My post about the cookbook gifts for Mother’s and Father’s Days a couple of weeks ago resulted in a tasty stack of books hanging around my office and kitchen. While I cook off the top of my head for the most part, I also know the road toward growth and innovation is paved with reading, seeing, tasting, talking, cooking and testing new dishes. When I had a minute or two –and let’s face it, we’re pretty much still staying home, so I do have time — I kept flipping through those books, enjoying them more and more. Given ingredients are a bit scarce, even though I wanted to cook a whole bunch of different recipes, unless I wanted to wait a week for the next grocery run, I probably had to punt to put one on the dinner table.
I admire each of the books above immensely, but Jamie Oliver’s 5 INGREDIENTS held my interest a little longer one day not because I want to cook with five ingredients, but, as I’ve said before, because so many other people do. The biggest complaint about recipes is often the length of the ingredients deck. I’m not sure it’s always exactly about cash outlay or shopping (though maybe right now it might be), but rather that it has to do with time and focus. Perusing Jamie’s book, I kept in mind what was in my fridge and freezer, returning finally to a pork tenderloin meal he had made with Swiss chard, peppers and chickpeas. I did not have chard, peppers or chickpeas, but I had pork tenderloin. So no chard, more’s the pity, but there was half an aging cabbage available in one of my trusty green produce storage bags. A quick check of my pantry showed cans of both cannellini beans and, of course, tomatoes up for grabs. Somehow, I thought those would work together in place of chickpeas and roasted peppers. While the book is consistent about using only 5 ingredients in every recipe (excluding sea salt, pepper, olive oil, red wine vinegar), I didn’t think this chef –isn’t he so positive?– would mind if I threw in a few more items “for the halibut” to put the seal on our Friday Night-Date Night main course. It was the whole meal, really; this cooks in one pan!
CHANGING UP THE RECIPE: My additions are really only 3, adding up to 8 rather than 5 ingredients, though I switched out nearly everything else. The three new elements are rosemary, wine, and crushed red pepper; they were all needed, but not crucial. Should you have thyme or oregano and no rosemary, you’ll be fine. Wine missing? Water or broth work. If you’re short a main ingredient like cabbage, consider any other green vegetable that can take nearly 15 minutes of cooking without being rendered tasteless. I looked at chopped broccoli, but settled on the cabbage as it sounded better with the pork. Even diced potatoes would sub happily, though I would probably toss them into the microwave with a little water, salt and pepper for a few minutes and drain/pat dry before using in the skillet. Fennel seed (that great taste in Italian sausage) not on your shelf? You could try caraway seed instead or if you’ve no sturdy seeds at all, add a couple of cloves of minced garlic or a diced yellow onion to the vegetable mixture. The dish needs the umph and flavor pop fennel provides, but something else can always work.
More acquainted with pork chops than pork tenderloin? Consider this your nudge to expand the repertoire. Pork tenderloin is not the large pork loin so often on sale at the meat counter, but rather is its smaller, sweeter little brother. This cut is a bargain for many reasons, but two important ones are: 1. there’s no waste; it’s all lean meat and 2. this is a versatile, fast-cooking piece of protein that can be cooked in a skillet, in the oven, or on the grill. Because a tenderloins weigh only 1 – 1 1/2 pounds, they often come two to a pack. Even a small family might consider cooking both of them and using the leftovers for pasta, salads, sandwiches, tacos, omelets, or what have you. Since this is a time many of us are looking for bargains in food, pork tenderloin is a healthy and useful addition to your protein shopping list. A few slices is plenty for a dinner serving. Traditionally, one tenderloin has served two people. In today’s world of less meat and more vegetables and grains, four servings are more probable.
PORK CAN BE PINK: FDA indicates 145 degrees F for pork plus a 3 minute rest. Many people like it a bit pinker than that. Read up here.
NEED TO DOUBLE THIS RECIPE? The cook with a big family might take this recipe and adapt it for the oven. Brown two pork tenderloins in a roasting pan on both sides and add double the vegetables, bringing them to a boil briefly. Cover with foil and toss it in the oven at 350 degrees and cook until an instant read thermometer indicates 145 degrees F. Begin checking after 5 minutes (and then after another 5 minutes), depending on how long you cooked the meat on top of the stove.
ONLY TWO OF YOU? Make the whole meal and, if you like, warm the rest of the vegetables for the next day’s lunch–feels a little like bean soup if you add some wine and let it simmer for a few. (See recipe.) Use the other servings of pork for sandwiches or tacos–or as Dave and I did, in a frittata for Sunday brunch:
Ready to cook? From chopping to dinner on the table, this meal will consume less than 30 minutes of your time. Set the table and pour the wine before you begin. Try this:
One-Pan Pork Tenderloin with White Beans, Cabbage, and Tomatoes
- 1- pound pork tenderloin, give or take a couple of ounces
- Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary-rubbed between your fingers or 2 teaspoons fresh, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 3 cups green cabbage, chopped into 1×2-inch pieces
- 2 15- ounce cans cannellini beans, drained – can sub Great Northern Beans
- 15- ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
- ½ cup white wine – can sub vegetable or chicken broth
- Dry the pork with a paper towel and season evenly all over with ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and the rosemary. Pat the spices into the tenderloin.
- Heat a large, deep and heavy skillet or sauté pan over high heat; add a tablespoon of olive oil and swirl around the pan. Add pork to hot pan and sear one side for 3 minutes; turn over and sear the other side for 2 minutes. Remove meat to a plate.
- To the skillet or sauté pan, add the fennel and cabbage. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes and then add the drained beans and the tomatoes with their juice. Bring to a boil. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.
- Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan and return the reserved pork tenderloin to the center, making sure the meat is touching the pan. If there are resting juices on the plate, drizzle them over the pork. Pour the wine evenly over the vegetables. Reduce the heat to low and cover, cooking 10-12 minutes or until pork is done to your liking, turning pork over midway through the cooking time. NOTE: FDA says 145 degrees F for pork with a three-minute rest. I like pork a little pink, but this meat will be tasty even if it’s cooked medium-well.
- Remove the pork to a cutting board, let rest a few minutes. Taste the vegetables again and adjust the seasonings if needed. Slice the pork thinly. Divide the vegetables between the plates and top each with a few slices of pork. Serve hot
FOOD FOR THOUGHT about Cooking from PSYCHOLOGY TODAY
A Sprinkling of Creativity
For many people, cooking is an outlet for creative expression. “Go off the book,” advises Kanner. “Think of the flavors you gravitate toward, and try using them in different dishes. Also, rather than dashing out to buy a long list of ingredients, be inspired by what you have on hand. It’ll save you time and stress, both of which tend to be barriers to creativity, and guess what? You’ll have developed your own new recipe.” The sense of accomplishment you feel afterward can be a boost for your self-esteem.
A Heaping Spoonful of Joy
It’s easy to dismiss cooking as just another household chore. Yet you may derive a joy from cooking that you simply don’t get from, say, folding laundry or dusting shelves. The reason: Eating is an innately rewarding experience. So cooking, which leads to eating, has a powerful, built-in reward system. To keep fun at the forefront, give yourself permission to play with your food. Kanner says, “People get so hung up on doing a recipe just like Ina Garten or making it come out just like it does on the Cooking Channel. Who says you have to?” Enjoy the process, and don’t worry about perfection.
“Kitchen Therapy: Cooking Up Mental Well-Being,” Linda Wasmer Andrews: PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, May 19, 2015.
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LIFE GOES ON:
Every year about this time, a bear (or two or three) lays claim to our neighborhood. Those of us who’ve lived here a long time know the day is coming and sing when we take the dogs out at night (or get them out while the sun is still shining). We pick up overturned trash cans, picked over garbage — bears are really particular — and keep our dogs on leashes. This year, we made the switch to a bear-proof garbage container due to a new city ordinance which requires you to do that or keep your garbage locked up in your garage until 5 am on trash days. I’ve always figured the bears would simply break into the garages to get the garbage and who wants that stinky mess smell in their garage all summer anyway? Especially if your garage is attached to your house, as is ours. So here’s what happened the first day the bears were out. One of them threw that can all the way down the hill abutting a nature preserve.
People always say, “They were here before you.” That might be true, but our house has been here since 1973. You’d think the bears would have gotten a clue by now?
Sending thoughts of May flowers and green grass your way. Cook and be well,