small handful (about 10 sprigs) thyme
4 bay leaves, fresh if possible
freshly ground black pepper
2 large bone-in pork chops
1 pint mixed small heirloom tomatoes
1 lb fresh garlic scapes
1 ¼ cups pine nuts
6 – 8 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
juice of 1 – 2 lemons
freshly ground black pepper
1 glass red wine
1 cup beef or chicken stock
2 tsp Dijon mustard
In a large ziplock bag, combine the garlic cloves, lemon zest and juice, and 1 – ½ cups of extra virgin olive oil. Bruise or crush the thyme and bay leaves, add them to the bag, and season generously with black pepper. Swirl the bag to combine the ingredients.
Rinse the pork chops and pat them dry. With a sharp knife, lightly score the chops in a crosshatch pattern on both sides. Add them to the marinade and squeeze out all the air before sealing the bag. Marinate the pork for a couple of hours in the fridge if you can - up to a whole day is fine.
An hour before you plan to begin cooking, remove the pork from the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature (or close at least). Preheat the oven to 425 F.
In a pan or dish that’s safe for oven and stovetop, mix the heirloom tomatoes with a glug of olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Season the chops generously on both sides with salt, press a bay leaf into each side, and arrange in the pan. Roast in the oven for 35 - 45 minutes.
In the meantime, rinse the scapes well under running water. Snap off and discard their fibrous ends in much the same way as you would with asparagus. Cut the scapes into manageable lengths of 4 – 5 inches.
In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts until roughly chopped. Add the scapes and pulse to a coarse paste – this may take a while, depending on where you are in scape season. Add 6oz of the cheese and the juice of 1 lemon. Season with some salt and pepper. Pulse to combine and then leave the processor on as you stream in 2 cups of olive oil.
Taste the pesto. If the garlic flavor is too sharp for your liking, you may add more cheese, lemon juice, and olive oil to soften the bite. It’s fine if the pesto ends up being quite a loose paste.
When they pork chops are almost as cooked as you'd like them to be, remove to a plate, tent loosely with foil, and rest for 10 minutes. Put the roasted tomatoes in another dish and cover to keep warm.
Place the roasting pan over high heat and reduce the juices the pork and tomatoes have released until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and add a glass of red wine. Return to the heat and reduce by half. Be sure to scrape up any caramelized juices from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock and reduce again until the pan sauce is thickened. Remove from the heat and whisk in the mustard. Check the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve the pork chops alongside the tomatoes. Drizzle the meat with the pan sauce and top with a spoonful of pesto.