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Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

Balsamic pork tenderloin with mashed parsnips, mushroom risotto and strawberry salad

Balsamic pork tenderloin has become such a favorite of mine that I make it at least a couple of times a months. It’s funny to think how much I like it when growing up the only way I had pork other than ham or bacon was the dry overcooked and bread pork chops we had once a week. Imagine the driest, whitest pork chop cover in a thick layer of bread crumbs with no seasoning and way overcooked. I have no doubt that was my mother certain that if that meat was cooked even the littlest bit pink we would all have Trichinosis just she was certain if we didn’t drink three glasses of milk a day our bones would all spontaneously break.

I didn’t eat pork that was pink until I went to college in The Netherlands and I was too polite to tell my host that my meat was undercooked. But sure enough as soon as I tried it I realized that not only was it not undercooked but for once it actually tasted good.

I didn’t start cooking pork tenderloin until one day when shopping at Trader Joe’s I noticed the packages of the tenderloin and thought it was first beef tenderloin. It made me curious to try it and even more so when i realized to cook one tenderloin only takes around half an hour.

While I love the taste of meat on it’s own I do like this version of Balsamic Pork Tenderloin. It’s based on a version I found on the internet several years ago and I eliminated the olive oil from the marinate as well as some herbs and I cook it at a higher temperature. I use white balsamic vinegar because the dark balsamic vinegar gives a darker look to the meat that I don’t like and the white balsamic vinegar makes for a nice golden sauce . The taste is exactly the same with either white or dark balsamic vinegar.

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
1 tenderloin about 1 1/2 pounds

Marinade
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons country dijon mustard
2 teaspoons clover honey
3 teaspoons fresh crush garlic

Mix all the marinade ingredients together. Put the tenderloin in a gallon zip lock bag and pour the marinade over it and refrigerate it at least a couple of hours, overnight is best.

Preheat your oven to 425. Some people brown the tenderloin before hand but I haven’t found it to improve or give a crust to the skin so I just put it straight into the oven. I use an oven proof skillet rather than glass or metal roasting pan. I find that it seems to cook better in a round dish that fits it best and that afterward if I want to make a more complex sauce out of the drippings and marinade left at the bottom of the pan I can do it right on the stove top in the same pan.

Roast it at 425 for approximately 30-35 minutes and pour in all of the marinade. The marinade will reduce naturally and you can serve it on top straight from the which is what I did in the picture above. If it is a larger piece it will take longer. The internal temperature should be around 150. The FDA recommends cooking to 160 but I find that it is overcooked at that temperature and European and Canadian government standard are set at the equivalent of 150. When you take it out let it sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing but keep the drippings in the stove to keep warm.

I served this with a parsnip puree and a risotto both which can be made in approximately the same time as the tenderloin is roasting and then sitting.

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Leek, eggplant and mushroom soy ginger stir fry

Growing up in a small town our family rarely went out to dinner and with a diet based in my parents German and English roots our taste buds were pretty limited. So a really special fancy meal out for us was at the one Chinese restaurant in the town, a place that was text book americanized chinese food complete with chow fun and no tofu on the menu but seemed exotic and out of the world for a kid whose daily dinner was breaded meat, boiled potatoes and canned veggies. They didn’t even have chop sticks unless you asked for them and we of course never did.

I remember be fascinated by how the vegetables were cut and the taste of soy sauce.  My mother who was also convinced that we would die if we didn’t have at least a half of dozen servings of vegetables a day always made us get a veggie dish and that’s how I got to know Chinese eggplant.

Unlike other varieties of eggplant the Chinese eggplant has a thinner skin, a slender shape and isn’t as bitter as other eggplants. That means it’s easy to cook with the skin on and without using salt or water to leech out the bitterness.

One of the first dishes I made on my own when I became a college vegetarian was a stir-fry and it’s still one of those dishes I do when ever I have a pile of veggies and am not sure what to do with them.

I like now trying different vegetable that you wouldn’t normally have in a Chinese cuisine. I was inspired to use the leeks because my spouse is French and has a love of leeks which while alien to me, I’ve grown to love. They combined the sharpness and tanginess of onions with the heartiness of a root vegetable.

3 leeks (wash them if there is still sand in them)
1 1/2 cups of button mushrooms
3 ounces fresh black trumpet mushrooms
2 chinese eggplants
4-5 slices of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
olive oil as needed
water to steam the veggies

I cheat by using a ready made sauce usually, the one I used for this dish was a shiitake soy ginger sauce which you can make by mixing soy sauce, dried garlic, ginger powder, dried shiitake, rice wine and rice vinegar. Not to mention I don’t use a cast iron wok instead using a non-stick wok shaped pot.

Slice all your veggies, doing the chinese at an angle because it looks pretty. You want to remove any green leafy part of the leeks and cut them in 1 inch length pieces. Saute the leeks until they start getting translucent and then add the ginger, garlic, the eggplant and a small amount of water and cover the pot with a lid to cook the veggies. Once the eggplant has started to cook, add the button mushrooms. When everything is almost fully cooked uncover and add your sauce and the black trumpet mushrooms. The black trumpets add a nice earthy taste that contrast with the sweetness of the now caramelize leeks.

A story of Fennel

two simple salads with big taste

After having a meat marathon on a recent trip to NYC and the memories of overcooked fatty meat of Virginia I had been needing some meat detox. Add to that the 75 degree weather we have been having and salad was the answer.

Growing up I hated black licorice with a passion. Which was a sad thing as sweets except for ice cream (allowed since my mother was convinced our bones would break from a lack of calcium, were pretty absent in our house). Some how only the worst candies were in our house. Hard candies that seemed if they were made stale and lacking in flavour or odd textured soft candy with flavours like anise or licorice.

So with my hate for licorice I avoided fennel for most of my adult life until I went to a restaurant on Capital Hill in Seattle three years ago. There I had a salad that changed my mind about fennel forever. I had a radish and fennel salad with geoduck. The geoduck was a throwaway ingredient but the crispness of the salad and the flavour of the fennel was so satisfying.

My version is probably simpler than the one I had but I like it. I often add other ingredients based on what’s in my crisper or what fruit is ripe.

Fennel and Radish Citrus Salad

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed
1 bunch of pink radishes
1 bunch of red radishes
2 oranges
1 lemon
optional herbs, mint or basil

With a mandolin or food processor, thinly slice the fennel and the radishes, it’s fine if the slices aren’t perfect but you do want them thin and then mix the slices together. Break the oranges into segments and then cut the segments in half. Juice or ream the juice of the lemon and pour it over the radishes and the fennel and add the oranges. the citrus from the oranges and the lemon are a bright contrast to the licorice flavour of the fennel and the soft texture of the orange is a nice contrast to the crispness of the radishes and the fennel. You can add fresh mint or basil to add another element of flavour.

This salad is crispest in the first couple of hours but can last for a week.

Death and Food: two things that seem to go together

On January I was enjoying watching the Aurora Borealis  in the Arctic circle of northern Sweden, while thousands of miles away my nice “Christian” brother in law was murdering my sister in front of their daughter in a small ugly town in Virginia.

As soon as I found out I flew back to the states and that small town where she lived. Back to Jesus land and my Jesus loving family and that hate for others that seems to go hand in hand with a love of Jesus. Back to the land of lard and factory food. Where as my spouse pointed out at the funeral there were almost as many sex stores as there were churches and there were churches on every corner.

In Sweden I had a freakout about the scarcity of fresh produce and the high cost of food, a trigger that goes back to a childhood of always feeling hungry emotionally and physically. In Virginia I was in the land of the buffet, every counter overflowing with the cheapest food cooked in the maximum amount of lard and oil. Yet there too there was the lack of the fresh produce and healthy food that 10 years in California and 10 years before that surround by folkies, hippies and environmentalist had made me consider as natural as clean water to drink and fresh air to breath. And in Virginia unlike my unfounded fears of scarcity in Sweden I was indeed starving for emotional and physical sustenance  just as my sister had been in the years leading up to her husband committing one final permanent act of harm.

While I was in Virginia for 2 1/2 weeks staying at a motel that the cab driver who took me to the airport confided to me was a a known crack den I ate from 4 buffet restaurants, two chain restaurants and my mother’s finest family food which consisted of some kind of breaded meat, canned veggies and lots o’startch.  The saving grace for me was the local Trader Joe’s but the food I got from them was more a security blanket than something that I actually ate. It greeted me every evening after spending all day with my tight smiled mom, my darling niece and nephew and my mental father. I lost almost 15 pounds in the 2 1/2 weeks I was there. I lost far more than that but pounds can be measured, people can not be.

I came back home having been gone for 2 1/2 weeks in Virginia after being in Europe for six weeks but in some ways I went back 20 years to before I escaped from my parents home. Yet it’s 20 years later and my sister who was the example I followed to leave the abuse and fear, is gone. Not just gone. Taken, murdered by the person that was suppose to protect her from the cold world and the starvation. The man that she converted to Catholicism and with whom she pledged to never raise her voice against nor he against her. No instead he raised my father’s shot gun and put multiple holes in her chest.

There are holes that we fill with many things. My family fills them with hate and Jesus. I’ve always filled them with travel and food. What happened is a constant thought, a hunger for a person who is gone and a hunger to understand what happened. While I figure how to even accept what happened let alone why, I think I’ll make some food.