We had some friends over Saturday night–Mike R (not to be confused with my husband Mike R) and I went to college together and have both managed to land in the Boston area, which is nice bit of luck! We’ve had some trouble getting together and with little E being sick earlier in the week we almost had to cancel but fortunately everything worked out.
While I hadn’t managed to get to the grocery store in a while (for reasons stated above), between our CSA deliveries on Tuesday (our monthly meat ration) and our regular Wednesday fruit and veggie pickup we had plenty at home to put together a great meal.
I defrosted two of the pork loin chops we got and used the basic Mark Bittman recipe. Since we had apples from our CSA I made the sauteed-apple variation. As a side dish we had a sweet potato puree with meringue topping. The sweet potatoes and the orange zest were from the veggie CSA and the eggs were farm-fresh “extras” we had purchased from the meat CSA. (As if 10lb of meat wasn’t enough, we purchased extra eggs and lamb!). The meat was excellent, as if I didn’t need more confirmation that the CSA is truly worth it. I was back at gnawing the meat off the bones–and just told Mike and Danielle “hope you don’t mind” as I went ahead with it.
I don’t know if it was the orange zest added to the sweet potato or just that the potatoes themselves were so sweet, but I felt like I was almost eating a dessert. The puree itself was just so fragrant and opulent! The farm-fresh eggs are amazing: while I can’t really notice the taste difference mixed into something like this, the yolks are so orange and just huge. I’m sure an omelet would come out almost orange in tone. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe for a while after hearing about it during the discussion on sweet potatoes and yams on the Splendid Table in January. Besides wanting to make a dent in our supply, I also thought that sweet potatoes would complement pork well as it is usually served with fruit. I didn’t use the hazelnut topping as I wanted little E to be able to eat the leftovers–the recipe says it serves 6–but in fact we polished it off. I also don’t have individual ramekins for baking so used our souffle mold, lowering the temperature by 25F and cooking for about 35-40 minutes. (I’m not sure if I needed to lower the temperature, but I was worried that the meringue might burn as it was going to have to stay in longer).
I have to repeat again how big of a fan I am of Mark Bittman–while his recipes are great and easily, in my opinion, stand up to the more gourmet-type cookbooks, the main point is that it’s all very accessible: he’s not stuffy or overly finicky about things. He doesn’t harangue you about what you are cooking, but just wants you to cook and think about what you are eating (though I haven’t read his new book in which he apparently does tell you more about what you should be eating!) He doesn’t require weird ingredients and try to convince you that you really must buy truffles and that truffle oil is a tawdry, faddish imitation (right, truffle oil? at 10$ for 2 ounces?) I find that he also teaches you how to think about food a little by explaining how you can make variations on a recipe and what can substitute for what–so you can quickly feel more confident in the kitchen.