Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pork chops with pomegranate fennel "slaw"

This is a recipe that my dear friend, Heather Vitale, shared with me. I am giving you fair warning now - it is completely addictive. I find myself eagerly anticipating pomegranate season, and yesterday, while at Wegman's grocery store with another dear friend, my dreams were answered. That's right...beautiful pomegranates and fennel were both on hand, and all I can say today is "'s what's for dinner"!

In my yard in Athens, I actually tried to grow pomegranates. I got two plants from the organic plant producer that supplied all of my apple, pear, and cherry trees in my "orchard", because I thought they had to cross-polinate, and I did my best to take care of them. One year, I did actually have a pomegranate on one of the little trees (which looked more like a shrub), but either my brother ate it or the deer did...I never had the pleasure, and I'll never know the culprit for sure.

Pomegranates do have one downside - they are sort of a pain to prepare. Be sure to wear an apron, because you will get splattered with juice! I tend to use the water method, where you slit the skin and try to break off larger pieces to work with, and then I sort of "mumble" off the seeds from the white part gently into a bowl of water, and any of the pith that I miss seems to float away from the seeds. While somewhat time-consuming, I find it relaxing, and I figure I'm using up some of the calories that I'll soon be eating. I don't include any bruised or mushy seeds, so I usually buy two just in case I have to leave out a portion of the seeds. I've been known to throw in a little of the wispy fennel fronds into the slaw, as well, just because it looks so pretty. Also, the pomegranate fennel slaw could be used on its own as a side dish or "salad", and I can also picture it with a hearty fish, like salmon, or with a chicken breast (though I haven't tried it yet...if you do, let me know how it works!).

Pork chops with Pomegranate Fennel Slaw

1 lb. fennel bulb, outer tough parts peeled and then coarsely chopped
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
1 cup pomegranate seeds (from 1 large pomegranate)
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp. seasoned rice wine vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
4 (1/2- to 3/4- inch thick) pork chops (preferably organic and sustainably raised, of course)

Cook fennel in 2 Tbl. oil over medium heat until tender, approximately 15 minutes. Transfer to bowl, stir in pomegranate seeds, cilantro, vinegar, scallions, honey, and salt.

Season the pork chops with a little salt and pepper, heat the remaining oil until hot but not smoking, and cook the pork chops until deep golden brown, approximately 4-5 minutes per side. Serve topped with the pomegranate fennel slaw. If you have any leftovers, be thankful - it's great the next day for lunch (even cold or at room temperature)!

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