Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Adapting Recipes: Diva Style

My upstairs neighbors decided open "the race track" at 6:50 AM today. That fact is in no way germane to this post ... but I'm leading with it anyway, I just thought you should know. :)

Today's post is about last night's dinner. For one thing, it was awesome, and for another I thought it would serve as a fine vehicle for describing how and why I tinker with so many recipes. I almost never make a recipe exactly as its written - and its not simply because I'm a Diva, or on a diet. My penchant for altering recipes is also an inherited trait. My mom does it too. Our need to do so borders on the pathological and the results can sometimes be amusing. Cotswold Savory anyone? (Sorry that's an inside family joke ... maybe pixelgal will tell us about it!)

Cooking has long been a passion of mine and I've honed my skills through years of trial and error. Fortunately, almost all of my changes have been for the better and I can remember only one real catastrophe ... an unfortunate potato/chili pepper soup back in the 1980's. The husband and I lived in a very marginal neighborhood back then, with a sad excuse for a grocery store, and though the recipe called for fresh chili peppers, there were none to be had that day. I substituted a small can of pickled jalapeƱos and ... disaster! Totally inedible. Sad too, because we were pretty poor at the time and there wasn't a heck of a lot to eat in place of that disgusting soup. Ah, good times, good times.

Happily, I've been batting a thousand since then and today I thought I'd take you through a recipe's list of ingredients and comment on why and how I've changed it ... for the better. The original recipe is courtesy of "The South Beach Diet Quick & Easy Cookbook" and I will include my adapted version in its entirety at the end of the post.

Pork Cutlets with Orange, Red Onion and Rosemary:

  • 8 pork cutlets, @ 3/4 inch thick each - "What am I cooking for an army? I can't eat 2 pork chops. I'll make one for me and two for the husband."
  • 3/4 tsp. dried rosemary, to be rubbed on the pork cutlets - "Um, no. Dried rosemary is practically useless unless its ground or to be simmered in something for a long time. Rubbing it on a pork chop? Lame. I'll use a full teaspoon and grind it, along with some Kosher salt and black pepper, then spread it on the cutlets. I'll also add some fresh rosemary to the sauce to bump up the flavor."
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil - "Cool, no problems there."
  • 1 tbsp. minced red onion - "Huh? One teaspoon?! Why so parsimonious with the onion? I think I'll substitute some thinly sliced red onion."
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth - "Again, no problem, but I will use non-fat, low-sodium broth."
  • Grated zest and juice from one small orange - "I'll use a navel orange and I'm going to want to mince that zest. Fresh oranges are pretty sweet - where's the acid balance? A splash of red wine vinegar will do nicely and give the sauce the balance it needs."
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper - "A-ok, see above under dried rosemary. Lastly, the plate will need something green - let's add some minced fresh parsley to finish it off."
And that leads us to:

Diva's Rosemary Pork Cutlets with Red Onions and Orange Sauce:

  • 4 pork cutlets, @ 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/3 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • Grated zest and juice of one medium navel orange
  • splash of red wine vinegar, to taste
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1 tbsp. minced fresh parsley
Using a mortar and pestle, or spice grinder, grind the rosemary, salt and pepper together until it is finely ground. Sprinkle both sides of the pork cutlets with the mixture, and set them aside in the fridge for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the zest from the orange and mice it. Slice the orange in half and juice it, reserving the liquid for later use.

Heat 1 tbsp. of the oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork until golden brown on both sides, approximately 3 minutes per side or so, depending on their thickness. Remove pork from pan, transfer to a plate, cover with foil and reserve.

Using the same skillet, add the reserved tbsp. of olive oil and sautee the onions over medium-high heat until they are just slightly wilted and beginning to caramelize. Raise the heat to high and add the chicken broth, orange zest and orange juice. Add the sprig of fresh rosemary and cook over high heat, stirring frequently, until the sauce is reduced by half and has thickened slightly. Add the splash of red wine vinegar and stir to combine. Return the pork cutlets to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-high and cook for one more minute, turning the pork to coat it with the sauce.

Discard the rosemary sprig and plate the cutlets so they are topped with the onions and orange sauce. Sprinkle with the fresh parsley, serve and enjoy!

Notes: As written the recipe will serve two - 2 cutlets each - double it if you need to serve 4 or more. Even though I've changed their recipe, I do recommend this cookbook. Its excellent. This is an outstanding dish and I do believe my changes have improved it. I served it with a brown rice pilaf ... which I made myself, thank you very much, and some sauteed Swiss chard. What a great meal!

I hope you'll try it and likewise hope you'll be encouraged to experiment in the kitchen. Just because a recipe is published in a book or magazine, doesn't mean it can't be improved upon. Let your palate be your guide and cook fearlessly ... just take it easy on those pickled jalapeƱos!


Deb said...

Diva I agree with tinkeing, I just did it Sunday with a bolognese sauce recipe. Some things are perfect as is and some just need more (more spice more garlic more food). I also agree that the SB cook books are worthwhile. I also love Ellie Krieger's Foods You Crave.

Cook on! Deb

pixelgal said...

Ahhh, the Cotswold Savory. Who could forget the glutinous mass that passed for a cheesy appetizer. I didn't have many of the ingredients called for in the recipe and was in a hurry to prepare an appetizer for a Christmas party that night so I used some from the fridge..exactly what I can't remember. The result was a big ugly yellow thing on the stove that seemed to be growing, congealing and taking on a life of its own as we watched. Lest I be arrested for willful misconduct with a frying pan and make my favorite lawyer have to work on Christmas, I ran out to a local store and bought something more socially acceptable.Even the Diva couldn't save me that night but in all fairness, that was long ago and her mind was not on cooking that night but on a cute tall guy. Who could blame her?

The Diva on a Diet said...

Deb, I've heard good things about "Foods You Crave" ... is it SB diet friendly?

pixelgal - LOL! You really did the event justice with your delightful description of the Savory! Good times, indeed! :)

Deb said...

Ellie is a little more practical, she is a nutritionist and says to eat all but just in moderation. She is very healthy in her food selections and pobably does not need much moderation to be SB friendly. I just know all is tasty and easy. She has an Asian 3 bean salad that I subbed sugar free Apricot preserves for her full sugar ones and it is too die for. You can also check out some of her recipes on Food Network by looking up recipes from her show "Healthy Eating w/ Ellie Kreiger"

Happy hunting

pixelgal said...

I agree with eating everything in moderation and, cotswold savory notwithstanding will check out this book and try to substitue lowfat, lowcarb stuff wherever possible without creating another food fright. Thanks, Deb!