Well, tomato season is coming to close. My garden has been extremely nice to me this year, despite my lack of attention to it. If it wasn’t for the vigilance and diligence of my wife, we would have piles of rotten tomatoes lying beneath the vines, instead of the bountiful harvest that we have enjoyed.
Way back in April, when I finished planting the garden, I whispered a solemn promise to the garden, “You’re on your own, now.” It was the least I could do. I knew that my job was going to demand much of my time for the months to come and, as it turned out, I was right. Working nine to ten hours each day, six days a week leaves only a slender slice of time to do anything other than eat and sleep.
- ‘Essential Worker’ was the phrase used last year, to describe me and my fellow coworkers. Now that we are 20 months into this pandemic, I don’t hear that moniker spoken very often, as it relates to my industry. The real essential workers, the ones who are saving lives and feeding us, are still out there, doing their best, day after day. ‘Pseudo Essential Workers’, like me, are supplying the world with small kitchen appliances are dealing with supply chain failures and a rocky economy.
We’ve had ample rain and sun over the last several months and the garden heeded my whispered curse. Our twenty tomato plants put out about 25 gallons of Roma and Beefsteak tomatoes. We’ve canned about two dozen quarts of marina and salsa and we’ve had buckets and buckets of cherry tomatoes, to spare.
So, now it’s a Thursday and I’m staring at a bowl of late-season tomatoes on the kitchen counter.
Let’s make a quick marina and figure out how to make a meal of it.
8 to 10 medium tomatoes. (I used 8 inexplicably large Roma tomatoes)
5 or 6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
A sprig of fresh rosemary, stripped and chopped
1 Tbs garlic powder
2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried oregano
Rough chop the tomatoes.
Put the tomatoes in a large sauce pot.
Set the heat to medium/high. Stir every few minutes.
In between stirs, consider other food items on hand and how they could be put together in a sensible way.
Let’s see…I have a large, whole pork loin. Check. I have half a 16 ounce bag of Rigatoni pasta. Check. I have about 6 ounces of Parmesan cheese. Check. I have a head of broccoli. Check.
It’s a four pound pork loin. I’m not going to use all of that! I want to serve 3 to 4 people so, maybe I’ll use half of the Rigatoni and save the rest for another day. 1 head of broccoli…perfect. I will use all of that.
Stir the tomatoes! Gee whiz, I almost forgot!
Now, what am I going to do with the pork loin? I’ll use about one and half pounds and cut it into ½” thick slices. I can coat the slices with Panko breadcrumbs and pan fry it. Yeah, that shouldn’t take very long to cook.
I’ll boil 8 ounces of the rigatoni and add it to a platter, top it with some marinara, top that with the fried pork and top that with more marina and top the whole thing with Parmesan cheese. Yes.
This is definitely starting to sound like an Italian dish, but for the life of me, I don’t know if it’s really an Italian dish, or if I’m just pretending. I guess it doesn’t matter. What should I do with the broccoli?
Stir the tomatoes! I didn’t forget this time!
OK. Broccoli. What if I steam the broccoli and add some Italian dressing to the boiling water so that it will flavor the broccoli, as it steams. Yeah, that sounds like a thing!
Ingredients: (Now that I have figured out how to complete the meal!)
1 ½ lbs. pork loin, sliced into ½” thick slices
2 Tbs cornstarch
Black pepper, to taste
8 ounces Rigatoni pasta
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
6 ounces Parmesan cheese, shredded
1 head of broccoli, chopped
3 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
The tomatoes are cooking down nicely. They have been bubbling for about 15 minutes and the sauce looks very thin. Maybe I’d better add 8 ounces of tomato paste, to stiffen the sauce.
I’d better chop the basil and rosemary. I need to add the spices and herbs to the sauce and let it simmer, while I prepare the pork.
OK. Herbs and spices are in the pot. Good. Now, let it go at medium/low heat for another 10 minutes. Step up the stirring to once per minutes, otherwise the thick sauce will sputter and splatter and get all over my stovetop!
I’ll slice the pork now and set up a dredging station. Slice the pork and coat with cornstarch and a little black pepper. Egg, and Panko breadcrumbs are all I need for dredging station.
Stir the sauce!
I’m going to bring out the skillet and add about ½ inch of oil to it and turn the heat to medium.
Dip the pork in egg, knock off excess egg, press both sides of the pork in Panko breadcrumbs and set aside. Good.
Stir the sauce again. It’s been simmering for about 15 minutes and it looks thick now. I think I can take it off the heat and put in a bowl.
Rinse the pot out with water and fill it about half way with water and add some salt. Set the pot on the stove and turn the heat to high. Once the water boils, add the rigatoni. Cook until al dente, maybe 15 minutes.
While the pasta cooks, I’ll grab the head of broccoli and cut it into florets. These are going to go into the big pot, after the pasta is done.
The skillet is hot and the pork is ready to be cooked. Yay. Add the pork to the pan and avoid overcrowding the pan. Cook at medium/high heat for about two minutes on each side. Remove to a paper towel-line plate.
Remove the rigatoni from the pot and spread it out, across a large platter.
Rinse out the pot again and add about ½ inch of water, and add about 3 tablespoons of Italian dressing. Turn the heat to low/medium. Put the cut broccoli in a colander and set the colander over the pot. Put the lid on the pot and let the broccoli steam for about 10 minutes.
While the broccoli steams, top the pasta with some of the marina. Add the fried, breaded, pork slices. Add another layer of marinara.
Oh, come on! I always forget the cheese! I’ll quickly shred the Parmesan cheese and sprinkle it on top of the platter.
Pull the broccoli from steamer and place in a serving bowl.
There! Dinner is ready in less than an hour. Whew!
Epilogue: On a serious note, if you haven’t received the vaccine, please get it. A virus like, Covid-19, will continue to spread and mutate, if it is allowed to. Don’t allow fear or stubbornness to keep you from saving humanity.