Pork is one of those things that I'm constantly seeking new inspiration for, to try preparing it in ways I never have before. I found a recipe for Chili-Espresso Rubbed Steaks in Cooking Light a few months back, and decided to bookmark it and use it for boneless pork chops instead of flat-iron steaks.
The recipe was very simple: put together a spice blend which contained, among other things, espresso powder and chili powder, rub it all over the chops, and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Then, the original instructions advised you to cook the meat on your outdoor grill, but I opted for the oven instead, and baked my pork chops. Then, a combination of cherry tomatoes, parsley, sherry vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil was processed until not quite smooth, heated through, and used as a gravy that was to be put on top of the chops. Easy and elegant, full of tart and tangy flavors, and of course, healthy! I couldn't ask for more.
In the same issue of Cooking Light (August 2010) I also found a quinoa side dish that I decided to make along with the pork chops. I liked the fact that the quinoa utilized tomatoes as well, so it was easy for me to just use one whole small container of the cherry tomatoes to prepare this whole meal. Along with the tomatoes, you added a whole head of roasted garlic and some fresh spinach to the cooked quinoa, so it was packed with veggies and flavor. I prepared a simple side of green beans to complete the meal.
We loved the whole thing, every part of it. The pork chops were so delicious; we were big fans of the spice rub, which was at once spicy and smoky and peppery. The rub also made a nice crust on top of the meat, which yielded a tender, juicy chop underneath. It paired so well with the tomato gravy, which was tart/sweet and sort of coarse from the way it was blended.
The quinoa was just as flavorful. The roasted garlic was mellow and creamy, the tomatoes were a nice pop of tanginess, and the whole thing was lightly seasoned with crushed red pepper, Parmesan cheese, and a touch of salt. I'm happy to say that I've found yet another great way to cook and serve quinoa, as this one was devoured by everyone. It's always a victory when that happens!
Chili-Espresso Rubbed Pork Chops
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 servings
2 tsp. espresso powder
1 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) boneless pork chops
1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sherry vinegar
1. Combine first 6 ingredients; stir well. Rub spice mixture evenly over both sides of the pork chops; cover and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Place steaks on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray or lined with foil and then sprayed with cooking spray. Bake the chops for 35 minutes, until cooked through and the internal temperature is between 145 and 160 degrees F. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes.
3. While the meat rests, place the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until coarsely chopped. Spoon tomato mixture into a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high 1 minute. Serve with the pork chops.
Quinoa with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, and Spinach
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 servings
1 whole garlic head
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. finely chopped shallots
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained (I used half red, half white quinoa)
1 Tbsp. dry white wine
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup baby spinach leaves
1 cup cherry tomatoes, whole or halved
1 Tbsp. shaved fresh Parmesan cheese (mine was shredded)
1/4 tsp. salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove papery skin from garlic head. Cut garlic head in half crosswise, breaking apart to separate whole cloves. Wrap half of head in foil; reserve remaining garlic for another use. Bake for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and red pepper to pan; cook 1 minute. Add quinoa to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook until liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
3. Remove the quinoa from the heat and stir in the garlic pulp, spinach, tomatoes, cheese, and salt. Serve immediately.