My School Daze

By / Food / February 12th, 2021 / 18
white rice on blue plate

Never mind that I’ve been out of school for more years than I can count; September will always be the season of back-to-school.

I remember my first day of kindergarten, when I waved my mother away because she had started to take off my boots. Quelle horreur, Madame! Do not embarrass me before my little colleagues! I yanked off my wet rubber boots with surprising strength and nodded goodbye to the lady with tears in her eyes, my sweet mom, who mattered not when there were crayons and dollhouses and friends to play with.

At Grade 1, I was excited to start anew at Catholic school, unaware I would be forced to wear a green plaid uniform for eight long years, and that I would squint at the blackboard for at least two years before someone suggested my parents have my eyes checked. After that, I wore the same pair of cat’s-eye glasses for the remainder of my stint at St Michael’s. This, among other things, dumped me into the nerd pile. The nerd pile was actually a group of great friends; we stood around at recess making fun of the cute boys who ignored us.

By Grade 8, just before graduation, Mother Superior assured me I would most certainly grow up to be a very bad person because I rolled my uniform skirt, liked boys too much and was not continuing my education at a Catholic high school. I was, she said, condemned to hell for infinity; infinity being a concept I still hadn’t quite grasped although I hoped it would include the Beatles.

Meanwhile, here are my all-time favourite school-daze dishes.

Pork chops with apples

My mom loved apples and applesauce and worked them into our dinners as often as she could. This dish with spiced apples reminds me of her cooking. I make it in a cast-iron skillet. Instead of pumpkin pie spice, try cinnamon. You can use your favourite cooking apple; I like Honeycrisp because they hold their shape very well when baked.

4 bone-in pork chops, about ¾” thick

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 Honeycrisp apples

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup chicken stock

  1. Heat oven to 400˚F.
  2. Season pork with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof skillet, over medium heat, melt butter with olive oil. Sear pork until golden, about 4 minutes per side.
  3. Remove pork from skillet. Add apples and pumpkin pie spice. Stir in broth, scraping up browned bits. Cook apples until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Return pork to skillet.
  4. Roast in oven about 10 minutes or until apples are tender and pork reaches internal temperature of 160 degrees, adding more stock if needed.
  5. Match: Serve with a Gewürtztraminer.

Garlic and feta cheese bread

Lately I’ve been getting into making garlic bread, thin-crust pizza and flatbreads with all sorts of delicious toppings. I like this feta cheese bread with fresh fruit, especially red seedless grapes.

1 French baguette, sliced in half horizontally

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 tbsp fresh parsley

  1. Heat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place baguette on a baking sheet.
  3. In a bowl, combine feta cheese, olive oil, garlic and pepper. Spread on cut sides of baguette.
  4. Bake bread 10 minutes or until feta softens. Garnish with parsley. Serve with a platter of fresh fruit and sparkling wine.

Quench Food Editor, Nancy Johnson, minced, sliced, chopped, sautéed and sipped her way through George Brown College’s culinary program with a focus on food writing and wine. Nancy cooks by the code her Italian grandmother taught her: For the best results, always use the freshest, best ingredients. She writes for Ohio-based Wine Buzz Magazine and recently published a short story in Woman’s World Magazine. She is always on a diet.

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