Monthly Archives: April 2011

A Pig’s Feast at “Lola” by Michael Symon

How about a meal entirely of Pork?  Yes, heaven does exist right in the heart of Cleveland, OH.  Michael Symon’s restaurant Lola is the crown jewel of Cleveland’s vibrant culinary scene. The Iron Chef’s inventive and creative menu offers a modern spin on classic favorites, while always showcasing the best of what local purveyors are producing just miles away.  I was recently on a road trip from Chicago to D. C. and purposely routed my journey through Cleveland in order to dine here at Lola.  Let me tell you, it was worth it!

(P.S. If you are a fan of Chef Symon, check out my recent interview with him for Better Recipes!  Lots of great pork recipes from him as well.)


I took one look at the menu and knew what had to be done.  Appetizer, main dish and dessert…all made with pork!


I started off with the Pig Ear Salad with orange, olive, feta, and roasted garlic.  This was my first time trying pig ear, and I have to say, it was outstanding!  It was crunchy and flavorful, and tasted like a nice, hearty bacon.  A perfect contrast to the bright salad underneath.  It left me wondering why we all don’t eat pig ears more often!


For my main course, I had to order the Smoked Berkshire Pork Chop with chilies, cheesy polenta, and BBQ onions.  Just look at that photo….have you ever seen a more beautiful pork chop?  The pork was cooked to perfection and was so juicy and tender it practically melted in my mouth.  It paired perfectly with the creamy, cheesy polenta and I practically licked my plate to get every drop of the BBQ sauce.


Upon browsing the dessert menu, my eyes immediately found the “6 A.M. Special.”  Featuring brioche French toast, caramelized apple, and maple-bacon ice cream.  I was sold – pork for dessert!  Honestly, this dessert makes you wonder why you don’t always put bacon in your ice cream.  The sweet ice cream and maple syrup pair perfectly with the salty bacon.  I loved the title and the fact it was served in a small breakfast skillet.  The perfect way to top off my Iron Chef pork-fest!


I also came home with a great souvenir!  You have to check out Chef Symon’s t-shirt collection online.  You just might see this pork-loving hot pink tee show up in my photos and videos in the coming months.  Real women eat pork and stylish women wear pork!

Leftover Ham Solution #2: Asparagus Pesto with Gnocchi and Ham

There is nothing better than the cook once, eat twice philosophy.  With the gorgeous ham you prepared for Easter, this recipe comes together in minutes.  Gnocchi cooks fast and tastes great with ham.  The pesto is fresh and flavorful, with a unique twist by adding asparagus.  If you enjoyed the pizza recipe from yesterday, you will love this pasta recipe today!


Asparagus Pesto with Gnocchi and Ham

2 cups ham, cubed

12 ounces asparagus

3/4 cup basil leaves

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup olive oil, OR cooking oil

3 tablespoons water

1 tablespoons garlic, minced (6 cloves)

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

1 16-oz package potato gnocchi, OR 8 ounces rotini (about 4 cups)

Snap off and discard woody portions of asparagus. Cut into 1-inch pieces. Cook asparagus in a small amount of boiling water about 5 minutes or until tender. Drain and cool.

For pesto, in a food processor or blender, combine asparagus, basil, cheese, walnuts, olive oil, water, garlic and pepper. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth, scraping sides occasionally. Divide pesto into thirds. Transfer 2 portions to freezer containers. Freeze for up to 3 months. Set aside remaining portion.

Prepare gnocchi or rotini according to package directions.

Meanwhile, coat a skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Cook ham cubes in skillet until heated through. Stir remaining portion of the pesto into ham cubes; heat through. Drain gnocchi and toss with pesto-ham mixture.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Nutritional Information per Serving:

Calories: 355                                         Fat: 19g                                    Saturated Fat: 8g

Cholesterol: 63mg                             Sodium: 1070mg               Carbohydrates: 22g

Protein:  23g                                           Fiber: 2g


Kristina’s Tips and Tricks:

This recipe makes more pesto than is necessary for the Gnocchi and Ham dish.  Simply freeze the remainder and you have an extraordinary sauce to jazz up dinner anytime.  Instead of placing all of it in a single freezer container, I have a great trick!  I like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays.  You heard me right!  By freezing pesto in ice cube trays you create perfect, single serving sizes.  For a quick and easy dinner, simply pop it out of the tray, warm and toss with some angel hair pasta.  It would also taste great spooned over some grilled pork chops during the summer months.  Really, the possibilities are endless!  Dinner is fresh, fast, and so convenient because you did all the work earlier!


Leftover Ham Solution #1: Ham and Asparagus Pizza

Leftover ham after Easter is like leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. Sometimes it is even more exciting than the big meal itself!  One of my favorite things about a ham is that there is very little waste.  You can pick away for days and it never seems to end!  Pizza is always a crowd pleaser and this recipe not only utilizes your leftover ham, but it incorporates a hearty serving of veggies.  Stay tuned, because I have another great leftover ham solution tomorrow!


Cured Ham and Asparagus Pizza

1 1/2 cups cured ham, cubed (8 ounces)

8 ounces asparagus

2 tablespoons butter

1 large onion, cut into thin wedges

1 – 2 tablespoons dry sherry

1 cup bottled roasted garlic Alfredo sauce, OR Alfredo sauce

1 teaspoon cornmeal

1 13.8-oz package refrigerated pizza dough

1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (6 ounces)

Snap off and discard woody portions of asparagus. Cut into 1-inch pieces.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and asparagus. Cook and stir for 5 to 7 minutes or until vegetables are almost tender. Stir in sherry. Cook and stir for 2 minutes more. Set aside.

Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Grease a 12- or 13-inch pizza pan. Sprinkle with cornmeal. Pat pizza dough into pan, rounding corners of dough rectangle to fit pan and building up edges. If desired, snip edges with kitchen shears. Bake about 7 minutes or until lightly browned.

Spread crust with Alfredo sauce. Top with vegetable mixture and ham. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes more or until golden. Let stand 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Nutritional Information per Serving:

Calories: 616                                         Fat: 26g                                    Saturated Fat: 12g

Cholesterol: 94mg                             Sodium: 1836mg               Carbohydrates: 61g

Protein:  32g                                           Fiber: 2g


Healthy Habits with Pork

Our recent Easter Ham Giveaway was such a success, I figured we might as well do another!   (Congrats to the first winner, LaShawnta!)

This giveaway is all about healthy habits for 2011.  Did you know that Purdue University researchers found that including protein from lean pork in your diet can help you lose weight while maintaining more lean tissue, including muscle?  The pork dieters rated themselves more positively in terms of overall mood and feelings of pleasure during dieting compare to those who ate less protein.

That’s why with this prize package, we are making it fun and easy to make healthy choices with pork!  One lucky winner will receive:

-Free Pork! Redeem the coupon inside for your favorite, health conscious cuts of pork.

-Eating Well Cookbook:  Lots of recipes and ideas for fast and fresh meals.

-Calphalon non-stick skillet:  This skillet allows you to sear pork using less oil.  Plus, the non-stick surface makes cleanup a snap!

-Pyrex resealable containers:  Leftovers from dinner?  Take it with you to work the next day for a healthy lunch!

-Pork pedometer:  Track your daily exercise with a pedometer.  Hit that goal of 10,000 steps per day and then enjoy a healthy and hearty pork dinner!

Simply leave a comment below telling us how you make healthy choices with pork.  Share your favorite cut, preparation or tell us your goals for 2011. The winner will be randomly selected at 12 Noon PST on Thursday, April 28th.  Good luck to everyone!


Vitamins and minerals in pork

Pork is an “excellent” source of thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus and protein and a “good” source of zinc and potassium.  These nutrients are important to our health. Click the link above to learn how these nutrients impact your health as well as the percent Daily Values are listed on food labels. They tell us how much of various nutrients we should consume each day. The information is based on a 3-ounce serving of pork. As you can see, these key nutrients make pork a nutrient-dense food!

Pork is a lean protein

Through changes in feeding and breeding techniques, pork producers have responded to consumer demand for leaner pork. Today’s pork has 16% less fat and 27% less saturated fat as compared to 1991. Many cuts of pork are now as lean as skinless chicken. The cuts in the link above meet the guidelines for “lean” (less than 10 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat and 95 mg cholesterol). Pork tenderloin meets the guidelines for “extra lean” (less than 5 g fat, 2 grams of sat fat and 95 mg cholesterol).  The USDA has analyzed pork for trans-fatty acids. The results confirm that pork contains no artery-clogging trans-fat.

Compare Pork

How does pork compare to other meats for fat, calories and cholesterol?  Click on the link above to view a chart.


Pork Inspiration Cafe

To celebrate the recent launch of the new “Pork Be inspired” campaign, Top Chef All-Stars winner, Richard Blais, joined America’s pork producers to open the one-day-only Pork Inspiration Café in New York City on April 14.  I would have given anything to be there in NYC to sample all the great dishes, but I got the next best thing – the opportunity to chat with Chef Blais via satellite from the event! 

(That’s me with Richard at the International Home and Housewares Show last month.  At that time we didn’t know yet that he was the big winner!  It was such a thrill to meet him in person!)


At this unique pop-up restaurant, Blais served up inspired pork dishes free of charge and shared his approachable think tank of menu ideas.  Known for his avant-garde culinary techniques on TV,  the Top Chef All-Stars winner brought his passion for flavor and innovation with six signature pork recipes and tips.  Take a look at the video to watch Richard in action!

Did all that pork talk make your mouth water?  Here are the recipes mentioned in the video!

Pear-Brined Pork Chop

With a double hit of pear – from pear juice brine to an innovative pear puree – the all-star pork chop gets an easy and delicious twist.

Pork Bolognese

Not your average spaghetti and meat sauce! Fresh sausage and braised pork shoulder Bolognese, served atop a bed of pappardelle noodles, takes the classic comfort food up a notch.

Ham and Herb Schnitzel with 6-Minute Egg

Start your morning right with a slice of cured ham, breaded and pan seared, served with a 6-minute egg, asparagus, sausage vinaigrette and a whipped maple sauce.

Slow-Roasted Ginger Ale Pork Ribs

Slowly coated ribs are lacquered in a ginger ale barbeque sauce and topped with shredded celery root to create an unexpected new version of a BBQ classic.

Malta and Agave Braised Pork Shoulder

Add a little punch to your weekday dinner schedule with this slow-roasted pork shoulder served with parmesan grits and a ginger-scallion relish. No malta? Feel free to substitute it with any cola product.

Bacon Ice Cream

Sweet and savory, this delicious concoction proves that bacon does go with anything!

216549_10150243556355120_115286365119_8986342_7246339_nLooks like this was an outstanding event and a huge success!  Here are some pork fans promoting the Pork Inspiration Cafe outside the Today Show!

Remember, as Richard said in the video, simply by “liking” the Pork Be Insipred Facebook page, they will donate 125,000 servings of fresh pork to Feeding America.  How easy is that!  Great food for a great cause.

Be inspired all year long! Click here for a chance to win free pork for a year!

Easter Ham Recipe and Giveaway!

Raise your hand if you would like a FREE ham for Easter dinner!

Here is all you have to do…

Leave a comment here on the blog telling us how you are planning to celebrate the season, or how you will use your ham for the holiday. It’s that easy!

But hurry!  A winner will be randomly selected at Noon PST on April 20th. Good luck everyone!


In the meantime, I wanted to share a great ham recipe with you all.  Talk about “Be Inspired!”  If you love the Italian classic “saltimbocca” you simply must try this recipe.  It incorporates the signature combination of sage, prosciutto and, of course, wine, into the ham preparation.

Sage is sprinkled on the ham before it goes into the oven, and that great flavor is infused into the succulent meat.  While the ham is resting you prepare a flavorful pan sauce to pour over the sliced ham.  Finally, crisp prosciutto is crumbled on top to finish off the dish.

Pork on top of pork? I’m in!  Give it a try this Easter, the recipe will become a new family favorite!



1 6- to 8-pound fully-cooked bone-in shank end ham, trimmed

1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves, divided


4 thin slices prosciutto

1 cup chicken broth, low sodium

1 cup dry white wine (for non-alcoholic, substitute an additional cup of chicken broth)

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 to 6 pieces

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour dissolved in 1/3 cup cold water


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position rack in lower third of oven.

Place ham flat side down in a large shallow roasting pan and score a diamond pattern about 1/8-inch deep into any fat. Sprinkle all over with 2 tablespoons sage and season with pepper. Bake until internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F, 15 to 18 minutes per pound total cooking time. After the first hour, baste with pan juices about every 15 minutes. Remove ham from the oven, transfer to a cutting board, and let rest 15 to 30 minutes.

While ham is resting, increase oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange prosciutto on a baking sheet and bake until crisped, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Also while ham is resting, drain the roasting pan, discarding liquid. Place the pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Add broth and wine, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up any browned bits in the pan, until liquid is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 4 minutes depending on the size of the pan. Reduce to a simmer and add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons sage, stirring until butter melts. Whisk in flour mixture and cook, whisking, until sauce thickens, 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from the heat. Season with salt and pepper.

Carve ham and arrange on plates or a platter. Crumble prosciutto on top. Serve sauce on the side.

Serving suggestions:

Because the ham is so flavorful, try serving a simple side of steamed new potatoes and asparagus or carrots. You can substitute dried sage (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) instead of fresh. And, although it would no longer be a classic butter-wine-sage saltimbocca, you can even replace rosemary, thyme, or a combination of herbs for the sage. If you like, omit the prosciutto.

Yield: 15 to 20 4-ounce servings

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: About 2 3/4 hours

Nutritional Information per Serving:

Calories: 250 Fat: 10g Saturated Fat: 4g  Cholesterol: 100mg Sodium: 2010mg Carbohydrates: 4g Protein: 32g Fiber: 0g

Hello Pork Fans!

Hello fellow Pork fans!  I am thrilled to be joining the team here at “Pork, Knife & Spoon” as a contributing blogger for the next few months.  I thought I would kick things off by introducing myself to you and sharing one of my signature dishes.  I can’t wait to bring you some of my favorite pork recipes, engaging stories and culinary adventures here on the blog!

I started my culinary career early, at the age of 12 in cooking contests.  At that time I was a finalist in the Pillsbury Bake-Off and even ended up in the winners circle!  (In fact, I come from a long line of award-winning home cooks.  My mother and grandmother also have won countless prizes for their food!)   From that moment on, I was hooked.  I found my passion and continued to develop recipes and enter cooking competitions.  Being a huge fan of pork, I heard about a contest looking for “America’s Next Pork Personality”.  I was lucky enough to make it to the finals at the Food Network Wine and Food Festival in New York City and was excited to demonstrate my recipe for the crowd as well as everyone’s favorite Food Network Star, Guy Fieri.  After a grueling competition, I was thrilled to be named the winner and became great friends with the sponsor, The National Pork Board!


Today, I am enjoying a career as a professional food writer and cooking show host.  I currently host the Better Recipes website, part of the Better Homes and Gardens network.  On the site I write a daily blog, run their facebook and twitter accounts and provide cooking videos. As you will soon see on this blog, I am also always on the go, traveling across the country to host TV cooking segments or doing live cooking demos.  I can’t wait to take you all along for the ride and bring tons of great stories and recipes from the adventures.  So stay tuned, we are going to have a blast!

With the new slogan, “Pork Be Inspired” I wanted to share with you the recipe that started it all, my winning dish from the “America’s Next Pork Personality” contest.  I was inspired to prepare a dish that was easy, flavorful and fun.  The tenderloin is such a versatile cut of pork and is fantastic on the grill.  Paired with pear mashed potatoes (fruit and pork are good friends), some grilled baby bok choy and you have a meal!




1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds pork tenderloin
1/4 cup mirin
4 Tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5-Spice powder
1/4 teaspoon hot Chinese mustard
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed


1-1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tablespoons butter
1 medium pear or pear-apple, cored, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup sliced green onion, with some tops included
1 teaspoon caraway seed
1 Tablespoon milk (or more if needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 Baby Bok Choy- halved lengthwise and kept intact
Olive oil for brushing
Salt and pepper to taste


For Pork: Place tenderloin pieces in a nonreactive dish. Combine all remaining marinade ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Pour 1/4 cup of marinade over pork and turn to coat. Set aside to marinate while preparing rest of dish. Place remaining marinade in a small saucepan; set aside.

For potatoes: Place potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, about 12 minutes; drain and set aside. While potatoes are boiling, melt butter in a medium skillet. Add pear, green onion, and caraway seed to pan and saute until mixture is softened, about 5-7 minutes. Place cooked potatoes, pear mixture (along with all liquid in pan), milk, salt, and pepper in bowl of a food processor. Pulse until mixture is just smooth, adding more milk, if needed, a little at a time until of desired consistency. Return mixture to saucepan; cover and keep warm.

To grill pork and bok choy: Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade and grill about 6-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of pork, and basting with any marinade in dish. When done, place pork on a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes. While pork is resting, brush halved bok choy with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides until just wilted and lightly browned, about 1-1/2 minutes per side.

To serve dish: Place a dollop of mashed potatoes on each of 4 serving plates, along with pieces of bok choy. Slice pork and place on dish. Heat marinade and drizzle over pork slices. Serves 4.

saying farewell


We were going to publish this on Friday, but we thought most of you would think this was an April Fool’s joke.

This is our last post for Pork Knife and Spoon.

We weren’t fired. Silly! We haven’t had a change of heart about pork and become vegetarians. This was a hard decision.

After all, for the last two years, Danny and I have been looking at our lives through the lens of this blog. We’ve shared stories of meals in the some of the best restaurants in Seattle, the first head cheese we made from scratch, visits to Iowa, discoveries about prosciutto, and feeding our daughter with good food. Yes, we’ve pointed you in the direction of other writers whose recipes we like and odd things like meat dresses and bacon purses. We’ve had a hilarious, wonderful time writing this blog.

Still, it’s time for us to bid farewell.

Our lives have grown fantastically busy. Ridiculously busy. Once our cookbook was published, my inbox flushed out with thousands of letters. The offers came calling. And we started creating another cookbook.

We have a lot of irons in the fire right now and we don’t want anyone to get burned.

Those of you who have been reading regularly, thank you. But you might have noticed that there have been gaps of time when we were silent here. We were doing our best but we were overwhelmed. And our busy happy lives of too many possibilities don’t seem to be slowing down.

So, at the beginning of 2011, we made the tough decision to bid you all adieu.

However, stay right where you are. This blog will go on.

The Pork Board has hired three bloggers to inspire you with their passion for pork through 2011.

(It takes three people to do our job!)

From April to June of 2011, your host on Pork Knife and Spoon will be Kristina Vanni. “Kristina is the proud creator of the $5,000 Winning Recipe at the 2009 Food Network Wine and Food Festival “‘America’s Next Pork Personality Contest!’” She also writes a blog about eating well on not much money. We know she’ll love sharing stories of good meals with you here.

From July to September of 2011, the host of Pork Knife and Spoon will be Susan Russo, who writes the blog Food Blogga. She’s funny and impassioned with her second book coming out soon.

From October to December, you will enjoy the wit and videos of John Mitzewich, who keeps the food blog Food Wishes. We couldn’t be more excited about John taking this job for a few months if we tried. We know that Kristina and Susan will be great, but we also know John as a friend. Watch for his helpful, hilarious videos on how to cook pork.

You’re in for some great posts, everyone.

We want to take this space to say thank you. Thank you for all your comments, your questions, your recipe suggestions. Thank you for the emails, the Twitter messages, and the good wishes. We’ve been changed, all for the better, by writing about pork every week for two years. We will miss this space and you.

And tonight? We’re having a pizza with prosciutto and thin slivers of salami.

What, you think that because we’re not going to be writing here anymore that we’re going to stop eating pork?

Don’t be ridiculous.

We will always love the pig.