Thursday, August 30, 2012

Cherry Chile Salsa with Pork Tenderloin

I love it when cherries are in season- they are one of my favorite fruits!  I load up on them when they are on sale because they are so expensive normally.  I bookmarked this recipe from Serious Eats and I'm glad I remembered to make it this summer before cherries go out of season!  The cherries are combined with hot chile peppers, lime juice, and cilantro to make a delicious sweet and spicy salsa to go along with some roasted pork tenderloin.  The salsa was the perfect complement to the juicy pork, and probably the first time I've used fresh cherries in a savory dish.  The salsa would also be great with sturdy tortilla chips if you cut the cherries into smaller pieces.

  • 2 lbs pork tenderloin (preferably two smaller ones, but we ended up with one huge tenderloin cut in half)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 lb fresh cherries, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 large or two small jalapeno peppers thinly sliced, with option to omit seeds to keep heat level down
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a large zip lock bag, combine the pork with the vegetable oil, 4 tablespoons of lime juice and half of the cilantro and shallots.  Marinate at room temp for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine cherries with jalapenos, sugar, olive oil, and the remaining cilantro, shallots, and lime juice. (You could omit sugar if your cherries are super sweet). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  Stir occasionally to mix the flavors.

To cook the pork, preheat oven to 375 degrees F (or preheat a grill to medium-high).  Remove from marinade and season well with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat and brown your tenderloin on each side.  Place into a large baking dish and cook for 45 minutes to an hour (depending on the size of your steak and actual oven temp the time will vary).  Check with a thermometer to ensure pork is at least 145 degrees F in the center before removing from the oven.  Let it rest 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Serve with the delicious cherry salsa piled on top.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Risotto with Bacon and Spicy Greens

This was the most delicious dinner I've made in a while.  Of course, I am biased toward any dish that includes bacon, but the flavor combination of the creamy risotto, spicy rainbow chard, and crispy smoky bacon was absolutely amazing.  It's relatively simple though not a quick dinner to make, but the time spent is well worth it.  This was also a great opportunity to use the beautiful cast iron dutch oven that Sean refinished a couple weeks ago!  It has a thick bottom and keeps an even temperature which is great for cooking risotto. I doubled the original recipe, which came from Serious Eats and made a few slight changes as well.  I already can't wait to make this again!
  • 5 slices thick-cut bacon
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard
  • 1 large onion, half thinly sliced and half diced (or two small onions)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
  • 2 fresh plum tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
Fry the bacon in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Remove from pan to a paper-towel lined plate and crumble it when it has cooled off.  Drain all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease- setting the remainder to the side.  

Add the sliced onions to the pan and saute for about 5 minutes.  Add two cloves worth of minced garlic and the chile flakes and saute for 2-3 minutes longer. Core the tomatoes and cut them into wedges and place them in the pan.  They will break down after a few minutes and you'll be able to break them up with your spatula.  
Next, add your washed, chopped chard in two batches, letting the first batch wilt in the pan before adding the second. Sprinkle in some salt and pepper as it is cooking.  You can add about 1/4 cup of chicken stock to help the greens wilt if needed.  Saute the greens on low heat for about 10 minutes.  Turn off heat and leave covered until ready to serve.  

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a pot until it comes to a near boil.  Cover and turn off.  
In a dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat two more tablespoons of the bacon grease.  Cook the chopped onion over medium-low heat until translucent.  Add the remaining garlic and cook 2 minutes longer.  Pour in the rice stir until all the grains are coated.  Let it toast, stirring occasionally for 3-4 minutes  Next, pour in the wine with 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Stir and let the wine reduce.  Raise heat to medium, add one cup of stock, and let it absorb into the rice.  

Turn the heat back down to medium-low and continue adding stock, one cup at a time, waiting for the previous cup to absorb before adding the next. Stir frequently.  Taste it every once in a while after the first few cups to make sure you don't add too much liquid.  You may not need all of the stock.  Once it has reached the right consistency- soft but still has a bite to it- stir in the Parmesan cheese and taste for more salt.  It should be mild and creamy.  

Scoop risotto into bowls, and top with greens and crumbled bacon.  The liquid from the greens mixes in with the risotto giving it a delicious flavor.  And of course the bacon adds a salty and savory element tying the whole dish together.  

Yummmm!! This is so good!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Curried Chicken and Pasta Salad

We had tons of leftover cooked chicken after I roasted two whole chickens a few days ago.  There were many chicken dishes created in the days following including enchiladas and chicken soup.  With the last bit we decided to make a chicken salad, but didn't have quite enough to make a decent sized batch.  So we cooked some pasta to mix in, and it ended up tasting quite delicious with the curry-mayo dressing.  The raisins add sweetness and I threw some carrots in there for an extra crunch.  The recipe itself came from Ina Garten- I only made a few minor changes.  This is a great dish to make ahead for a potluck or to pack and take for lunch.

2 cups chopped cooked chicken
3 cups elbow pasta cooked in salted water (about 1 1/2 cup dry- though I didn't measure mine)
2 large stalks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green onions (about 3)
1/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup mayonaisse (homemade always good!)
1 tablespoon madras curry powder (if you use a less powerful curry powder you may want to use more)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chutney (I used something closer to a sweet relish because it was all I had on hand)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
1/4 cup roasted salted cashews

Combine chicken, green onion, celery, raisins,and carrot in a large bowl.  Place pasta in a separate bowl.  Set aside.  

To make sauce, combine mayonaisse, curry powder, wine, chutney, cayenne, and at least 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Stir until well combined.  

Pour a couple large spoonfuls over the pasta and stir until all of the noodles have been coated.  Add the chicken and vegetable mixture and spoon additional sauce into the mixture.  Stir, and continue to add more sauce if it looks too dry.  My carrots were an afterthought as you can see they were mixed in later.
You may not end up needing all of the sauce, so don't add it all at once.  Taste and add black pepper and more salt to taste.  Sprinkle in cashews before serving.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Falafel is one of my favorite vegetarian dishes- it's so flavorful and tastes great on it's own or inside a pita sandwich.  Like many other foods, this was something I didn't really like when I was a child, but I have since come across great recipes that definitely please my palette.  This one is from Guy Fieri, and I love how he adds sauteed onion and red pepper to the chick-pea mixture.  The fresh herbs are also key in getting the right flavor.  I would say this is also a healthy dish, but pan-frying it in oil takes the healthy factor down a notch. But, it does make the falafel crispy and delicious!

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus extra for frying
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chick peas, drained (or one large can)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 egg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup freshly chopped parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped cilantro leaves
  • Pitas, for sandwich
  • Yogurt & cucumber for sauce
  • Other toppings such as lettuce, mint leaves, tomato, or onion (optional)    

Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a non-stick skillet.  Cook onion and pepper with 1/2 teaspoon salt for about 5 minutes, and add the garlic.  Saute for an additional 2-3 minutes, remove from heat.

In a food processor, combine chick peas, chili flakes, cumin, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, egg, flour, and herbs.  Pulse until it comes together in a thick paste. 

Remove mixture to a large bowl and mix in the onion and pepper mixture.  Chill until ready to cook (recommended at least one hour, or 30 minutes in the freezer).  

Before cooking, roll the falafel into round patties, 1/2 inch thick.  Guy Fieri suggests doing more of an oval shape but after trying it both ways I found those were harder to cook evenly and keep their shape.  Heat a cast iron or heavy-bottomed skillet to medium heat and add 1/2 inch of oil. Cook falafel patties a few at a time, flipping when the bottom side has browned.  Drain on paper towels when both sides are fully cooked. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.

Serve several patties in a pita with yogurt cucumber dipping sauce, and other toppinsgs as desired.  For dipping sauce, combine one cucumber seeded and diced with 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt.  Optionally, add 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped mint.  These would also be delicious as vegetarian sliders, or as a main dish along side rice and vegetables.  Enjoy!