Note: The beauty of this weekday, no-frills dinner recipe is that an herb-spice paste made at the beginning becomes a wagon train of flavor that carries through every element of the dish.
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon dried chile flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
6 pork chops
5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
12 small boiling potatoes
12 pearl onions
1/4 cup red wine vinegar, divided
1 1/4 pounds small ripe tomatoes (10 to 12), halved lengthwise
3/4 pound spinach
Dijon mustard, for serving
1. Combine in a mound on a chopping board the garlic, dried chile flakes, one-half teaspoon freshly ground pepper and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Add the sage, basil, thyme, oregano and marjoram (this is just a suggested blend; adjust the proportions to suit your taste). Chop the mound into a rough paste or grind it into a paste using a mortar and pestle.
2. Put the pork chops on a platter and rub on both sides with the paste, seasoning with an extra one-fourth teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper. Pour over 6 tablespoons olive oil and 3 tablespoons lemon juice. Rub the chops to make sure they are evenly covered with oil, lemon juice and herb paste. Marinate until the dried herbs start to become aromatic, about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, quarter the potatoes, put them in a saucepan, cover them with cold water, add 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. When they're done, drain and set aside.
4. Peel the pearl onions and slice into thin rings. Season with a pinch each salt and pepper. Set aside.
5. Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil. When the oil is quite hot, brown the chops on both sides and the edges. Reduce the heat to medium and cook to your desired doneness. You may need to do this in two stages. Cooking time will depend on thickness of the chop. If the pan starts to dry out or if the garlic starts to burn, add a little more oil. When the chops are done, transfer them to a warm platter, scraping any seasoning from the pan over top. Repeat with remaining chops and cover to keep warm.
6. Return the pan to high heat and add 2 tablespoons vinegar. Scrape any flavorings from the bottom of the pan, then add another tablespoon of oil. Add the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the tomatoes are collapsing and beginning to caramelize, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes to the platter with the pork chops, covering again to keep warm.
7. Increase the heat to high and add 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any sticky bits. Pour this over the meat and tomatoes.
8. Add a little more oil to the pan, and when it is hot, fry the potatoes until they are golden brown. Season generously with salt and pepper and add to the platter, covering again to keep warm.
9. Scrape any potato-spice residue from pan but do not wash. Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and when it is hot, add the sliced onions. Cook until they turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add a couple handfuls of spinach, and cook, tossing with tongs, until it wilts. Repeat until all of the spinach has been cooked. Season with one-fourth teaspoon salt, a pinch each pepper and nutmeg and the remaining lemon juice, or to taste.
10. Add the spinach to the platter and serve with sliced lemon and a bowl of mustard.
Each serving: 464 calories; 31 grams protein; 20 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 29 grams fat; 7 grams saturated fat; 90 mg. cholesterol; 408 mg. sodium.