Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

A Menu For the Whole Gang

Berkshire Pork with Nectarine Glaze

Summer Squash Mounds

Watermelon~Local Honey Dessert Soup

It's an easy sell in the summer to find a menu that everyone will eat. Not a challenge with grilled pork and lots of colorful sweet produce. The summer squash and tomato dish is sparked with a small amount of rich cheese, while the watermelon soup is chilled and heightened with a bit of honey. Now who doesn't like watermelon?

The entree hails from The Grassfed Gourmet Fires It Up! I had the priveledgde of using Berkshire hogs raised at Ferguson Family Farm, Parkton, MD for these photos and the meat for my grilling demo. Berkshire Hogs are a Heritage breed which is prized for its wonderful flavor and texture by the American Pork Association.  

Brined Pork Chops with Grilled Nectarine Glaze

Because today’s pastured pork is very lean, the meat can easily dry out when overcooked. Using brine—a solution of water, salt, and sometimes sugar and seasonings—adds moisture and flavor. We suggest, especially with pork, to stay with the low-and-slow cooking method. The thickness of the pork chops in this recipe ensures that the meat won’t dry out (although the pork I used this time was slightly thinner), and the fruit sauce combined with the pork is heavenly. Most of the nectarine glaze can be made one day ahead and chilled, then warmed over medium heat when adding the grilled diced nectarines.

serves 4

for the brine:

  • ½ cup kosher or sea salt
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 sprigs plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemon verbena, divided use
  • 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns

In a large pot, bring 1½ cups of water to a rolling boil. Remove from heat; stir in the salt, brown sugar, lemon verbena sprigs, peppercorns, and stir until salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add 1½ cups large ice cubes to chill the brine until very cold. Place the pork chops in the brine and weight down with a plate to keep meat completely submerged. Chill overnight.

for the nectarine glaze:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided use
  • 2 cups thinly sliced sweet onion such as Vidalia
  • 1 tablespoon apricot jam
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh lemon verbena
  • 2 to 3 nectarines, washed, halved, and pits removed

Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté, stirring often, until caramelized, about 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the apricot jam, soy sauce, and sherry vinegar. Stirring often, cook until the mixture caramelizes, about 15 minutes. Stir in the chopped lemon verbena.

While the grill heats, using tongs, add the nectarine halves, cut side down, on direct flame and grill until brown; finely dice and add to the warm glaze.

for grilling the pork chops:

Heat the grill to medium.

4 center-cut pork chops, bone in, 1-inch thick

Remove pork from brine and pat dry. Brush the pork all over with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.

Grill the pork, covered, turning once, until meat is medium-rare, about 140°F on a meat thermometer. Transfer the pork to a platter, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 5 to 10 minutes. Serve topped with the grilled nectarine glaze.


Summer Squash Mounds



Serves 4-6

Don’t you just love those simple recipes with 3 main ingredients and no sweat? Here it’s all about the chemistry of the salt leaching out the major liquid in summer squash. After that you have dense flavor heightened with a small amount of potent cheese. I placed the mounds on greased heavy foil and then grilled over medium high heat.

  • 2 medium summer squash (I used crookneck)
  • About 2 teaspoons kosher salt for draining
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced into 12 even slices
  • 1/4 cup shredded firm cheese (such as Manchego, asiago, Parmesan)
  • Fresh chopped parsley

Coarsely grate the squash and then place it in a colander. Toss with the salt to coat thorougly, cover with plastic wrap and place the colander within a bowl to catch the liquid. Weight down with a heavy can. Let compress for at least 20 minutes. This is a very important step so the squash doesn't give off more liquid when grilling.

Preheat the grill to medium high.

Grease a sheet of heavy foil. For each portion, place 2 slices of tomato -slightly overlapping; top with a mound of 1/6 of the squash and sprinkle a bit of cheese over the top. Repeat until all vegetables are used.

Place these mounds on  top of the foil on the grill rack over medium but indirect heat. Close the grill lid and grill for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese had melted and the veggies are cooked but still fresh.


Watermelon~Local Honey Dessert Soup

Serves 4

Please get a seeded watermelon and make it easy on yourself. The time it saves makes the recipe a standard in your repertoire. You can also use the same elixir as a refreshing juice or a base for irresistible cocktails. I have done Watermelon Martinis for River Yoga and that was a sure hit. For this recipe, let folks add their own mint as it is a complement to the watermelon, it can easily overwhelm.

The soup/juice/drink freezes beautifully...extending the watermelon season.

  • 4 cups watermelon cubes
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint as garnish

Add the watermelon cubes, lime juice, ginger root and honey to a food processor or blender. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Serve in individual bowls with extra lime slices and mint on the side.

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