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Full steam ahead: The 'dog days' of summer are a perfect time to start thinking about fall fare

By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Content Agency on

We're now in the middle of a part of summertime known as "the dog days." Although that term began in ancient Rome to signify the time when Sirius, also known as the Dog Star, rose in the night sky, most people today associate it with weather so hot and sultry that dogs and humans alike lie down panting, unable to move.

But autumn is now only a month away. And in many households, it can feel like that season is even closer. Especially since many children are already back in school and it's only a week and a half until Labor Day, which many people regard as summer's unofficial end.

So I'd like to help get you ready for the coming season with an easy-to-make recipe for a main dish that will gather the whole family around the dining table. My recipe pomegranate-marinated pork chops with braised greens is hearty, but still light and lively enough in its flavors to feel perfectly appropriate even in the warmer weather most of us are experiencing right now.

I think pork chops are a wonderful meat to serve for a family meal. Today's pork is bred to be leaner than in the past, which is why I like to cook it just until it's still slightly pink in the center -- a safe bet thanks to modern industry practices. In an extra effort to keep the meat moist and juicy, I like to start not with individual pork chops but a larger rack of pork that I first brown on the stovetop and then finish cooking in the oven. Ask your butcher for one if you don't see it on display, and request that it be "frenched," a trimming process that exposes the ends of the individual bones.

Also adding moisture, as well as flavor, to the meat is a marinade -- part of which becomes the sauce for the final dish -- based on pomegranate juice, which you can now find bottled in most supermarkets. I flavor it with a wonderfully complex-tasting combination of Asian seasonings (including sweet-tart tamarind paste, which can also be found in well-stocked markets and Asian food stores) that I think perfectly complement the mild, slightly sweet taste of the pork itself. A bed of braised greens adds still more satisfying flavor and texture, giving you a great side dish to go with the meat.

I hope you'll try this dish for a family supper within the next week or two. One taste, and I'm sure you'll want to add it to your post-dog-days repertoire of dishes that will be perfect for your soon-to-come autumn entertaining.

POMEGRANATE-MARINATED PORK CHOPS WITH BRAISED GREENS

Serves 4

POMEGRANATE MARINADE:

1/4 cup (60 mL) peanut oil

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