I am a vampire.
The sun is shining, the sky is clear, and you can’t wait to get outside to feel the sun radiating off the ground.
The only thing ruining it for you is that one friend who walks into the sun and sighs, “Uggggghhhh.” The one who refuses to exit buildings without cover and a frown. An Eeyore amongst you who squints at the sun and immediately looks for the closest shade path.
That Eeyore is me.
There’s a reason I moved to Portland. Because when I lived in Arizona, the heat made me physically angry. It made me hard to be around, as I walked around outside, feeling the sun actually burn me despite the long sleeves, the floppy hats and the 100 SPF I wear religiously. Gray makes me happy, and in the dead of summer, desperate, I would turn on the sprinkler and let it hit the window, mimicking rain. It immediately calmed me. Everyone said, you get used to the heat.
People lie. So I moved.
This summer, when Portland went through an uncharacteristic heat wave, I felt betrayed. We’d struck a deal, PDX and I: I agreed to stop mocking men in girl pants, to pickle with wild abandon and to stop being ironic about composting and in return, Portland would gift unto me cloud cover forever.
But the heat finally broke, and with it, my mood. The leaves changed, lighting up the sky with oranges and reds before they drifted down. The cloud cover got darker and darker as we all stared up at the sky until one morning it finally gave it up and rained. It hasn’t stopped since.
I am beyond myself with glee.
All this rain and cold and wet has driven me back inside my kitchen. A dead fridge caused me to clean stock, and I have begun fall with a blank slate, which I needed because I was a bit over it all. The same recipes, the same routine, the same spices. So I spent the summer listening -- to their requests, their questions, their recipes.
Last week, my friend Chris asked what could be done with cider and it got my gears going. “Braise, braise, braise!” And then my mind strayed to the sweetness of fall beets and plums. And that was how I came up with this dish. And friends, it is fantabulous and easy.
Go. Make. Eat.
What you need:
1 bag of pitted prunes
2 medium sized beets
2 tbsp of cranberries (fresh or dried, doesn’t matter)
1 bottle of cherry cider
1 tbsp of chicken stock
1 tbsp butter
2 thick cut pork chops
½ cup quinoa
1 tsp cumin
2oz of feta
2 pots: 1 saucepan and 1 sauté pan
Put the quinoa in the saucepan with 1 cup of water and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of cumin and then turn down to simmer, uncovered.
Peel the beets and then slice into wedges. Chop a handful of prunes into half, and then cut the peach into thin wedges as well.
Peel and chop the shallot. Throw 1 tbsp of butter into the sauté pan and when it sizzles, add the shallot and stir so it doesn’t burn.
When the shallots are translucent, add 2 cups of the cider and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn down the temperature to medium low. Now add the prunes, peaches, cranberries and beets. Simmer for 10 minutes. Congrats, you’ve made braising liquid.
Place the pork chops in the pan, and then spoon the liquid and fruit over them. Keep the stove on medium low. Cover the pan with the pork, and now turn the burner under the quinoa off and cover that as well.
The pork will cook in about 15 minutes. A thermometer is really helpful because you want to turn the heat off as soon as it hits 145 degrees or it will get tough.
Put some quinoa on the plate, put the pork chop down, spoon some fruit and beets on top and then some of the braising liquid. Sprinkle some feta on top and serve.
Leftover braising liquid is reusable the next night. Because pork is awesome, and chicken will be as well. Or beef. Or tofu. (I am guessing on this. I really have no idea.)
I’ve been listening a lot lately: to raindrops on my patio pavers. To the crackling sounds leaves make when the wind blows through them. To the squirrels who run across my roof. So I’m listening…what is inspiring you?
And now, I must go rake some leaves.