This is it. The solstice was just this week. Summer is finally here. Driving home through the green roads with the windows open, we smell flowers and fresh cut grass and memories come flooding back. Everything is leafy green and beautiful. This is the time you look forward to, when your toes are always frozen in the deep of winter. This is the time you remember as idyllic and slow-moving, years into the too-fast future.
We stay outside all day, until our shoulders are pink and we smell like salt from the ocean down the road and through the pine trees. We drink glasses of ice cold lemonade and eat bowls of cherries. We don’t want to go inside for supper. So we fire up the grill. Really good meat seasoned and cooked over flame is so primitive and satisfying. Make a salad; serve a little cheese. This is the sustenance we need now. Light lingers in the sky until nine o’clock, and we watch fireflies in the garden and shooting stars over the pond from Adirondack chairs on the porch.
Summer dinners should be simple and a little spicy. In place of the heavy, creamy, buttery, fatty foods of winter, we have flavors that are bright, picante, and fruity. Mezzetta Golden Greek Peperoncini add a zap of spicy-sour-vinegar-tart that complements meats and balances sweetness. I chose the peperoncini to pair with a double cut, bone-in pork chop. The chop should be juicy, cooked to around 140 degrees F. In winter, we would serve an applesauce, but I wanted a fresher update to that classic combination.
I started thinking about summer meals at my grandparents house. We’d sit on the patio, in the shade, beside their overgrowing garden of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and green beans and snack on artichoke hearts, olives, provolone cheese, table cheese, prosciutto and salami while my grandfather grilled steaks or barbequed chicken. There was always a little dish of peperoncini on my grandmother’s table, summer or winter, as part of the antipasto course.
I prepared my tomatoes in the oven, roasted with olive oil, salt, and a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, since gorgeous tomatoes aren’t yet growing here. I made them ahead, early in the morning, so as not to heat the kitchen in the late afternoon. The antipasto should be balanced: acidic, sweet, salty, fatty, fruity, spicy. Capers and basil, peppers and oranges. Some juicy olive oil and a little garlic. Salt and pepper. That simple. You could add diced fresh mozzarella if you are at all into pleasure. Mellow and creamy, the cheese balances all that tart pickled acid. I love this kind of dinner.
- 3 plum tomatoes, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup capers
- 1 orange, sliced and broken into small segments
- 10-14 Mezzetta peperoncini peppers, sliced
- 1 large handful of basil, minced
- 2 double-cut, bone-in pork chops
- Toss tomatoes and garlic with breadcrumbs and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast at 250 for 45 minutes, stirring once.
- Once cooled, stir together with capers, orange pieces, peperoncini peppers, and basil. Add a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
- Light one side of grill, and cook chops until brown on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Move chops to cool side of grill, close lid, and continue cooking until chops read 135 on a meat thermometer. Remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes before topping with the relish and serving.