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Just a Word (January 24, 2014)

Malanga Fritters with Serrano Chiles and Garlic
Ligurian Kale, Chard and Potato Torta
Stand-Up Stuffed Pork Chops with Bacon and Blue Cheese
Cheong Liew's Braised Pork Belly
Mussels with Cream, Saffron, and Angel Hair Pasta

POW! The one-word title hits you like a brick, and grabs your attention while explaining the contents all at once! Fat! Fish! Kale! Roots! Pork Chop! You immediately get what this is about. (OK, "pork chop" is two words, but it's one dictionary entry.)

Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, is by Jennifer McLagan. The frontispiece of the books states unequivocally, "For all the Jack Sprats out there – you're wrong!" Wow, Jennifer McLagan goes against all the so-called wisdom of the last few decades: fat is bad, it's a greasy killer and best avoided. But wait, what's really happened is that we've been driven into the arms of trans fats and refined carbs, and, McLagan goes on to say, fostered punitive, dreary attitudes toward food, that wellspring of life and pleasure!

In her book, with equal parts passion, scholarship and appetite, McLagan defuses fat's bad rap, reminding us that fat is basic to the flavor of our food, and – yes – indispensable to our health! This is such an important book for so many good reasons. Let's begin with the fact that fat is about pleasures, basically gratifying the palate and the soul with fat's irreplaceable savor from butter to olive oil and on to lard and bone marrow and on to bacon, schmaltz and suet. The good bits include more than 100 recipes, including butter-poached scallops, spiced pork crackling, a Perfect BLT (with bacon mayo!), and foie gras with gingered vanilla quince. No wonder her first book, Bones, won the James Beard award for single-subject food writing. This Fat is garnering prestigious awards as well!

Pork Chop! Those words start your mouth watering, and no wonder. Lean and healthful, quick to prepare, everyone loves this weeknight warrior of meats! Cookbook author, BBQ expert and multiple cook-off champion Ray Lampe has pulled together 60 of his favorite pork chop recipes, from the classic Chicago-style pork chop sandwich to the gourmet stand-up stuffed pork chop with bacon and blue cheese! There's much more, pork chop salads bursting with flavor, chili, pork chops with beans... plus all the information on you need to know about making the perfect chop dish! P.S. You can never eat just one!

The Book of Kale is by Sharon Hanna. Ah, kale. The new foodie darling at last, and frankly we've wondered why it's taken so long to be recognized. Kale is one of the most nutrient-dense greens in existence, everyone knows they should be enjoying it, but wait... What do I do with this stuff to make it taste good? Enter kale-evangelist Sharon Hanna who, in her new cookbook gives us more than eighty simple but superb recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. But wait, there's more! Hanna tells readers all they need to know to grow this super-sustainable crop as edible landscaping, on balconies and boulevards and even indoors! Now there's no excuse for not trying kale... and growing your own crop!

Fish by Cree LeFavour says it all. These days worrying about which fish to buy, where to buy it and then how to prepare it, we overlook the simple delight of tasting it! This useful cookbook reminds us of the beauty of seafood, fresh, gently cooked and served with a fragrant sauce, or equally pleasurable, deep fried with a tangy sauce! A fillet paired with the perfect tangle of lightly dressed greens, roasted vegetables or buttery small pasta shapes is a delectable, healthful meal!

Fish must have been one of the first "caught" foods that our hairy, long-armed ancestors ate. Once they discovered fire and put the two together, we figure they never looked back, and neither have we. Cookbook writer Cree LeFavour has pulled together seafood recipes from around the world, North America and Europe, Latin, South and East Asian, Middle Eastern and African. From simple poached fish to unruly curries, tuna skewers doused in hot sauce and an irresistible clam pizza, there's a recipe for everyone here! And just you wait, Billy Bob; once you try Cree's take on shrimp and grits, you won't be the same!

Roots, The Definitive Compendium, by Diane Morgan is for anyone who ever picked up a strangely shaped, gnarly-looking vegetable at the farmers' market and said "What's this?" Roots is definitely the answer, for this comprehensive cookbook reveals the underworld of roots, from the familiar, beets, carrots and potatoes to the unfamiliar, such as jicama, salsify, yuka, to the completely alien (to most of us) malanga, galangal, crosne and more! Want to know more about burdock, earthnut, skirret or konjac? Of course you do, and it's all here with more than 225 recipes that bring out their best flavors! Diane Morgan is an award-winning cookbook author and food writer; this just may be her best book ever!

On today's menu:

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Malanga Fritters with Serrano Chiles and Garlic

Malanga Fritters with Serrano Chiles and Garlic

From Roots, The Definitive Compendium, by Diane Morgan

So, you ever heard of malanga? No, we hadn't either! Known as yautía in Puerto Rico, tayer in Suriname and the Netherlands, macal in Costa Rica and Nicaragua and a batch of other names in other places, it's part of a family with more than forty species, all native to tropical America. In the last few years it's migrated north to our markets; you'll recognize it from the shaggy brown skin. Some are the size of plump sweet potatoes, others are longer and tapered. Now that you know what it is, try this delicious recipe!

Makes about 24 2-inch/5 cm fritters

  • 1½ lb/680 g malanga
  • 1/2 cup/25 g lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup/30 g all-purpose flour
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 to 2 Serrano chiles, stemmed seeded and minced
  • 1½ tsp kosher or fine sea salt
  • About 1/2 cup/120 mL canola oil or other neutral oil for frying
  • 1 or 2 limes, cut into wedges
  1. Fill a large bowl two-thirds full of cold water. Trim, peel and rinse the malanga. Cut it into large chunks if you are shredding it in a food processor. Otherwise, cut it in half crosswise. Submerge the malanga pieces in the water as you work to keep them from discoloring. Drain and blot dry before shredding.
  2. Using the coarse holes on a box grater or a food processor fitted with the coarse shredding disk, shred the malanga. Transfer to a large bowl. Add the parsley, flour, garlic. Chiles and salt. Toss well until evenly combined.
  3. Scoop up a rounded tablespoon of the malanga mixture and shape into a flat disk 2 inches/5 cm in diameter. (The edges should look ragged, with stringy bits of malanga.) Place on a baking sheet.
  4. Preheat the oven to 250°F/120°C/gas ½. Line a baking sheet with a double thickness of paper towels and set near the stove. Set a slotted spatula alongside the baking sheet. Pour the oil to a depth of 1/4 in/6 mm into a large frying pan, preferably cast iron, and heat over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers but is not smoking.
  5. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, add the fritters to the hot oil and fry, turning once, until crisp and golden brown on both sides, 5 to 6 minutes total. Using the slotted spatula, transfer the fritters to the towel-lined baking sheet. Keep warm in the oven while your fry additional batches. Serve hot, accompanied with the lime wedges for squeezing over the top.
  6. NOTE: The fritters are at their best when freshly fried, but they can be made up to 2 hours in advance and set aside at room temperature. Warm them in a 250°F/120°C/gas ½ oven before serving. The fritters also freeze well. Let the fried fritters cool completely, layer between sheets of waxed paper in a covered container and freeze for up to 1 month. Do not thaw before reheating. Arrange the frozen fritters on a rimmed baking sheet and reheat in a preheated 400°F/200°C/gas 6 oven just until hot, about 7 minutes.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Oak-aged Sauvignon blanc (Pouilly-Fumé) or Beaujolais



Ligurian Kale, Chard and Potato Torta

Ligurian Kale, Chard and Potato Torta

From The Book of Kale by Sharon Hanna, who tells us that residents of the Liguria area of Italy still bake flattish pies like these over an open fire. This version is easier than that, and while there are a lot of steps, the result is imminently satisfying both for you and anyone else invited to share! Enjoy!

Serves 4–6

  • 1¼ cups (300 mL) unbleached white flour
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) salt
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp (15 mL) butter, softened
  • Cold water
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) mild feta, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup (180 mL) Jarlsberg or other mild soft cheese, grated
  • 1 potato, boiled, peeled, chipped and cooled
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 3 Tbsp (45 mL) parsley, minced
  • 1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
  • 2 cups (475 mL) kale leaves, loosely packed, cut in chiffonade
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 Tbsp (30mL) olive oil, divided

Mix together dry ingredients, drizzle oil over top, add butter, then combine well with fork. Sprinkle water on a little at a time, adding up to a maximum of 1/2 cup (125 mL), to form soft dough that just holds together. Knead the dough for about 30 seconds, then wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. (You can make the crust in advance and store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to a day.)

Mix cheeses, potato, onion and parsley in a bowl, seasoning with pepper.

Cook the greens in a small amount of water until al dente. Drain in a colander, squeezing out as much liquid as you can into a bowl (again, save for soup, drink it or use in breakfast smoothies). Let stand 5 minutes, then try to squeeze out even more liquid. The last thing you need is a soggy torta.

Add greens to cheese/potato mixture. Depending on the saltiness of the feta cheese, it may be salty enough, but you can taste it now and add a pinch or two if you are so inclined.

Stir in eggs and 1 Tbsp (15 mL) olive oil.

Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C).

Remove dough from fridge and divide into two portions, one slightly bigger than the other. On a lightly floured surface, using a rolling pin, roll out larger ball to form a think circle, approximately 13 inches (32 cm) in diameter, turning dough occasionally. It doesn't need to be perfectly round. In fact, it looks more rustic and authentic if it's a bit wonky.

Place the bottom rust on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Gently pile filling on top, then use your hands or a flat spoon to evenly distribute it, leaving a 1-inch (2.5 cm) edge without any filling so that you can fold it in later.

Now roll out the top crust (which will be a little smaller) and place it on top of the bottom crust and filling. Lightly moisten the bottom edge, then fold and crimp (pinch with your fingers) to seal. Pierce the surface here and there with a fork or knife tip to allow steam to escape.

Brush or drizzle torta with remaining olive oil. Bake until pale golden, about 30 to 35 minutes.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Soave, Vernacchia di San Gimignano



Stand-Up Stuffed Pork Chops with Bacon and Blue Cheese

Stand-Up Stuffed Pork Chops with Bacon and Blue Cheese

From Pork Chop by Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe. Oh my, what a feast! Better, this impressive, hunky meal is so easy to do; if you're not comfortable making the cut to open the side, just ask the butcher to do it for you, and he'll want the recipe when you tell him! Do serve them standing on their sides with the beautiful stuffing mounding out of the middle, and to make it a perfect little meal, serve a simple side salad with a light vinaigrette.

Serves 4

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 4 boneless pork chops, about 1 ½ in/4cm thick
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1/2 cup/ 50 g crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/4 cup/30 g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup/30 g panko or bread crumbs
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C.

To make the rub: In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, pepper and granulated garlic. Mix well and set aside.

With a sharp knife, cut a pocket in the fatty side of each pork chop, leaving the ends intact but cutting deeply into the middle. Be careful not to cut all the way through or the stuffing will leak out. Rub the chops liberally with the olive oil. Sprinkle the rub all over the chops inside and out, using it all.

To make the Stuffing: In a medium bowl, combine the bacon, blue cheese, Parmesan, panko, butter, pepper and granulated garlic.

Lay the chops down on the uncut sides with the pockets facing up and opened. Fill each chop with one-fourth of the stuffing Coat a baking sheet with vegetable spray and transfer the chops to it, setting them in the stand-up position. Bake the chops for 25 minutes, or until the stuffing is lightly browned and the cops have reached an internal temperature of 150°F/65°C.

Let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Off-dry Riesling (Kabinett or Spätlese quality)



Cheong Liew's Braised Pork Belly

Cheong Liew's Braised Pork Belly

From Fat, An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient, with Recipes, by Jennifer McLagan.

Can there be anything more unctuous, fatty and sinfully delicious than the perfect pork belly? We don't think so, and this recipe confirms it. Born in Malaysia, Liew is a well-known Australian chef whose original and innovative cooking blends flavors and spices from many cuisines. This one uses a classic Chinese method called "red cooking" and produces rich, deeply flavorful meat. McLagan says that the dish produces lots of fat, so serve it with steamed rice and add a little of the fat to the rice and she adds, "It's tasty and mostly monounsaturated!"

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 pounds/900 g pork belly, with skin
  • 3 Tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp dry sherry
  • 1/4 cup/1½ ounces/45 g firmly packed brown sugar
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 tangerine
  • Two 3-inch/7.5 cm cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • One 1-inch/2.5 cm piece fresh finger, peeled and sliced, plus 1 tsp peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
  • 1 star anise, broken into pieces
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp lard
  • 2 cups/500 mL water
  • 6 dried cayenne or Serrano chiles
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 green onions, cut into ½-inch/1 cm pieces

Cut the pork belly into 1 by 2-inch/2.5 by 5-cm pieces and place them in a large bowl. Mix together the soy sauces, sherry, 2 Tbsp of the brown sugar and salt and pour over the pork. Remove a long strip of zest from the tangerine, and set the tangerine aside. Add the zest, cinnamon sticks, sliced ginger and star anise to the pork, stir to combine, and cover and marinate for 6 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the pork and set the marinade aside; there will only be a small amount. Pat the pork dry.

In a deep frying pan, heat 1 Tbsp of the lard over medium-high heat and brown the pork in batches, adding more lard as necessary. Transfer the browned pork to a plate. When all the pork is browned, pour off the fat and add the water to the pan. Bring to a boil and deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom.

Add the reserved marinade to the pan with the cinnamon, sliced ginger and star anise, and add the chilies, garlic, and remaining brown sugar. Return the browned pork to the pan and ring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the pork, uncovered, until it is tender and the cooking liquid thickens slightly, about 1 hour. Squeeze 2 Tbsp of the juice from the tangerine and stir into the pork along with the grated ginger and green onions. Using slotted spoon, transfer to the pork to a serving dish and serve.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Dry Riesling or Viognier or Alsace Pinot Gris



Mussels with Cream, Saffron, and Angel Hair Pasta

Mussels with Cream, Saffron, and Angel Hair Pasta

From Fish by Cree LaFavour.

Never cooked mussels? It's easy and foolproof and once you've tried these plump bivalves gently paired with butter, cream and spices you'll wonder where you've been. Saffron and mussels are as natural together as oysters and Champagne and when you add a little cream, a bit of crispy fennel, and some delicate pasta and you have a luxurious yet uncomplicated meal. Oh, yum!

Serves 4

  • 3 lb/1.4 kg mussels, cleaned and debearded if necessary
  • 1 cup/240 mL white wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 small shallot, chopped
  • 6 strips lemon zest, julienned
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 lb/455 g angel-hair pasta, cooked in boiling salted water until al dente
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 fennel bulb, bough outer layer removed, slivered with fennel fronds reserved
  • 1 cup/240 mL heavy cream
  • 1 to 2 tsp saffron, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 cup/10 g chopped fresh parsley
  • Flaky or coarse salt and black pepper

In a large Dutch oven or pot with a lid, combine the mussels, white wine, garlic, shallot, lemon zest and thyme and set over high heat for 10 minutes or until all the mussels are open. (Discard any that have not opened.) Turn off the heat and use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the mussels to a mixing bowl. Reserve the cooking liquid in the pot. Once the mussels are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells and set aside. (Discard the shells.) Once the pasta has cooked, toss it with the butter. Set aside.

Return the cooking liquid from the mussels to medium heat and reduce for 5 minutes, or until about 1½ cups/360 mL of liquid remain. Add the fennel bulb, cream, and saffron and reduce for 2 to 3 minutes over high heat. Just before serving, add the parsley and return the mussels to the sauce to reheat. Line four pasta bowls with pasta and portion out the sauce and mussels over the top. Finish with the fennel fronds, lightly torn, a pinch of flaky or coarse salt and a generous grind of black pepper.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Unoaked cool climate Chardonnay, Vermentino or Soave



We wish to thank the following for permission to publish recipes and material:

McClelland and Stewart Ltd., Toronto, for Fat, by Jennifer McLagan. © 2008 Jennifer McLagan. Photography © Leigh Beisch.

Harbour Publishing, Madira Park, BC, for The Book of Kale by Sharon Hanna. © 2012 Sharon Hanna. Photography © 2012 Christina Symonds.

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for:

Pork Chop by Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe. Text © 2013 Ray Lampe. Photographs © 2013 Jody Horton.


Fish by Cree LeFavour. Text © 2013 Cree LeFavour. Photographs © 2013 Atonis Achilleos.


Roots by Diane Morgan. Text © 2012 Diane Morgan. Forward © 2012 by Deborah Madison. Photographs © 2013 Atonis Achilleos.


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Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




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