By: Justin and Kayla Butts Photos by: Rachel Benavides
A dish is only as good as the quality of its ingredients. This seems obvious, but how often do we start a meal with mediocre ingredients, then spend hours in the kitchen trying to make something extraordinary? Mediocre ingredients make mediocre meals, and the best recipes in the world can’t save them.
You can make the most of your time in the kitchen by seeking out the best ingredients to begin your meals. Excellent ingredients need only a simple preparation to bring out the flavors of the dish. These recipes are a celebration of simplicity.
We began this meal with thin-cut pastured pork chops. The Iberian pork of Spain is renowned for its quality—the best chefs in the world demand it. On our farm, we follow nearly to the letter the Iberian technique by raising our heritage breed porkers on lush pasture, or on gardens planted with beans and turnips, then fattening the porkers on acorns in the shade of our oak trees. Iberian farmers call the oak forests that feed their hogs dehesas.
The chops from these pastured porkers are intensely flavorful. We sautéed these beauties in a pan over medium heat with nothing but sea salt and crushed black pepper. The fat in the chop helps develop a nice sear. Five minutes on each side, and they are ready. This is as simple (and as delicious) as it gets.
We topped the chops with Radish Leaf Pesto. The season for radishes ends in April, and the leaves grow bushy, green, and zesty. This pesto takes only minutes to make, but brings an incredible freshness and flavor to the chops, like ten green salads to every spoonful. We roasted a variety of the heirloom radishes, just 20 minutes in the oven, and each radish offers its own unique and earthy flavor.
For the salad, we featured nasturtium leaves and flowers. Nasturtiums are a particular delicacy—the leaves have a bold flavor, and the flowers taste of fruit. We layered the salad with freshly picked beet greens, spinach, bibb lettuce, and topped the dish with nasturtium flowers. The homemade dressing features freshly-picked green onions and dill.
These recipes are simple: the entire meal took roughly twenty minutes to prepare. If you take the time to search out the best artisan shops, farms, and fishmongers in the Coastal Bend, you will serve the best meals at your table. If you are going to spend a little time in the kitchen, make it count.
You are extraordinary. Eat food that is extraordinary. You are worth it.
Pan-Fried Pastured. Pork Chop with Radish Leaf Pesto
Serves: 4 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 15 minutes | Inactive Prep time: 5 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
4 pastured thin-cut pork chops (1⁄2 inch thick)
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups Radish leaves, washed and stemmed
1 cup whole almonds, roasted
1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Preheat pan on medium heat. Pat pork chops dry with a paper towel. Season chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to pan and cook for five minutes on each side. Let chops rest for five minutes. While your chops are cooking, combine the pesto ingredients into a food processor or blender. Pulse until ingredients are fully combined and hold together when pressed between two fingers.
Serve chop with a large table- spoon of pesto spread on top, or on the side.
Roasted Heirloom Radishes
Serves: 4 | Prep Time: 2 minutes
1 lb assorted heirloom radishes, tops clipped, rinsed
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place radishes on baking sheet, slightly spaced apart, drizzle with EVOO and sea salt. Bake for 20 minutes.
Nasturtium Salad with Dill Vinaigrette
Serves: 6 side salads | Prep time: 7 minutes
6 cups salad greens (try Bibb or Blackseed Simpson lettuce, Bloomsdale spinach, and Detroit Dark Red beet greens)
Leaves and flowers of 3 nasturtium plants
1/4 cup fresh dill
4 green onions, chopped 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp local honey
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
On each salad plate, arrange one cup mixed salad greens and several nasturtium leaves and blooms. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the vinaigrette and whisk vigorously. Drizzle dressing on greens with some freshly cracked peppercorns and enjoy immediately.