Apple and Sage Stuffed Pork Loin

It’s not often I prepare meat. I’ll eat seafood, but only occasionally. Once a moth or so my Dad returns home off the road, and while he has no compunctions about eating a few meatless meals here and there , he is decidedly carnivorous. So before he arrived home last week I went to the market and picked up some steak, sausage, pork chops, a pork loin, and ground beef for burgers (I had forgotten how EXPENSIVE meat was!!)  I had stuffed a pork loin in the past, and had recently seen a recipe by (the imminent and SUPER-FABULOUS) Paula Deen that called for an Apple and Sage stuffing for a pork loin. I’ll be perfectly honest: I haven’t eaten meat since December when a friend had some home-made deer-chilli, until I made this stuffed pork loin. I didn’t use Paula’s recipe to the letter, It simply served as inspiration for the following delicious-ness:

Assemble the following:

  • 1.5 LBS. Premium Grade Pork Loin, butterflied (see below for instructions on perfectly butterflying any loin cut of meat)
  • I medium Golden Delicious Apple, Peeled Cored and Chopped
  • 3 TBSP. Dried Sage
  • 1 TSP. Ground Caraway Seeds
  • 1 C. Fresh Focaccia Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 C. Homemade Vegetable Stock
  • 3 TBSP. Butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1/4 C. Onion, Minced
  • 1 CL Garlic, Minced
  • 1 TBSP. Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350° F

  • Melt Butter in large pan over medium heat.
  • Sauté Onions and Garlic until tender and caramelized.
  • Add apples, cook briefly.
  • Beat egg in separate container, cut with a little water, reduce heat and add to pan.
  • Before egg sets up add vegetable stock, stirring often.
  • After egg has set, and stock is reduced add bread crumbs.
  • Continue to stir until the stuffing has thickened and come together.
  • Remove from heat and stir in Caraway and 2 TBSP. Sage.
  • Rub remaining sage on the butterflied side of the loin.
  • Close the loin jelly-roll style and Secure with butchers twine, or toothpicks.
  • Grease a Glass baking dish with Olive oil, add loin and bake 35 to fifty minutes, or until the temperature of the meat (not the stuffing) is 160 degrees.
  • Let rest ten to fifteen minutes before slicing.
  • Serve with steamed vegetables and rice.

Regrettably I didn’t photograph this dish. Trust and believe though it’s a beautiful thing to behold.

Perfectly Butterflied Loin:

Orzo Salad with Pole Beans and Sautéed Veggies

Summer is the perfect time for a cold pasta salad. Served with burgers off the grill, or by itself this take on pasta salad is just as refreshing as it is filling. It keeps well, so make a little extra and enjoy over the next few days. Planning a barbecue or a picnic? Make this a day ahead and refrigerate overnight to really let the flavors marry up and combine.

Serves Four as a side-dish, or Two as a main.

Assemble The Following:

  • 1/4 C Orzo, uncooked
  • 1/4 C. Finely Minced Onion
  • 1/2 C. Scallions or Spring Onion, Coarse Chop
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1-2 Roma Tomatoes, Cubed
  • 1/4 C. Black Olives, Rough Chop
  • Handful of Fresh Cilantro
  • 1 C. Italian Pole Beans, Blanched and Shelled
  • 3/4 C. Vegetable Stock
  • Italian Seasoning, Salt and Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan and Asiago  Cheese Blend

Do This With It:

  • Bring Vegetable Stock to boil.
  • Sautee onion and 1/4 C. Scallion in olive oil until tender.
  • Add Garlic, and Italian seasoning.
  • Before garlic browns, add 1 C. Hot vegetable stock, tomatoes, and mushrooms.
  • Reduce heat to simmer, and slowly cook until all the stock has been absorbed by the mushrooms, remove from heat.
  • Cook Orzo in remaining vegetable stock until al-dente.
  • Drain Pasta and rinse, toss with a little olive oil and allow to cool.
  • Combine cooled vegetables, pole beans, olives, remaining 1/4 C. scallion, and cilantro. Toss gently.
  • Refrigerate 1-2 hours to allow all the flavors to really get to know each other.
  • Serve with sprinkling of cheese and topped with more scallion greens.

Notes and Abstract:

  • I misjudged the pole beans big time. 1 Cup is what I was shooting for before I shelled them. Needless to say, four large handfuls of the beans before cooking and shelling yielded only about 1/4  Cup.

Potato and Olive Scones

Tonight witnessed a major victory for me in my kitchen. I’ve tried to bake maybe ten times before in my life, (not including your box cake or cupcake mix)  and saying that all ten times resulted in utter disaster would be putting it mildly. Flour everywhere, eggs on the ceiling, burnt “bread” …awful stuff really. Well,  I’ll be starting culinary school here in about twenty days, and one of the classes I’m going to have to take is baking. I don’t want to have to learn how to bake at school, so this last week I’ve had a renewed interest in my oven. After a miserable defeat on Sunday with Irish (no yeast) bread, and determined to finally figure out how to bake something anything,  I armed myself with the proper accoutrements of baking today at the market. Well sort of. I don’t keep milk in the house, so I ended up with some dehydrated milk flakes which on initial inspection smelled and tasted just as gross as real milk, so I figured it would work. I got some yeast, and some eggs and more flour and came home ready to make some baking magic. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t work! I don’t know if it’s a fluke or what, but I’m enjoying one of these delicious olive and potato scones, warm from the oven as I write this.

Little chunks of potato, salty bits of olive and woody fresh rosemary permeate every bite into one of these savory little gems. It only took about an hour including baking time and If it’s easy enough for me to pull off, then anyone can do it!

Adapted from Bay Books Ultimate Kitchen Companion.

Assemble the following:

  • 8 OZ potatoes, peeled and cubed (Recipe did not specify, I used red potatoes)
  • 1/2 C. Milk
  • 2 Cups Self-Rising Flour (See Note.)
  • 2 OZ butter, chopped and cold
  • 4 TBSP Black olives
  • 4 TBSP Chopped Fresh Rosemary
  • 1/2 C. Water
  • 1-2 TSP Olive Oil, for glazing.

(NOTE: I had only All Purpose Flour, but self rising can be made by sifting 1 Cup AP Flour, 1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch of salt. Voila: Self Rising Flour. )

Do this with it:

  • Preheat oven to 415°F (210°C)
  • Boil potatoes until tender, mash with milk. Season with salt and pepper. Potatoes should be a little soupy.
  • Sift flour into large mixing bowl. Slowly rub in the butter with your fingertips until all the butter is incorporated, and the flour has a crumbly texture.
  • Add in the olives and rosemary, stir with balloon whisk until just combined.
  • Make a well in the center of the flour and add the potatoes and most of the water.
  • Mix with a spatula until a soft dough is formed, turn out onto floured surface and knead briefly. It’s important not to work the dough too much, or the scones will turn out hard and doughy.
  • Press out to a thickness of 3/4 Inch and cut into ten equal sections with a dough scraper. (See note 2)
  • Roll the sections around in your hand a bit to round them off, and place on well greased or parchment lined baking sheet.
  • Press the dough sections back down to 3/4 inch and brush tops with a little olive oil.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes at 415°F or until browned.
  • Let cool five to ten minutes before serving with butter.

(NOTE 2: The recipe called for a two inch plain round cutter to be used to form the scones. I had none, so I improvised. According to the recipe, with a 3/4 inch thickness and a two inch round cutter, you can get 15 scones, I ended up with fifteen, albeit not perfectly round.)

Abstract and Notes:

  • Next time I’ll reduce the amount of milk I put into the potatoes they turned out a little too soupy and I therefore had to add a little more flour to the dough after every thing was combined.
  • I don’t have a rolling pin (yet) but wet fingertips and a gentle touch work almost as good as a rolling pin.
  • I also don’t have a flour sifter, but I do have wire mesh colanders, which work just as well.

The Indispensable Frittata

Frittata is one of those dishes that has a bevy of uses. Paired with toast and home fries it makes a hearty breakfast. Later in the day, cube up some of the leftovers to top a salad. Arrange cubed frittata on a serving tray with some tooth picks, and you’ve got great finger food for a social gathering. Just like an omelet, anything you have lying around in the fridge finds a use here, it’s great for leftovers. Didn’t eat all that kielbasa last night? Straining to find a use for that third of a red pepper you have in the veggie crisper? It’s all fair game here, throw it in the pan!

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Portobello Mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 C. Zucchini Medallions, halved and about 1/8 inches thick
  • 1/4 C. Tomato, finely minced
  • 3-5 Marinated Artichoke Hearts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 6 Eggs, beaten and divided
  • 1/2 C. Cheddar Cheese Shreds
  • 1/4 C. Curly Parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 TBSP. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 TBSP. Butter
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Preheat broiler.
  • Sauté veggies over medium heat in olive oil until tender.
  • Add butter to pan and melt.
  • Add four of the eggs, and half the cheese. Cook for five to seven minutes, until eggs are semi-done.
  • Add remaining cheese and eggs. Cover, reduce heat to very low. Cook another five to seven minutes.
  • When only a small amount of egg liquid remains, remove from heat, top with cheese and parsley.
  • Put under broiler for ten minutes or so, until slightly brown and crisp.
  • Slice like a pizza and serve!

Chickpea and Potato Stuffed Pasta

So you’re down to the nitty gritty on groceries in the house. It’s five million degrees outside, making the normally reprehensible task of going to the market carry the added risk of spontaneous combustion. It’s time to get creative. I wanted to stuff pasta with something, but I only had lasagna noodles. As for the stuffing, I could only produce potatoes and garbanzo beans and some leafy greens.  Meager beginnings, at best. The end result however was delicious, with seasonings and flavors that evoke Indian Cuisine. When I’m better prepared, I’ll try this out with puff pastry.

Assemble the Following:

  • 1 Large Potato, diced
  • 2 C. Cooked Garbanzo beans
  • 1 Clove Garlic, minced
  • 1/4 C. Red Onion, diced
  • 1/4 C. Red Pepper
  • 1/2 C. Cilantro
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • Dried Ginger, to taste
  • Dried Cumin, to taste
  • Dried Parsley Flakes, to taste
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 Lasagna Noodles, fully cooked

Do this with it:

  • Sauté the potatoes, pepper, garlic and onion in olive oil until tender. Drain and reserve the oil.
  • Combine spices garbanzo beans, cilantro and sautéed potatoes, garlic and onion in a mixing bowl and mash until smooth and well combined.
  • Lay noodles flat on the work surface and spoon 1 TBSP of the stuffing onto the ends of the noodles.
  • Roll noodle ends over stuffing, add more stuffing and continue to roll making a spiral.
  • Heat the reserved oil and fry the noodle spirals, turning regularly until crisp on the outside.
  • Plate with fresh vegetables, or slice into sections to serve as an appetizer.

This would also make a really nice ravioli or shell pasta stuffing. Additionally I found that if you add all purpose flour to the stuffing mix, you can fry it into little balls or patties.

The Buffet Experiment

Whether it be for a wedding, a coming baby, formal announcements, or just for the hell of it food is always the binding element of any decent size gathering. I’m working out a menu for my friends next big gathering. There’s no date yet we’re just putting together the menu so we’ll have this out of the way when it comes time to put together a budget and actually get down to the real work. Here are some ideas that I pulled from allrecipes.com and from the largest cookbook I own, Bay Books Ultimate Kitchen Companion.  Dividing the food up between tables based on how it’s served or, hot/cold etc. makes the most sense, and having the food on separate tables makes the space more easily configurable to accommodate varying numbers of guests. As a rule, one serving line per thirty people will keep the lines moving quickly and the serving trays looking fuller longer. Additionally, one beverage table per thirty guests will ease beverage service considerably.

Cold Table:

Dips and Dippers:

Trays:

  • Cheese Tray
  • Deli Meats Tray

Canapés:

  • Salmon and Chive Canapé [UKC p.102]
    Red salmon, cream cheese, scallions, and pecans.
  • Herb and Cheese Canapé [UKC p.99]
    Crushed garlic, fresh thyme tarragon and parsley. Cream cheese and chives.
  • Cheese and Fruit Canapé [UKC p.103]
    Dried cranberries, apricots and figs. Scallions, parsley, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cream cheese and pistachio nuts.

Custom Sandwich Bar:

Toppings:

Breads:

  • Baguette
  • Bagel Minis
  • Pita
  • Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
  • Artisan Multi-Grain

Meats:

  • Ham
  • Turkey
  • Salami
  • Bacon

Veggies:

  • Mixed Greens
  • Romaine
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Red Pepper
  • Grilled Eggplant

Cheeses:

  • Swiss
  • Pepper Jack
  • Cheddar
  • Goats

Hot Bar:

  • Little Smokies Wrapped with Prosciutto
  • Zucchini Boats [UKC .p132]
    Grilled Zucchini boats filled with tomato, onion and parsley with salami and cheddar cheese.
  • Mini quiches
    http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Easy-Mini-Quiche/Detail.aspx

    • Goats Cheese and Sun-dried Tomato [UKC p.174]
    • Carmelized onion, Bacon and Apple [UKC p.174]
    • Cream Herb [UKC p.175]
  • Mini Pizza
    • Brie and Pear [UKC p.154]
      Brie flavored with basil, cilantro and parsley topped with fresh pear slices.
    • Vegetable
    • Ham and Pineapple
    • Meat Lovers

Standardized Sandwich Bar:

  • Mediterranean Squares [UKC p.149]
    Delicate Focaccia squares filled with a zesty vegetable tapenade and cheddar cheeses.
  • Vegetable Triangle Minis
    Assoted sliced vegetables, white bread, hummus or veg dip.
  • Club Triangle Minis
    3 Layer club sandwich with white and whole grain breads.
  • Mini pita pockets
    Stuff them with just about anything
  • Mini Spicy Burgers [UKC p.164]
    Miniature zesty burgers with ginger and mango chutney on warm naan.
  • Twists: [UKC p.182-3]
    Thyme, Cheese, Prosciutto, Asparagus etc. Puff Pastry cut into thin strips and twisted around just about anything before baking

Obviously this list is missing deserts, which I (albeit incorrectly) almost automatically associate with baking. Baking and I are a nasty combination that always results in disaster. It makes sense that I avoid it.

The Blackberry

We get plenty of Wild Blackberries around here in rural North Carolina. If you can beat the wild animals and the heat, a leisurely trek through a few fields can yield a pretty nice cache of berries. In addition to the ubiquitous pie there are a few unexpected things you can do with your bounty. After scouring the web for a bit, I discovered that the blackberry is just as versatile as it is tart and sweet:

Blackberry Spinach Salad

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Blackberry-Spinach-Salad/Detail.aspx

Blackberry Port Sauce With Pork.

http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Pork-Chops-with-Blackberry-Port-Sauce/Detail.aspx

Blackberry Gastrique, Roasted Baby Fennel and Arugula

http://www.justberryrecipes.com/ber-0141820.html

Blackberry Fizz

http://www.justberryrecipes.com/ber-black002.html

Blackberry Mustard

http://www.justberryrecipes.com/ber-0141828.html

Southern Blackberry Shrub

http://southernfood.about.com/od/beveragesanddrin/r/bl00617h.htm

Grilled Chicken Polenta with Nectarine Blackberry Salsa

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/grilled_chicken_polenta_with_nectarine_blackberry_salsa.html

Blackberry Avocado Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

http://www.naturipefarms.com/index.php/RecipeDisplay/single/16

Mixed Berry Gazpacho

http://www.naturipefarms.com/index.php/RecipeDisplay/single/78

Tuna Burger

Inspiration hits at the strangest of times. As I sat here in my office, blithely minding my own business and working on improvements to this very blog I was suddenly stricken with burger fever. I wanted cheese, and something sandwiched in the Kaiser rolls I got at market this week. Staring into my freezer did no good. When Dad is home I have to remember that I am cooking for two, and his dietary needs are strikingly different than my own. These tuna burgers could very easily please most anyone. They are easy to make, and full of a few different kinds of protein. I don’t eat fish, eggs or cheese very often. However, when I do I make it so good it’s almost too much to abide! This tuna burger is sure to please even the most discerning palate.

Assemble the Following:

  • 3/4 C. Albacore Tuna
  • 3/4 C. Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 C. Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs
  • 1 Fresh Egg, Beaten
  • 1/4 C. Portobello Mushrooms, finely minced
  • 1/4 C. Scallion Greens, finely minced
  • 1/4 C. Red Onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 C. Cilantro, finely minced
  • 1 TSP. Recaito
  • 2 TBSP. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 4 TBSP. Canola Oil
  • 1/2 TSP. Butter.
  • Curly Parsley for garnish
  • Onion Kaiser Rolls
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Do this with it:

  • Sauté scallions, onion, garlic, mushrooms, and cilantro in olive oil and butter until tender
  • Remove veggies from heat, and cool.
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine egg, cheese, and Recaito. Blend thoroughly before combining with cooled veggies, bread crumbs and tuna.
  • Make two large 1/2 inch thick patties out of this mixture.
  • Heat canola oil in heavy skillet. Fry patties for five to seven minutes on each side.
  • Toast Kaiser rolls in oven. Melt cheese over bottom halves of rolls.
  • Serve, topped with parsley. Pair with sweet potato fries.

Perfect Pork Chop Marinade and Gravy.

My father has come home from several long weeks out on the road. He is (DEFINITELY) not a vegetarian. So in the spirit of tolerance, understanding and kindness I willfully submitted to his demands for pork chops; on Meatless Monday no less. It has become very important to me to see to it that my Dad is as well fed and nourished as possible when he’s at home and it had been weeks since he had a proper meal. So I spared him the statistics about what his meat consumption was doing to his body and to the environment, and just made the damned pork chops. The best I could. Apparently I’m still pretty good at meat preparation, and I didn’t even gag one time while I was preparing his meal! I took inspiration for the marinade from classically Asian recipes, but finding myself without any of the necessary ingredients, I got reckless with it. Needless to say the pork chops, and the gravy were well received. Dinner was quiet, and there was very little left on his plate. Both good signs. I served the pork with steamed broccoli, fried potatoes and simple risotto.

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Water
  • 1/2 C. Spicy Brown Deli Mustard
  • 1 TBSP. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 TBSP. Minced Garlic
  • 1 TSP. Marjoram
  • 1 TSP. Ground Coriander Seed
  • Pinch sugar
  • 1 medium White Mushroom, sliced
  • 2 Fresh pork chops

Do this with it:

  • Combine all ingredients except the mushroom and olive oil to make the marinade.
  • Marinate pork in shallow bowl, for at least thirty minutes.
  • Remove pork from marinade. Retain. Sear meat in heated olive oil, three minutes per side.
  • In separate pan heat retained marinade over very high heat. Add mushrooms and reduce to make gravy.
  • Bake chops at 325° for fifteen to twenty minutes, until tender and done.
  • Serve pork chops over risotto with gravy.

Summer Vegetable Stock

Making stock used to be a regular part of my routine. However, I’ll admit that I’ve been using the store bought stuff for the last six months or so. Hello sodium city!!!! With all this time on my hands lately and a renewed interest in my own kitchen, I recalled how easy it is to just make your own. This recipe yields as much as your stock pot will hold. In this case it’s roughly a gallon and a quarter (I tend to spill some of it while packaging it for the freezer). I have a six quart stock pot, and use a pasta strainer so that I can easily remove the vegetabilia. Adjust amount of veggies for a different sized pot. Made with veggies that are available at the local market, this stuff is useful in the preparation of risotto, soup, pasta, fish, or anything that calls for a cooking liquid. Hell, I’ll occasionally heat some up and drink it from a coffee mug all by itself. Freezing in individual portions allows for quick and effortless use.

Assemble the following:

  • 1/2 C. Red onion
  • 4 Ribs Celery
  • 4 Large Carrots
  • 4 Medium Portobello Caps, sliced
  • 1 CL Garlic
  • 1/2 TSP. Crushed Red Pepper
  • 1/2 TSP. Ground Coriander
  • 1/2 TSP. Dried Sage
  • 1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Pinch of Salt

Do this with it:

  • Very coarsely chop vegetables into large, inch sized chunks.
  • Heat Olive Oil in heavy skillet, sauté garlic and onion until caramelized.
  • Fill large stock pot with water and add all vegetables, seasonings and a pinch of salt.
  • Bring to rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour, covered.
  • Strain vegetables from liquid, and allow to cool.
  • Discard the veggies, unless you like celery.
  • Fill quart-sized freezer bags with the stock, refrigerate overnight, and freeze.