Friday, September 26, 2008

Fennel and Garlic with Pork

The name of this recipe is Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel Garlic, but I propose renaming it to focus on the fennel and garlic. Don't get me wrong. The pork is succulent and juicy, lightly scented with oregano, and very tasty. But the fennel and garlic? Amazing.

You toss 12 whole garlic cloves, peeled, and fennel bulbs that have been cut into eighths with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast them for 10 minutes in a very hot (475) oven. After 10 minutes, you push the veggies to the side, making way for the tenderloin, which you've rubbed with oil and seasoned with oregano, salt and pepper, and put the sheet back in the oven for another 20 or 25 minutes.

Once the pork is done, you must let it rest for five or so minutes out of the oven, and while that's happening, I dare you not to pick a bit of roasted fennel off the pan for a taste. It's impossible. Fork and I hovered over the resting meat, nibbling at slivers of burnt fennel that had sweetened in the hot oven. And then there was the garlic: browned and crunchy on the outside, sweet-savory and yielding on the inside. It was like garlic candy. And yes, the pork was really good, too, but I'm seriously considering roasting up a pan of fennel and garlic tomorrow, they're that good.--S

Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Fennel and Garlic

12 garlic cloves, peeled
3 lbs fennel bulbs (I used 2 large), fronds and stalks removed, bulbs cored and cut into eighths
3 T olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 lb each)
1/2 t dried oregano

1. Preheat oven to 475. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss garlic, fennel, and 2 T oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast 10 minutes.
2. Rub pork with remaining T oil; season with oregano, salt and pepper. Remove baking sheet from oven, and push fennel and garlic to sides of sheet. Place pork in center, and roast 20 to 25 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 145.
3. Transfer pork to a cutting board, and let rest at least 5 minutes before thinly slicing. Serve pork with fennel and garlic.

Recipe courtesy of Everyday Food

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What Should I Make Right Now?

We all know that corn and tomatoes are summer foods, and apples and squash are the highlights of fall. But what about March? What about December? And aren't you a little curious about what you're supposed to do with all those apples? Or what you can really do with grapes, aside from eat them out of hand? Enter this fabulous new seasonal ingredient map from the geniuses at Epicurious:

You can roll over each ingredient to see a recipe slideshow, ingredient description and cooking tips. And aside from the practical uses, it's also kind of fun to pick up random bits of info. For instance, in April, New York and Alaska actually have a lot in common: carrots and potatoes, to be exact. Enjoy!--S

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hold Onto Summer

With summer slipping through my fingers (60 degrees when I stepped outside to run this morning!), I resolved to get myself to the greenmarket this week and enjoy the still gorgeous produce. The tomatoes, especially, continue to look amazing, and when I saw a recipe for a Caramelized Tomato Tarte Tatin in Wednesday's paper, I knew I had to make it.

I somehow skipped over the "tatin" part when I first read the recipe. What really drew me in were the words "tomato" and "tart." (Incidentally, it was almost exactly a year ago that I discovered this magnificent tomato tart.) The ingredient list seemed perfectly reasonable--puff pastry, onions, sugar, sherry vinegar, olives, tomatoes and thyme--so I made a split-second decision to make it for dinner. Many farmers at the market were selling cherry tomatoes in gorgeous colors, and I asked one of the vendors if I could mix and match them. He thrust a plastic pint basket at me and said, "Go nuts." So I did, handpicking about a pound of red, orange, yellow and purple cherry and grape tomatoes.

And then I got home and read through the recipe--and realized this was a tarte tatin--French code word for "upside down." Riiiight! I've made plenty of apple tarte tatins, and actually love them for their rustic look and simplicity. And that's exactly what this tomato tarte tatin was. I caramelized thinly-sliced onions and set them in a bowl to cool. Then I made a caramel sauce in a nonstick skillet, added the tomatoes and olives, spread the onions on top, plus thyme, salt and pepper, and topped the whole thing with a round of puff pastry dough. Into a 425-degree oven it went, and about 20 minutes later it was golden brown. A quick (and you must do it quickly, there's no other way) flip over onto a plate, and we were ready to eat.

The tarte was both savory and sweet, dessert-y and dinner-y. We gobbled it up with a big green salad, and helped ourselves to seconds. The roasted tomatoes exploded in our mouths, the puff pastry crust slightly crunched, and we were happy to hold onto summer a little bit longer.--S

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Non Frittata

Lidia Bastianich's Frittata with Asparagus with Scallions is not exactly a frittata. But then, when you're Lidia Bastianich--the real doyenne of Italian cooking, as far as I'm concerned, whose recipes have never failed me--you can call a mess of gently scrambled eggs, lightly cooked asparagus, crisped up prosciutto and melted onions whatever you want.

In the recipe's introduction, Lidia explains, "This is a different sort of frittata, not the neat golden round of well-set eggs that's probably most familiar. Here the eggs are in the skillet for barely a minute, just long enough to gather in soft, loose folds, filled with morsels of asparagus and shreds of prosciutto." It's a pretty brilliant combination, actually, and who cares if it's a far cry from the perfectly pan-shaped version? My lackluster supermarket was out of scallions, so I used a large onion, which turned out fine. Next time, however, I will definitely use a nonstick skillet, as my stainless steel one is still showing evidence of the frittata-non-frittata (need to get my hands on some of this).

After being away from home for awhile, this was the perfect dinner: warm, homey and uncomplicated. I'm not going to turn my back on the traditional frittata, but I'll surely turn to Lidia's version again.--S

Frittata with Asparagus and Scallions/Frittata Asparagi e Scalogno

Serves 4 as a light meal or 6 as an appetizer

1 lb fresh, thin asparagus spears
4 oz prosciutto or bacon, thick slices with ample fat (about 4 slices)
1/2 lb scallions
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t coarse sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
8 large eggs
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Snap off the tough bottom stubs of the asparagus, peel the bottom few inches of each spear, and cut them crosswise in 1 1/2" pieces. Slice prosciutto or bacon into strips, or lardoons, about 1 inch long and 1/3" wide. Trim the scallions, and cut crosswise into 1" pieces.
2. Pour the olive oil into the skillet, scatter in the lardoons, and set over medium heat. When the strips are sizzling and rendering fat, toss in the cut asparagus, and roll and toss them over a few times. Cover the skillet, and cook, still over moderate heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until the asparagus is slightly softened, 5 minutes or so.
3. Scatter the scallion pieces in the pan, season with a couple pinches of salt, and toss the vegetables and lardoons together. Cover the skillet, and cook, shaking the pan and stirring occasionally, until the scallions and asparagus are soft and moist, 7 or 8 minutes more.
4. Meanwhile, beat the eggs thoroughly with the remaining salt and generous grinds of black pepper.
5. When the vegetables are steaming in their moisture, uncover the skillet, raise the heat, and cook, tossing, for a minute or so, until the water has evaporated and the asparagus and scallions seem about to color.
6. Quickly spread them out in the pan, and pour the eggs over at once. Immediately begin folding the eggs over with the spatula, clearing the sides and skillet bottom continuously, so the eggs flow and coagulate around the vegetables and lardoons.
7. When all the eggs are cooked in big soft curds—in barely a minute—take the skillet off the heat. Tumble the frittata over a few more times to keep it loose and moist. Spoon portions onto warm plates, and serve hot and steaming.

Recipe courtesy of Lidia's Italy

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buen Provecho on the Camino

A person can eat a lot over the course of a week of hiking up and down the mountains of northern Spain. And I'm not talking about trail mix. Last week, while my sis and I were covering about 140 miles of the famed Camino de Santiago from Hendaye, France, to Bilbao, Spain, we did consume our share of nuts, dried fruit, Babybel cheese and ham sandwiches. But at the end of the day, without fail, we rewarded ourselves and gave the local economy a boost by checking out the offerings at whatever bar we could find. And in Basque Country, the bar is often covered in food--specifically, pinxos, one-serving appetizers, eaten in a few bites, washed down with a glass of Rioja, a caƱa (glass of light beer) or, my personal favorite, the clara--a light beer mixed with lemon soda. Knowing we'd find refreshment and some sort of delicious food made lugging an 11-pound backpack through some tough terrain totally, totally worth it.--S
Note the beer teetering on the edge of the bar, to the left.
Most pinxos cost about 1,20 euros--sometimes more than a glass of beer.
These were in Lezama, at the town's annual fiesta. We ate while watching a wood-chopping contest and listening to a local band.
Cafe in Gernika.
Celebratory pinxos at the end of our journey, in Bilbao.
Basque doesn't seem to resemble Spanish at all--all those x's and k's. Thankfully there are usually Spanish translations. But even if you don't know what you're ordering, it's going to taste delicious.