Sweet And Spicy, With A Hint Of Italy

Many Boston foodies keep at least one of Chef Michael Schlow's places on speed dial: Radius - one of the city's most popular restaurants - Via Matta, Great Bay and Alta Strada. He will even be opening another Alta Strada at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Connecticut next year.

Though he was born in Brooklyn, Schlow moved to Boston in 1995 (and opened Radius in 1999) and has called Beantown his home ever since. The modern French cuisine served at Radius has won a legion of savvy food fans; Radius was named one of the 50 best American restaurants in the September, 2001 issue of "Gourmet" and Best New Restaurant in 2000 by "Food & Wine Magazine."

One of Schlow's other culinary loves is Italian food, particularly Tuscan cooking, and it's what he serves in his other restaurants. Shlow brought a little of both worlds to the menu he designed for "Chef on a Shoestring," a complete three-course menu that will serve four for under $40.

FOOD FACTS

Pennoni: (pronounced peh-NO-nee) This is the pasta that Chef Schlow is using for his first course; it's essentially a larger form of penne. If you can't find this, you can substitute large pasta shells.

Apicius: (pronounced ah-PISH-iss) Apicius was one of the first-ever cookbook writers; he lived in Rome. The sauce used to glaze the pork tenderloin is his original recipe - an unusual blend of spicy and sweet that really tastes delicious, Chef Schlow promises.

Salsa Crudo: Essentially, an uncooked salsa. Keep in mind this is an Italian salsa, so instead of onions and jalapenos, it has olives and capers.

Pennoni with Ricotta, Zucchini and Mint
(Serves 4)

12 pieces of Pennoni Pasta (can sub large shells if you cannot find)
1 cup of ricotta
1/2 zucchini (very small dice)
4 mint leaves (chopped)
1 tablespoon of Parmigiano (grated)
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon of butter

For Salsa Crudo:
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
8 black olives, pitted, rough chop
12-15 capers, rinsed
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
3-5 basil leaves, chopped
Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper
Combine all ingredients in a bowl

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a mixing bowl, combine the ricotta, zucchini and mint and season. Blanch the pasta in salted boiling water until just tender.

2. Remove from water and allow to cool. Fill the pasta with the ricotta mixture.

3. Butter an oven-proof baking dish. Place the filled pasta on the baking dish, sprinkle with the parmigiano and bake for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and top with Salsa Crudo.

Loin of Pork A L'Apicius
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup of honey
2 oz of red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon of curry
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 oz of canola oil
11/2 pound center cut boneless pork loin, trimmed
Salt and pepper
4 oz of water or chicken stock
2 tablespoons of butter

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Mix honey, vinegar, curry and cayenne in a bowl and set aside. Place a large ovenproof pan on the stove, over medium heat and add the oil.

2. Season the pork with salt and pepper and place in the pan. Cook the pork 30 seconds a side, but do not sear. Pour the honey mixture over the pork.
Pour the water or stock into the bottom of the pan. Roast the pork, turning the pork and basting it every 10 minutes. Allow to meat to rest for 10 minutes.

3. Serve with polenta, mashed potatoes or your favorite vegetable.

Roasted Pineapple with Black Pepper and Citrus Cream
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:
1 ripe pineapple, cut into 4 square "steaks" about 11/2" thick
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of sugar

For the cream:
1 cup of heavy whipping cream
Fresh black pepper
Pinch of salt
Zest of one lemon, one lime, 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon of juice of lemon, lime, orange

Garnish
1 amaretti cookie
4 mint sprigs

To make:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large sauté pan, add the butter and sugar and melt together over high heat. Cook until a light, golden brown color, then add pineapple steaks.

2. Cook on both sides to coat with light caramel, then place pan in the oven. Cook for 5-6 minutes, add a few drops of water if caramel becomes too dark. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.

3. For the cream: Whip the cream until soft peaks, add pepper, salt, citrus and juice, then set aside.

To serve:

Place a warm pineapple steak in the center of the plate. Garnish with a dollop of cream, a mint sprig, then grate a little bit of the amaretti cookie over the top.