Pork-and-Greens Skillet PieThe “Pork-and-Greens Skillet Pie,” from the December 2012 issue of Everyday Food, is so crazy-simple to put together. See the short ingredient list and how the darling of the current farmer’s market -- Swiss chard -- plays a starring role. Indeed, the large bunch of chard reduces significantly in the skillet. But the skillet! My wonderful cast-iron pan, once again (hooray!). The whole dish is in this one pan, on the stove top and in the oven. And we have grits on top.

Admittedly, the pie is ugly. But something about the pork, chard, cornmeal, and Parmesan combo made my young child declare, “This is now my favorite meal of all time.” I attribute the grand taste success to proper salting. I added 1 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper to the pork/greens mix. Then, as I  whisked the cornmeal grits, I added 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. black pepper to it. At the table, a squeeze of lemon was the right thing to do.

Indian-Spiced Baked Potato SticksWe also enjoyed the unique, enticing mix of ghee and spices and curry leaves in the “Indian-Spiced Baked Potato Sticks,” from Veggie Belly. These were not French fries. I made these in my microwave! Crazy, right? I doubled the amounts in this recipe, using 20 oz. of russet potatoes. Instead of chili powder, I used smoked paprika. I didn’t bother slicing with a mandoline; careful attention with my knife was enough. I microwaved each plate of buttered/spiced potato slices for 7 minutes.

I don’t use ghee enough. Clarified butter fat. And how about fresh curry leaves? They make these potatoes dazzling, pungent, fragrant. I caught Dave licking these potato sticks. They’re that good.

PRICES:
Ground Pork (1 lb.) = $5.20
Swiss Chard (1 bunch) = $1.97
Russet Potatoes (20 oz.) = .94¢

PREP TIMES: devote at least 90 minutes to the skillet pie; each plate of potato sticks needs 7 minutes in the microwave
TASTES:
pork + chard + Parmesan = amplified flavors, blanketed with ever-soothing cornmeal grits; potatoes are massaged with ghee and spices and become crispy sticks in the microwave

Next time, I want to showcase some recipes from Ottolenghi The Cookbook, by my aforementioned heroes Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, published in 2008. I will combine two recipes: the “Red Lentil & Chard Soup” with the “Turkey and Sweetcorn Meatballs” (recipes below). See what happens when you return to my site soon.

Red Lentil & Chard Soup
Ottolenghi The Cookbook
Serves 6

17.625 oz. split red lentils
10½ cups cold water
2 medium red onions
2 Tbsp. olive oil
7 oz. Swiss chard
1.75 oz. cilantro leaves
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. coriander seeds
3 garlic cloves, crushed
grated zest of ½ lemon
2 lemons, cut into wedges
salt and pepper

Wash the lentils in plenty of cold water. Place in a large saucepan with 10½ cups of water, bring to boil and simmer for 35 minutes or until soft. Skim off scum that rises to the surface during the cooking.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about half of the lentils from the cooking liquid and set aside in a bowl. Add a generous pinch of salt to the lentils and the water in the pan and liquidise using a stick blender or in a food processor.

Peel the red onions, halve and thinly slice them. Place a frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, onions and cook, stirring occasionally for 4-5 minutes until the onions soften and become translucent. meanwhile remove and discard the large stems from the Swiss chard. Wash and rinse the leaves thoroughly, then chop them roughly. Do the same for the cilantro, leaving a few while leaves for the garnish.

Mix the cooked onion, chard leaves and chopped cilantro into the lentil soup and season with cumin, cinnamon, and some salt and pepper to taste. Reheat the soup and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

In a mortar and pestle, or using the heel of a large knife, crush the garlic and cilantro seeds together. Toss over medium heat and add the garlic and cilantro seeds, stirring for 2 minutes until the garlic starts to color. Add water to prevent garlic from burning. Stir into soup and let it infuse for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve garnished with lemon zest and cilantro leaves. Add some lemon wedges and squeeze into soup.

Turkey & Sweetcorn Meatballs
Ottolenghi The Cookbook
Makes 17 meatballs

3½ oz. frozen corn
3 slices of stale white bread, crusts removed
16 oz. ground turkey
1 free-range egg
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 ½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp. salt.
½ tsp. black pepper
1 garlic clove, crushed
Sunflower oil, for frying

Place a heavy non-stick frying pan over a high heat and throw in the corn kernels. Toss them in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes, until lightly blackened. Remove and leave to cool.

Soak the bread in cold water for a minute, then squeeze well and crumble it into a large bowl. Add all the rest of the ingredients except the sunflower oil and mix well with your hands.

Pour a 1/8-inch-depth of sunflower oil into your heavy frying pan. Allow it to heat up well and then fry about a teaspoon of the mince mix in it. Remove, let cool a little and then taste. Adjust the amount of salt and pepper in the uncooked mixture to your liking.

With wet hands, shape the mince mix into balls, about the size of golf balls. Cook them in small batches in the hot oil, turning them around in the pan until they are golden brown all over. Transfer to an oven tray, place in the oven at 392 degrees F and cook for about 5 minutes. When you press one with your finger, the meat should bounce back. If unsure, break one open to check that it is cooked inside. Place the meatballs in the soup.