arugula

winter citrus salad with spiced pork chops

Why hello there friends! I’ve missed you!

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I know it’s been a long while since I shared anything with you here, and for that I’m sorry. This post has been a long time coming.

I have a little story for you.
I bought a journal the other day.
I had a journal when I was a teenager, but that was kept for reasons of pure juvenile vanity. This new journal is to be kept for a different purpose altogether.

Words like “overwhelmed”, “frightened”, and “anxious” can’t even begin to describe how I’ve been feeling for the past few months, so I’ve decided to keep a record of the things that are happening as they happen. I don’t want to forget how everything really came to pass if and when the “alternative facts” outweigh the real ones. It may be important some day.

Hold on to your butts folks, I’m about to do the thing that a food blogger is never ever supposed to do under any circumstances. I’m going to talk about politics.

GASP!

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Food bloggers are supposed to make light and bubbly conversation with their readers, detailing nostalgic stories from their childhoods, or relating amusing little anecdotes from daily life. We’re supposed to share our lives, but in a way that’s innocuous and easy to digest. The goal of a food blogger is to write mouth-watering recipes, amuse our readers, and hopefully grow our readership. Therefore, any subject that could be construed as polarizing is at odds with our aim to gain followers, and is usually off-limits. Under normal circumstances, we spend our days baking cakes and turning zucchini into spaghetti; we’re not “journalists”, nor are we policy experts or political science majors. That doesn’t mean however, that we don’t have opinions or principles, nor does it mean that our votes or our stakes in the management of our country count any less than anyone else’s.

I’ve been chewing away at all this in my head for the past few weeks and months, and in the end I’ve decided that some things are just too important to keep quiet about. If you find my views and convictions to be “offensive” and you decide not to keep reading my blog or cooking my recipes, I’ll just have to accept that. After all, we’re talking about pork chops and cupcakes here, while people’s lives, livelihoods, and lifestyles are on the line. If you’re a regular reader, you should at least know by now that I’m a man and I’m married to another man, so it should really be no surprise to you that I’m nervous about how our lives may be affected under a president who’s pandering to the most narrow-minded, prejudiced, and hateful among us.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I realize that there are many people in the world who are thrilled with the outcome of the recent election, and are pleased as punch that campaign promises are being kept. If you’re one of those people, please understand that I’m speaking my mind today for a reason. I’m not just a “sore loser” or a “snowflake” as I’ve been called recently on social media. I’m speaking out because there’s so much at stake, and I fear the consequences of intolerant, inexperienced, irresponsible leadership.

Like it or not, we now have a man in power who cares more about money and his own ego than he cares about the country he’s pledged to lead. Say what you will about our last president, I know he wasn’t perfect, but he was a thoughtful man with integrity and grace, and a man who cared deeply about our country. Our current president is immature, irrational, erratic, and is easily influenced by those willing to stoke his ego or line his pockets. He’s proven that any billionaire willing to vocally praise him will be rewarded with a cabinet appointment, no matter how inexperienced and ill-suited they are to the job.

His closest adviser and Chief Strategist is an unapologetic racist and spokesperson for the alt-right (neo-nazi) movement, who once said in an interview, “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.”
I mean, how terrifying is that? The president’s (alt-)right hand man, who knows more about politics and policy than he does himself, has proudly declared that he wants to destroy our country as we know it. With his mentorship, our president is actively working to divide our country against itself. Rich against poor, old against young, straight against gay, native-born citizen against immigrant, man against feminist, and white Christian against any and all other creeds and colors. He’s essentially waging a war against anyone in this country who isn’t a rich, straight, white, conservative, Christian, and it scares the crap out of the rest of us.

Since we’re on the subject of war by the way, his foreign policy decisions are irresponsible and ill-informed at best, and the disrespectful way he speaks with world leaders and long-time allies is downright dangerous. I don’t want to sound over-dramatic, but this man could be putting our lives and safety at serious risk.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

For me, the first days after the election were a mix of horror, depression, and cautious hope that maybe this man might not be as bad as he made himself out to be. Maybe he really was just trying to appeal to the worst in us because he knew it could work, but when it came to leadership, maybe he’d be… okay-ish? Of course, a lot has happened in a short time, and my worst fears have been recognized. He’s made it abundantly clear that things are going to be very, very scary for the next few years.

I have so many unanswered questions right now, and I lay awake at night thinking about how my life is in the hands of someone who doesn’t give a damn about anyone but himself and his rich white friends.
Will our marriage be deemed invalid or the federal marriage protections we enjoy reversed? Is it safe for us to ever consider having children? Will the quality of our (hypothetical) children’s education eventually be dependent on our income? Will I lose my healthcare? Will my family lose their (government) jobs? Will my neighbors be removed from their homes and deported? Will my friends become victims of harassment and violence? Will my taxes increase to pay for unnecessary and ineffective border security? Will the EPA be dissolved, climate change officially denied, and our environment and national parks destroyed for profit? Will we lose our freedom of the press under a man who can’t handle criticism or opposition? How far backward will be forced before we can move forward again, and how long will it take to repair the damage this man and his appointees can do over the next four years?

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Reading the news every day has become an exercise in masochism, but the one ray of hope is the knowledge that things don’t have to be like this, and this can’t last forever. To make sure these dark times end as quickly as possible, we must stand together, look past (or hopefully even celebrate) our differences, and be steadfast in our opposition to his attempts to divide and destroy us.

The people united will never be defeated.

In the months since the election, his popularity has plummeted and he’s become the least popular incoming president in the history of the gallup poll. His every move has been met with vocal criticism, nation-wide protests, and countless lawsuits; and frankly I couldn’t be more proud of the everyday citizens who’ve taken a stand. I’ve heard my whole life about how lazy and complacent my generation is, but when the shit hit the fan, we took to the streets with clever signs and knit hats, flooded our representatives in Washington with phone calls and postcards, organized resistance networks on social media, donated our hard-earned money to Black Lives Matter and the ACLU, and hosted fundraisers to benefit Planned ParenthoodCAIR, and the Water Protectors.

Ultimately, I know I’m not saying anything new here, and if you’ve been paying attention, I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know. I guess the real point I’m trying to make here is that we all have a voice, and in these unsettling times we can’t be afraid to use them, even if doing so might have some negative consequences.
We need to do everything in our power to show people with other points of view that policies designed to “protect traditional values” can have terrible negative consequences, and don’t just affect unknown hypothetical immigrants, feminists, people of color, or homosexuals. These policies directly affect the lives of their friends and neighbors, their baristas and hair stylists, their surgeons and teachers, and even their favorite food bloggers.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Whew! I didn’t realize when I started writing this that I had SO MUCH to say, but I’ve been holding back for so long that I’ve had plenty of time to gather my thoughts. I’m sorry that I’ve basically ignored the recipe altogether through this post, but I promise I have just a few quick things to say about the yummy salad in these pretty pictures.

A few weeks ago Russell talked me into doing the Whole30 diet with him. I have to admit, it’s been really difficult and I’m totally over it and can’t wait for the end. I’ve been dreaming about chocolate chip cookies and pizza for weeks, but we’re in the final stretch now and I’m happy we did it. Oddly enough, as restrictive as this diet is, it’s been a sort of fun exercise in will power and self-discipline, and in a world that feels like it’s rapidly spinning out of control, having total control over something, anything, feels really refreshing. Having this much restriction has also deemed most restaurant food off-limits, and forced us into the kitchen multiple times a day, every day. While it certainly has felt like a chore at times, spending so much time in the kitchen has been strangely therapeutic. My kitchen feels like “home” to me, and cooking so often has brought some semblance of familiarity and normalcy back to my life, even if I’d really have preferred to drown my worries and sorrows in a thick slice of chocolate cake.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

I swung by my local butcher shop one day looking for pork chops, and when I spotted the gorgeous cara cara and blood oranges in their produce case, I instantly knew what I wanted to do. We’re friends with the butchers there, and the pork chops they gave me were very generous, huge even, but I actually think a smaller chop would have been better suited to this recipe. Mine were about a pound each, but I think 1/2 lb chops would be the way to go. If you’re not a huge pork fan, or can’t find good thick pork chops, you could also do the same spice rub on some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and they’d be amazing too.

Because Whole30 is so protein heavy, it’s important to make sure you eat LOTS of veggies with every meal, and to go for BIG, BOLD flavors as often as possible to avoid gustatory boredom.

This salad is definitely not lacking in big, bold flavors. The mix of citrus fruits add fresh biting acidity and bright sweetness; the pistachios are rich and buttery; the fennel fresh, sweet, earthy, and slightly anise-y; the arugula is peppery with a hint of bitterness; the pork perfectly spiced, wonderfully browned on the outside, and tender and juicy inside; and the dressing, with red wine vinegar and a hint of Dijon mustard, ties it all together perfectly.

winter citrus salad with seared pork chops | Brooklyn Homemaker

Winter Citrus Salad with Spiced Pork Chops

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
Generous salt and pepper to taste
2 thick-cut, bone-in pork chops (about a half pound each)
2 teaspoons olive oil or butter
Arugula
mix of citrus fruit (I used 1 each of tangerine, blood, naval, and cara cara oranges)
a handful of thinly shaved slices of fennel bulb or stalks
1/4 cup roasted pistachios

Red Wine Vinaigrette:
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Lightly toast spices in a dry skillet until they smell fragrant. This should only take a few minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder (or coffee grinder *see note) along with salt and pepper. Grind into a fine powder. Sprinkle or rub all over both sides of your pork chops and let them rest at room temperature for about an hour. If you like, you can use this time to prepare the citrus or mix the dressing.

Preheat your oven to 400F and let a large cast iron skillet heat up with it.

Remove the skillet from the oven and add olive oil or butter. Place the skillet over a medium-high flame and sear the pork chops for about 3 minutes on one side. They’ll probably smoke a bit, so use your vent fan. Flip the chops and immediately transfer to the oven. Roast until the chops reach 135 to 140F at the thickest part of the chop. This should take between 5 and 10 minutes.

Remove from the skillet, tent with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes while you assemble the rest of the salad.

Place enough arugula for 2 individual servings (how much you like is totally up to you) into salad bowls. Use a very sharp knife to cut the peel off of your citrus and slice them into thin discs. Top the arugula with the citrus discs, shaved fennel, and pistachios.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a mason jar with a lid and shake shake shake to combine. Pour over the salads and toss to combine if desired.

Top with rested pork chops and enjoy!

 

*Cooks note: Only use a coffee grinder if you have a spare. Don’t use a grinder you use for coffee or your coffee will taste like ground cumin, fennel, & mustard. Alternatively you could use a mortar and pestle.

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pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette

I love beets. There’s just something about that sweet and earthy flavor, al dente firm yet tender bite, and intense color that I just can’t get enough of.

Growing up beets were never on the menu, and I’m not sure that I knew what a beet even was until I went off to college. My grandparents were always big gardeners, so you might think that beets would have been part of my childhood experience, but for whatever reason, they weren’t.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I don’t really remember the first time I ever ate one, or whether or not I liked it at the time, but eventually I realized that they’re amazing. Oddly enough, part of that beet love may have had something to do with my favorite author. I was in college the first time I heard of Tom Robbins. I was sitting at the bar after a long night waiting tables, sipping on my shift drink and shooting the shit with one of my coworkers about whatever I was reading at the time. Someone a few seats down at the bar overheard us and chimed in, “Have you ever read any Tom Robbins?” I hadn’t, but at the time I wasn’t convinced and didn’t take any steps to change that.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

A month or so later I noticed a Tom Robbins book on a shelf in a friends apartment, and curiosity finally got the better of me. I asked if I could borrow it, and was instantly hooked. At this point I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written. A few titles I’ve read over and over to the point that my paperback copies are covered in masking tape and would probably disintegrate if I tried to give them another go. The first title I read still remains my favorite, and Jitterbug Perfume is definitely the one title I’ve read more than any other.

It’s also the title that I’ve recommended most, and every time anyone has actually taken my advice and read it, they’ve come back to tell me that they LOVED it with a capital LOVE!

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

I won’t spoil it for you, because I urge you to give it a read yourself if you haven’t already, but I will say that the subject matter is a bit more “fantastic” than I usually go for. I’m not someone who normally enjoys reading fantasy, but Tom Robbins’ fantasy is somehow more about the fantastic and less about the unbelievable or childish. He writes so intelligently and poetically and passionately that I’m completely sucked into Jitterbug Perfume‘s tales of time travel and immortality and individuality and old pagan religions and magic and sex and… perfume.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

One craggy old root vegetable (the beet) plays an oddly important role in the story. After reading the book for the second (or may it was the third) time, I briefly contemplated getting a beetroot tattoo. I’m sure my mother will back my story up, as she was equally confused and horrified by the idea.

Robbins waxes so poetic about the humble beet that I was immediately, deeply, passionately in love with them. Even if I’d hated them (I didn’t) I’d still have been in love with the idea of the beet. It’s funny. He doesn’t really point out any profound detail about their history, or their nutritional value, it’s just that he uses beautifully vivid language to romanticize them and use them for a metaphor for something bigger. Nothing changed about the reality of beets, but the way I picture them was forever altered.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

“The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.
Slavic peoples get their physical characteristics from potatoes, their smoldering inquietude from radishes, their seriousness from beets.
The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip…
The beet is the murderer returned to the scene of the crime. The beet is what happens when the cherry finishes with the carrot. The beet is the ancient ancestor of the autumn moon, bearded, buried, all but fossilized; the dark green sails of the grounded moon-boat stitched with veins of primordial plasma; the kite string that once connected the moon to the Earth now a muddy whisker drilling desperately for rubies.
The beet was Rasputin’s favorite vegetable. You could see it in his eyes.” ― Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Perhaps one of my favorite ways to prepare (and preserve) beets, is to pickle them. There’s something about adding vinegary acidity to their earthy sweetness that just elevates them.
You can pickle your own easily enough, but pickled beets are increasingly easy to find at the grocery store these days too. My own stash from this summer has already run dry, so for this recipe I bought some locally produced beets pickled with fennel.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy pickled beets is to pair them with other sweet, earthy, robust flavors in a bright filling salad. If you want to make this salad feel even more substantial, just top it with some thinly sliced grilled steak or seared chicken breast.

There’s nothing about this salad that isn’t amazing. Peppery fresh arugula, acidic sweet and earthy pickled beets, creamy earthy crumbled goat cheese, bright juicy pomegranate seeds, crunchy buttery cashews, and pungent yet delicate sliced shallot; all tied together with a quick and easy homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It doesn’t get any better than this y’all.

pickled beet and arugula salad with goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette | Brooklyn Homemaker

Pickled Beet and Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • Servings: 2 dinner salads, or 4 side salads
  • Print
5 oz (about 4 or 5 cups) arugula
3/4 cup pickled beets (cut into bite-size pieces if not already packed that way)
Seeds of 1/2 a fresh pomegranate (about 1/2 cup) *see note
1 cup toasted cashews
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
2.5 oz crumbled goat cheese (about 1/3 cup)

Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a dressing shaker or small bowl and shake or whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl and gently toss with about half the dressing. Try not to completely mix in the goat cheese or it’ll kind of just disappear. If you’re happy with the amount of dressing, you’re done. Otherwise, add a bit more until you’re satisfied, and gently toss again. Divide between serving bowls or plates and enjoy.

Any extra salad dressing should last several weeks tightly covered in the refrigerator.

*cook’s note:
My favorite way to get the seeds out of a pomegranate is to cut one in half, firmly grasp one half cut side down over a large bowl in one hand, while firmly whacking the skin side of the pomegranate with a wooden spoon held in the other hand. It may take a few good whacks to loosen the seeds, but they’ll eventually start falling out with each coming whack. You’ll need to rotate the pomegranate as you go so all sides get their fair share of abuse, and once all the seeds are removed you’ll want to pick through them to remove any stray yellow membrane that fell out with the seeds.