Food & Drink | June 2020

By Abby & Kevin Tankersley

Farm Fresh

Pictured: Photo by Amy Traweek

Like most everybody else in the world recently, we’ve been eating at home … a lot. We’ve ordered take-out a few times, but not often. We’re cooking so much that we run the dishwasher at least once a day, sometimes twice. But then we got stuck on what we wanted to fix in early May. We had run through all of our favorite recipes, many of them more than once. And the kids can eat only so many chicken nuggets.

That’s when we got in contact with our friend Jonathan Grant, the executive director of World Hunger Relief, Inc., which runs the World Hunger Relief Farm in Waco. The farm has for sale vegetables, eggs and meat, and what’s available varies throughout the year and depends on what’s being harvested. We asked Grant to put together a box of ingredients from the farm — produce, eggs, meat, whatever — and that’s what we would use to make dinner. He hooked us up with kale, squash, zucchini, fennel, onion, watermelon radishes, mustard greens and a few other vegetables, a package of four pork chops and a pound or so of uncured pork belly. We didn’t want to use two kinds of pork in one meal, so we put the pork belly in the freezer for later (we used it for Sticky Chinese Barbecued Pork Belly with stir-fried vegetables) and got to work with the pork chops and much of the produce. We added some things from our pantry as well as Swiss chard from our garden and came up with a beautiful meal that was as tasty as it was pretty.

World Hunger Relief is, as its website says, “a Christian organization committed to the alleviation of food insecurity and malnutrition through sustainable agriculture and community development.”

It partners with Waco’s Family Health Center for a “vegetable prescription program” in which health center doctors issue prescriptions to patients who can then choose produce in the lobby of the clinic and also receive a recipe booklet to assist them in preparing the fresh vegetables.

World Hunger also hosts workshops, summer camps, farm tours and numerous other programs for children and adults to educate folks on hunger issues around the world and the work it’s doing to address those issues.

The organization’s website, worldhungerrelief.org, offers resources to introduce children to the world of gardening, suggestions for how teachers can introduce agriculture into lesson plans, and much more.

For those interested in regularly receiving produce from the farm, it offers seasonal Community Supported Agriculture memberships where each week, members receive a box of whatever produce is in season at the moment. While spring memberships are sold out, applications for a fall CSA membership will begin in August or September. Each box includes an information sheet on what’s happening at the farm along with a couple of recipes that call for some of that week’s products. The recipe below for Kale and Goat Cheese Pasta is from the box that Grant gathered for us.

If you’re going to make the Brined Pork Chops and Orange and Fennel Salad menu, read all the way through each of the recipes. The skillet used to cook the pork chops is used again in making the Orange and Fennel Salad.

The Recipes

Brined Pork Chops

  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 black peppercorns, lightly crushed
  • 6 allspice berries, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 large bone-in pork chops
  • Pork Chop Rub (recipe follows)
  • Olive oil

To make the brine, place the salt, sugar, bay leaves, peppercorns, allspice and fennel seeds in a large measuring cup. Add 4 cups water and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.

Place pork chops in a large glass dish. Pour the brine over to submerge the pork chops. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight. When ready to cook, remove chops from brine and pat dry.

Heat oven to 325 F.

To cook the chops, rub the Pork Chop Rub into the pork chops.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the pork chops and cook until golden brown on one side, about 4-5 minutes, being careful not to burn the sugar in the rub. Flip the chops and cook the other side for an additional 4-5 minutes.

Remove the pork chops from the skillet, place on a sheet pan and put the pan in the heated oven. Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside, leaving the pan drippings intact to be used in the Orange and Fennel Salad recipe.
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Pork Chop Rub

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper

To make the rub, toast the fennel seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they’re fragrant and golden brown. Remove from the heat and grind in a spice grinder or finely chop with a knife. Combine the fennel seed with the brown sugar, salt and pepper.

Makes about 1/4 cup.

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Orange and Fennel Salad

  • 3 small oranges
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, roughly chopped or coarsely ground in a spice grinder
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Thinly-sliced radish, for garnish (if desired)

Cut a small slice off each end of one of the oranges. Place one of the flat ends on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, carefully cut off the peel and pith without cutting into the fruit. Then, holding the orange over a bowl to collect the juice, cut between the membranes to release the individual segments. Do this for two oranges. Set those orange segments aside.

Add the zest and juice from the third orange and the lemon juice to the bowl. Add the 1/2 teaspoon sugar, cornstarch, fennel seeds and pepper to the bowl and whisk together. Set aside.

In the skillet used to cook the pork chops, add the Swiss chard and cook over medium heat until it begins to wilt, 3-4 minutes. Remove the chard to a plate and set aside. Pour the orange juice mixture into the same skillet and cook until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a separate skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the sliced fennel in one layer and cook until it begins to soften and turn golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip the fennel and cook the other side for another 1-2 minutes. Remove the fennel from the skillet and add to the plate with the Swiss chard. Add more butter as needed and repeat until all the fennel has been cooked.

Add the 2 tablespoons sugar to the skillet used to cook the fennel and stir to combine the sugar and cooking juice. Return the cooked fennel to the skillet and toss with the sugar-butter mixture to just coat the fennel. Don’t allow the fennel to caramelize. Place the fennel, Swiss chard and orange segments in a large bowl and gently toss together. Serve with the pork chops and drizzle with some of the reserved orange sauce.

Makes 4 servings.
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Kale and Goat Cheese Pasta

  • 1 pound bowtie pasta
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 4 medium shallots or 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • Lemon zest, to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add a couple of healthy pinches of salt and the pasta to the water and stir. Let the water return to a boil, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let the pasta cook for 13-15 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally until the kale wilts and becomes tender, about 3 minutes. Remove the kale and place in a large bowl.

Add the other 3 tablespoons of olive oil to the same skillet set over medium-high heat and add the shallot or onion. Cook, stirring often, until it’s translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute longer and remove from heat.

Add the drained pasta to the bowl with the kale and top with the onion-garlic mixture and mix in the goat cheese. Add some fresh lemon zest and serve.

Makes about 6 servings.
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Fennel Vodka Fizz

For the fennel syrup:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • Zest of 1 orange

For the drink:

  • 5 mint leaves
  • 1 ounce fennel syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounces vodka
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Blood orange soda

To make the fennel syrup, in a small saucepan set over medium-high heat, stir together the sugar, water, fennel seeds and ginger. Let come to a simmer and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the orange zest. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Strain into a clean jar and discard the solids. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the drink, muddle the mint leaves in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, the fennel syrup, vodka and lemon juice. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top with blood orange soda.

Makes 1 drink.
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