Have you ever had your mind made up about what you wanted to fix for dinner, and once you got in the kitchen to prepare the meal, you discovered that you were out of a key ingredient and had to change your game plan?
That’s exactly what happened to me tonight. Normally I keep a very well-stocked kitchen, but apparently, I had run out of a critical spice I needed for the calabacitas I wanted to make and got thrown for a loop. Since I’d gotten home from school late, I was tired and hungry and in no mood to cook something that would take longer than was absolutely necessary. I also didn’t want to have to go BACK to the store to get anything, so I started thinking quickly.
Thankfully, my 15 years as a high school teacher has taught me to think fast on my feet, and I thought, “hey, thinly sliced pork + zucchini coins + tomato puree + spices = yum.” And thus, dinner was born:
It turned out to be something sort of Italian rather than Mexican, which was okay by me. Here’s how I did it. You will need:
- 1 1/2 pounds boneless pork chops, cut on the bias into strips
- 6 cups zucchini, sliced into coins
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 28 oz. can tomato puree (I used Muir Glen)
- Salt, to taste
In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat your olive oil. Place the minced garlic and pork chop strips in the oil and cook the meat until done, about 5-6 minutes. Remove them from the pan to a bowl for the time being. Reserve the pan juices so that you can cook the zucchini in them.
Add the zucchini, garlic powder, salt and pepper to the pan and stir to distribute the pan juices over the veggies. Add the cup of chicken broth and cover the pan so the zucchini has a chance to soften slightly, about 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes is up, stir in the tomato puree and dried basil. Fresh basil would work here just as well. Add the pork strips back in and stir the mixture around so that the sauce is evenly distributed around the zucchini and pork. Allow this to cook for another 10-15 minutes over medium-high heat until bubbly. Serve with pasta or rice, or eat as-is. Top with mozzarella or Parmesan cheese if desired. Additionally, you could also add onions and red pepper flakes for more of a punch. Finally, if you’re vegetarian, leave out the chicken broth and pork and you’ve got not only a vegetarian meal, but a vegan one that’s also gluten-free, so long as you don’t add pasta or cheese.
This made 8 servings. I served our portions with 1 cup cooked baby bowtie pasta each. It was really quite good, very filling and a great way to get your daily veggies. It was also a nice reminder of summer’s bounty of produce, and made me nostalgic for trips to the farmer’s market. I’m so over winter already, and ready for the good greens and sweet fruits of spring and summer!