There are a couple thoughts running on a loop in my head; the first has to do with place names. So here's my question, why do we call it Milan when all of the Missoni-wearing, gelato-eating folk who live there call it Milano? The same goes for Roma, Lisboa, Genève and continues through to España, Schweiz and Deutschland. Personally I kind of like the way Rom-a rolls off my tongue. And not only is it the smooth pronunciation but images of lofty churches, buildings the shade of salmon and egg-shell and the whispering scent of basil that the a brings with it that make me want to swap the e for a, permanently. Perhaps this simple adjustment will work it's way into the language learning area of my brain (which is currently sitting in the corner with a dunce cap), flip a switch, and Alora!, I'll be able to speak fluent Italian by the end of the summer.
That theory holds little weight considering I say Schweiz all day everyday and still show no signs of comprehending, let alone speaking, Swiss German. And no, I'm not being modest. Right now I communicate not in the loopy guttural language of the locals but in a unique facial sign language highly reliant on the blank stare; eyebrows bend down, eyes glaze over, mouth drops to a place just north of a frown, head tilts to the right, and mind thinks, "holy f*ing cow - in a country with a lot of g*d d*mn cows - I have no idea what they are saying!"
So back to looping question numero uno - place names. What got me thinking about place name is our own name, which we have changed since moving to Switzerland, from Mayer to Meier. Not permanently, and just in pronunciation, but still different. Mayer (May-er) leads to confusion and questions, whereas somehow the über similar Meier (My-er) results in that oh-so-satisfying look of comprehension. In a day played out in a series of staring matches, it is a welcome change. But here's my question, is it really such a jump from Mayer to Meier, or Meier to Mayer? I don't think so. I'll say Schweiz if you say Mayer? I guess it's a po-tay-toe / po-tah-toe kind of issue, in which no one wins.
The other thought that has been looping in my head is about apricots; specifically I want to know why NO ONE TOLD ME THEY WERE SO GOOD?! No really, why didn't you say anything? Mom? Dad? Friends? There are plenty of apricots to go around, no need to hoard them all for yourselves.
I bought some on a whim at the farmer's market last week. Everyone else was doing it. The small downy fruits with sunburnt shoulders and mahogany freckles were disappearing into paper bags so I claimed my stake on part of the pile and bought half a kilo. As the vendor was feeling for ripe ones amongst the pile I was thinking, "Will it taste like a dried one? How have I not had a ripe one? What do I even do with a ripe one?" Some things slip through the cracks, we can't have it all, but that just meals I'm on a mission to make up for lost time. Yesterday I ate nine apricots. I ate them all the same way; I slice them top to bottom all the way around, twist slightly to separate the halves and then proceed to slice each half in to smaller apple-like sections, always eating a section before slicing the next one.
Fruit tastes better sliced and you can slice an apricot without worrying about napkins and sticky fingers making it all the more enjoyable (I am admittedly sticky-finger adverse). I've come to think of apricots as a peach's serious, buttoned-up older sister. It's more refined, certainly subtler, and definitely way less juicy. (At least that is how I see myself as an older sister, that and somewhat more predictable and risk adverse). The marigold flesh reveals it's sweetness slowly and it might even mask it with a touch of tartness. I ate one yesterday that was super tart, but tart in a good way, kind of like a sour patch kid where the extreme tartness revealed a little bit of sweetness, and that little bit of sweetness was just enough to keep me eating.
It's the firm, slightly sweet, slightly tart nature of apricots that made me think they'd be a good company for a pork chop. Pork chops need a little somethin' somethin' and apricots make the perfect stuffing; they become sweeter and softer in the oven, but no so sweet that they risk turning dinner into dessert, and not so soft that they collapse entirely. Add some toasted pine nuts for texture and some rosemary for flavor and fragrance and you'll likely start eating the stuffing plain, I did. No, but really, it makes for a fresh and colorful companion for a cut of meat that tends towards grey and tough. Nestled in the center of the pork chop the apricots release their juices into the meet, ensuring that every bite is tender.
// Pork Chops with Apricot Stuffing //
inspired by Martha Stewart
5 ripe apricots
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 spring of rosemary
2 tablespoons of olive oil
coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 bone-in pork chops
1 cup chicken broth
Slice the apricots in half and remove the pits. Cut them into pieces slightly smaller than a marble - a rough chop will work too.
Place the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned. Add the pine nuts to the chopped apricots. Chop the rosemary and add it to the apricots and pine nuts.
Cut a 2-inch slit in the side of each pork chop, cutting all the way to the bone. Fill each chop with apricot stuffing, shoving more in than you think will fit. Press down to flatten and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat. Sear the pork chops until browned on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Pour 1/2 cup of chicken stock in the skillet, reduce the heat to low and simmer over low heat for about 6-8 minutes, until the pork chops are cooked through. Remove the pork chops from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Add the rest of the stock into the skillet, scrapping up the brown bits and stirring uncovered until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Strain the sauce and drizzle over the pork chops.