30 July 2011

Judith Jones ... and Cooking For One ... Errr, Two!

Judith Jones is living proof that foodies are not 'natural born'. They evolve. Her various Yankee relatives influenced her attitudes toward food and dining - from her mother's frugality and somewhat strict dietary mandates to her aunt's more lax and fun kitchen. While she recounts wonderful memories of foods from her youth, she also remarks on the strict set of rules for preparing foods adhered to in her family household. Certain food items were never used, cooking smells were masked or shut out from the general living quarters and there was a 'hemmed in' atmosphere around the family dining experience. Her father, however, gave her an exposure to restaurant fare at a young age and fostered her food curiosity. Their trips to various restaurants around New York City fueled that curiosity and sense of adventure. Her travels to France after her college graduation awakened her appetite for world cuisines. Of course, working for a publishing house also helped her gain exposure to some of the great writers and reviewers of the times - and ideas.

She has worked with the best over the years - Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Marian Cunningham, Nina Simonds, James Beard... but it was with her husband Evan that she let loose in the kitchen and truly had great times. For the purposes of  Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game-Changers list, her claim to fame is her work in the field of cookbook editting and production (Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, being one of the greats). In my opinion, her real accomplishments have been conquering some of the taboos of her early life  ... cooking with onions and garlic, letting the smells of the kitchen invade the home, opening her life experience and palate to a world of flavours and interesting people, championing those pieces of literature that she knew were important to pass to the masses, and then, writing a memoir of her life with her husband and all the wonderful foodies she's spent time with over the years. Her memoir, The Tenth Muse is a really good read  ... and it has recipes at the end of the book!

Of course I'm simplifying a most complete and wide-ranging professional life. See for yourself. Read her words, explore her memoir, cookbook, and those that she worked on with her husband, Evan Jones, watch some of her on-line interviews. She is really a remarkable woman.

Today, I am making Judith Jones' adaptation of a Lidia Bastianich recipe - Gratinate of Cutlet with Eggplant.  This week there were incredible pork sales plus gorgeous eggplant at the markets. I have a bumper crop of fresh herbs and some leftover tomato sauce in the fridge. All's right with the world!

... fresh clean herbs and eggplant

Lidia’s Gratinate of Cutlet with Eggplant or Zucchini
courtesy of Judith Jones’ recipe in The Tenth Muse

Note: I am doubling this recipe so that it serves 2 and using pork scallopini. I’m also serving a small serving of herbed pasta on the side and a soft Pinot Noir. Salad is the finish to this meal … simple greens with black olives, purple onion and a mellow balsamic vinaigrette


2 small eggplant – each about 6 inches in length
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour for dredging
2 – 3 tbsp. olive oil
6 ounces pork tenderloin, pounded to scallops
2 tbsp. butter
2 shallots, minced
2 splashes of dry white wine
12 basil leaves, washed, rolled and cut in ribbons
½ to ¾ c. good tomato sauce (using a basic tomato, butter, basil, smoked paprika sauce, cayenne)
6 tbsp. good grated Parmesan cheese
½ c. chicken or beef stock (chicken for me)

How can something so well-defined turn into something so mushed down and ugly, huh ?

Making the Dish:

1. Cut the stems from the eggplant, trim a thick strip of skin lengthwise down two opposite sides of the eggplant. Then, slice lengthwise in ¼-inch slices.

2. Salt and pepper them and dredge them in some flour.

3. Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in an oven-proof pan and fry the eggplant slices, a few at a time, until golden on both sides. Add another tablespoon of oil to fry the next batch and so on until the eggplant is all fried.

4. Drain the fried eggplant on paper towels.

5. Cut scallop-sized pieces of the pork and place them in a heavy plastic bag. Pound them thin. Then, salt and pepper them and dredge them in flour.

6. Add the butter to the same frying pan and heat to bubbling.

7. Fry the pork scallops a minute or two on each side. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels with the eggplant.

8. Toss the shallots into the pan with the drippings and remaining butter/oil. Sauté briefly and then splash the wine in to de-glaze the pan, stirring to loosen the cracklings.

9. When the wine has almost boiled away, put the meat back in the pan, layer over the basil ribbons, and place the eggplant on top.

10. Place a tablespoon of tomato sauce atop each eggplant slice, drizzle the broth and remaining tomato sauce into the bottom of the pan around the scallops. Muddle the sauce and broth to combine a bit.

11. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top and bake in a 400° F oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the pork is tender when poked and there is still sauce in the pan.

12. Serve with crusty bread or a small serving of pasta on the side and salad to finish the meal.

... ugly food that tastes really good !


  1. Susan, this looks mouthwatering - so fresh and delicious!


  2. I love your post and blog so much!!!.))

    I need your help. I spend another survey but this time with another question.
    "Where do you prefer to shop? What is your favorite shopping center?"

  3. How true, I think the same thing every time I make one of my Italian favorites. They aren't much to look at, but the flavors remain with you. Beautiful recipe.

  4. Such a beautifully written post and lovely tribute...this dish sounds wonderful and summer-inspired! =)

  5. What a lovely post. You never can go wrong with Italian. Simple is always better, in my opinion.


Anonymous comments will not be accepted. Please be aware that due to spamming concerns, I must be able to track back. Use your Google account ID to comment.