Harissa Grilled Pork Chops.

Often the best meals are the simplest, and these simple harissa pork chops are both easy to make and a little bit special, too. It’s the harissa. This spicy Tunisian mix of flavors has a real transformational power when it comes to seasoning meat, and I find myself using it more and more these days. You’ll see the rest of this recipe’s ingredient list is quite simple and basic – the harissa really stands on its own, with very little else needed by way of flavoring. And I just love recipes that are a breeze like this one: throw the marinade together with the meat in the morning, let the flavors develop and sink in all day in the fridge, and at the end of the day you’re just 15 minutes away from a tasty and speedy dinner. I’m having this for dinner again tonight!

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INGREDIENTS (serves 2)

for marinade:
4 small pork chops (I used 4 2oz chops)
2 tsp harissa (I get mine from The Spice House)
extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed with the side of a knife
salt and pepper, to taste

for yogurt sauce:
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
harissa, to taste
squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Just the Recipe link: Harissa Grilled Pork Chops

DIRECTIONS

In a small bowl, stir together harissa, olive oil, garlic clove, and salt and pepper. Pour the marinade over the pork chops and use your hands to work it into the meat a bit. Cover and let the chops marinate in the fridge; I waited  about 45 minutes for the first batch I made, and 24 hours for the second. Both were great.

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When the chops have had their time with the marinade, remove them from the fridge and let them come to room temperature a bit while you preheat the grill or pan. Over medium high heat, cook the chops a few minutes on each side, depending on how think they are, until cooked through. Mine took about 3 minutes per side.

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The yogurt sauce couldn’t be simpler: just combine all the ingredients. Serve a big scoop of sauce over the chops and enjoy.

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Shepherd’s Pie.

It’s been a year and a half since I last went to Europe, and it is definitely time to go back—and for this trip, it’s Scotland that’s calling my name. The first time I visited Edinburgh and the Highlands, I spent just a short weekend there, while I was at college in Ireland. This time, I’ll have a good 8 days of listening to those dreamy Scots accents—and I don’t think I can survive the month I still have to wait! Ever since we booked out tickets, my travel buddy and I have been getting together to plan and just get excited about our trip, and this weekend, our afternoon took a culinary turn, in the form of this shepherd’s pie. That, plus two bottles of homemade mulled wine with brandy, a couple of Yorkshire puddings, and Braveheart. Anything worth doing is worth doing right.

INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 lb stew beef, cubed
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 carrots, sliced into coins
1/4 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup red wine (we used a cabernet sauvignon)
1 1/2 cups beef stock
1/4 tsp curry powder
3 medium potatoes, washed and cut into large cubes
whole milk
2 pats of butter
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Season the flour with salt and pepper and place in a bowl. Toss beef in the flour, shaking off the excess. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large pan and cook beef until just browned on all sides. I cooked the beef in two batches so as not to crowd the pan. Set the beef aside.

Add more oil to the pan and add the carrot and onion, with a sprinkle of salt. Cook until softened, then add the mushrooms and cook an additional 5-7 minutes. Add the beef back to the pan with the tomato paste, bay leaves, wine, stock, and curry powder. Stir well, bring to a boil, and then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the beef is fall-apart tender, at least 2 hours.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pot full of cold salted water. Bring to a low boil and cook until fork tender. Drain potatoes, then mash with milk and butter, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in most of the shredded cheese and the parsley and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease a casserole dish or pie pan. When the beef is cooked to your liking, remove the bay leaves and pour into the dish. Spread the mashed potatoes evenly over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Place the dish on a tray, in case it bubbles over in the oven.

Bake until the cheese is melted and the potatoes start to brown a bit on top, about 25 minutes. Highly recommend serving as we did: with yorkshire pudding, mulled wine, and Braveheart. Aye, it’s quite a feast!