When you have a kid to feed, like I do, cooking time is of the essence. I usually find myself racing from the SAVEUR offices to the market to my home in a breathless effort to whip up something interesting before my partner loses patience and plunks yet another peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich down in front of the ten-year-old Harper, thus foiling my lofty food-editor plans to raise an enlightened gastronome. Harper loves peanut butter and jelly. Sigh.
Luckily, my efforts are abetted by the diversity of interesting food and beverage samples that arrive at the SAVEUR offices. The other night, in an attempt to both taste some new products (so that I could tell you about them) and get something decent down the kid's gullet, I found myself grabbing at samples on my desk, racing to the market, and concocting a menu on the fly. The Brooklyn-based condiments company SchoolHouse Kitchen had sent me some of its new line of low-sugar, no-pectin spreadable fruit-and-herb mixtures. The strawberry-and-black peppercorn variety seemed to me a perfect match for duck breasts. New York was warming; we were on the cusp of spring, and I wanted a meal that spanned the seasons from a late, late winter to spring's first blush.
Of course, there were no duck breasts at the store; I ended up with center-cut pork chops. Meaty winter fare, yes, so I grabbed some thyme to throw into the sauce for a warm-weather note.
The spring onions in the produce section beckoned. I'd stashed a bottle of "Fresh & Fruity" extra-virgin olive oil from Australia's Cobram Estate in my bag. I had tasted this oil before leaving the office; it was burstingly fruity—great for enhancing the onions' sweetness. I grabbed a couple of bunches to douse in the olive oil and stick under the broiler. I also scored some bright, ripe grape tomatoes and several handfuls of baby arugula. The arugula, with a squeeze of fresh lemon, would complement the fruity tomatoes and olive oil for a salad to cleanse the kid's palate and my own after the rich pork.
Once I was home, I sauteed the chops, deglazing the pan afterward with a cupful from the bottle I'd grabbed from SAVEUR's wine cooler: a 2008 Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Noir. Bright with red fruit and a nice acidity on the finish, the wine fit well with the strawberry-and-black pepper fruit spread for a sweet, tart sauce that layered high notes onto the chops' deep, porky flavor. With such a light body, it also sat splendidly in the glass on a warmish, early spring night.
For dessert, another of those SchoolHouse Kitchen jars did the trick: cherry-blackberry with sage and clover, spooned over the buttermilk scones I'd pulled from the store's pastry bins. Since I'd like to see Harper become a good cook as well as a good eater, I enlisted his help with his favorite part of the meal. He sliced the scones and heated them in the toaster oven. Then he spooned the fruit spread on top and finished the dessert off with vanilla ice cream.
All good. All very good. And prepared in all of about half an hour. Missions accomplished: kid fed well; foods and wine tasted. Thank goodness for decent product samples—and for the opportunity to tell you about them.