Recipes from Elaine Johnson

Make these tasty recipes from Sunset's Associate Food Editor

Caramelized Tomato Bruschetta

SERVES 6

1 slender baguette (8 oz.)
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 pt. large cherry tomatoes, halved
About ¼ tsp. each kosher salt and pepper
¾ cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1 cup torn pieces fresh basil leaves

1. Heat a grill to medium (350° to 450°). Cut 18 thin slices from baguette, each 3 to 4 in. long. Save remaining bread for another use. Set baguette slices on a tray and brush all over with about 1 tbsp. oil.

2. Grill bread with lid down, turning once with tongs, until browned, 1 to 3 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.

3. Heat a large cast-iron skillet on cooking grate with grill lid down until water dances when sprinkled on skillet, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 1½  tbsp. oil and spread with a heatproof brush. Pour tomatoes into pan, then quickly turn with tongs so all are cut-side down. Sprinkle with ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper. Cook with grill lid down, without stirring, until juices evaporate and tomatoes are blackened on bottom, 10 to 15 minutes. Gently loosen tomatoes from pan with a wide metal spatula as they’re done and transfer to a bowl.

4. Spoon ricotta into a bowl and drizzle remaining ½ tbsp. oil on top. Put basil in another bowl. Set out toasts with tomatoes, ricotta, basil, and salt and pepper so people can build and season their own bruschetta.

Lemon and Thyme Grilled Pork Chops

SERVES 6

3 dried bay leaves
2 tsp. peppercorns, cracked*, plus ½ tsp. ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon blanc
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup plus 2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
Zest of 2 lemons, divided
6 bone-in center-cut pork rib chops (3½ lbs. total) with bones frenched**
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2½ tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves and small, tender sprigs

1. Heat 1½ qts. water, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a large pot until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in wine, salt, ½ cup brown sugar, and zest of 1 lemon. Nest pan in a sink of ice water and let brine cool. Add pork to brine. Chill at least 4 and up to 12 hours.

2. Drain meat, rinse, pat dry, and set on a tray. In a bowl, combine oil, thyme, remaining ½ tsp. ground pepper, 2 tsp. sugar, and zest of 1 lemon. Pat mixture onto both sides of meat, pressing it in. Let meat stand at room temperature.

3. Heat grill to medium (350° to 450°). Heat a large cast-iron griddle, 14-in. paella pan, or 2 large cast-iron skillets on cooking grate with grill lid down until water dances when sprinkled on cooking surfaces, 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Set chops on griddle and cook with grill lid down, turning once, until meat is well-browned and done the way you like, 8 to 10 minutes total for medium-rare (cut to test). Transfer to a platter and serve.

*Crack peppercorns in a mortar, or seal in a plastic bag and smash with a rolling pin. **Rib chops come from the rib end of the loin; if they’re not already frenched (with some of the meat cut away to expose the bones), ask a butcher to do it, or do it yourself by sliding a sharp knife along the bones.

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