15 July 2012

Grilled Pork Chops with a Rich Coffee Rub and Potato Salad With Goat Cheese, Olives and Red Peppers

It is, as I recall, an unwritten rule that bloggers are not to pour out their hearts online.

But allow me to say this: Watching a parent succumb to Alzheimer's Disease is heart-breaking. The tears, the anxiety, the little scraps of paper in her pockets as I empty them to do her laundry takes a piece of my heart every day.

I speak of course of my mother who was just beginning to show hints of frailty when I began this blog six years ago. The last three years have been a challenge as my sister and I tried to balance her needs with the demands of children, spouses and jobs.  Just over a year ago, we moved my mother to an assisted living facility. Her neighbors there are the parents of my friends and former coworkers. The staff is kind and caring, but my mother is lonely and confused. She is no longer able to make friends. She can barely marshall the resources to sit and try to remember the past, which is becoming dimmer now, dimmer than it was even six months ago. Sometimes she knows me, sometimes she forgets my father, but always, she wants her mother.

We children do what we must do, because that is what is needed, and no one complains. She dried our tears and tied our shoes and much much more, and we do that we must. It's part of the circle of life.

Once I leave my job at the end of September, I will also begin the sad and arduous task of preparing her house for sale, and while I share this with three siblings, it will be an emotional undertaking, for this was the house my father lived in as a young man in those heady days after World War II. My parents bought this house with my father's GI loan and let my father's parents live in the house while they rented other houses in other parts of town. It is in the old cattle trader's neighborhood near the original town center, a historical detail that is lost to all but my generation.

Life is, well, life and therefore not always easy.

My husband, as good husbands are, is a source of comfort.

The times we spend at home after a demanding day have become extremely precious this past year, and cooking together is now a pressure valve. Mr. FKIA handles the meat, mostly, while I organize the salads and side dishes.

Saturday night I used a coffee rub on two very thick and juicy pork chops which Mr FKIA placed on the grill. The ingredients include coffee, brown sugar, sea salt, paprika, black pepper, garlic, onion, sugar and coriander.

The lone accompaniment was a red-skin potato salad with Greek olives, goat cheese and roasted red peppers. For this you need:

  • 10 small new potatoes 
  • 10-12 Greek olives, chopped or sliced
  • 1 small red pepper, roasted and chopped
  • at least 1 tablespoon unseasoned chèvre, crumbled
  • 2-3 green onions, white and green parts chopped
  • dash sea salt
  • generous dash herbes de Provence or Mediterranean herbs (a generous dash)
  • about 2/3 cup of dressing, mayonnaise or mayonnaise blended with yogurt or sour cream
Wash the potatoes and place in a good-sized pot or saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat after about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside in cool water while you are preparing the other ingredients. (Feel free to use red peppers from a jar on a hot day; I did not, and I paid for it!) Once the potatoes are cool, toss in the other ingredients in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

The salad was a gamble. (I had already tested the rub on a barbecued chicken we had on the Fourth of July.) The salad's tanginess and sweetness were a perfect foil for the rich dark flavor of the chops.

I've sad it before, potato salad is like chicken: It's a blank canvas and you can dress it up or down many ways. Some people prefer the classic, but I like to think of potato salad as an entire category of food.

Here are several other versions I like:

No matter how you prepare it, potato salad is a summer taste to be savored.

8 comments:

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

It is perfectly acceptable to pour your heart out every now and then, when it overflows with love. Nothing really makes this time of life easier, but good food, and someone who loves you sitting across the table, helps you through it.

Farmgirl Cyn said...

My heart aches for you, Mimi. We did not face what you are with your mama, but we had a different set of circumstances that also took it's toll. Sometimes blogging about it is just what we need...getting it out in the open is sometimes easier than trying to act as if everything is hunky dunky. I had to do the same when we lost our house in December, and it was the most difficult post I ever put up. I am glad I did it, though.
Your meal sounds wonderful! I like a potato salad without the heavy mayo, though Pete would rather have the traditional. We compromise. Or, I guess "I" compromise! I made his kind for Father's Day, and for the 4th of July (when it was 100 freakin' degrees,) I did an Italian version. All of us appreciated the fact that we did not have to worry about mayo being out in the heat...olive oil does not spoil at 100 degrees! And we all loved it...even Pete...who added a couple of TBL of mayo from our daughter's fridge!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Lydia said it. I think pouring your heart is healthy and keeps us oriented. No other way works either. Your blessed to have beautiful memories and someone to share it all with now ... and lovely potato salad!

MJ Strategic Communications said...

Thank you, dear blogging friends. How I have missed you these past few years!

Life is life, challenging, happy and sad.

Coping is what you do; food, helps!

Mimi

Penny said...

So true Mimi. Life can be complicated and watching a loved one go through illness and decline is one of the hardest things we will ever do. Feel free to share this, as you share so much of the good; like these pork chops and potato salad. Dining is good for the soul. Thanks for the link.

Christine said...

I did not have to go through what you are now experiencing when both my parents passed. Grief- stricken as I was, I know my siblings and I were spared. My heart goes out to you, Mimi, and I hope you will continue to pour your heart out to us so we can give you loving support as you make this journey.

MJ Strategic Communications said...

Penny, it's amazing how food provides comfort. It's a good thing I work out, and try to walk in the a.m., because I'd be the size of Texas.

Christine, I know why they call it the long goodbye. I'm trying to learn all I can about AD. I just heard yesterday that walking it good exercise for staving it off.

MJ Strategic Communications said...

Thank you, friends!