Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

Our local library was having a book sale this week and as I leafed through the cookbook offerings I came across The Berry Bible by author Jane Hibler, with over 150 delectable recipes that use wild, cultivated, fresh and frozen berries. Well, this being our season for berries, I wasn't about to pass on this little book. The only disappointing part of the book is the lack of photos--not a one, but this book is very informative and interesting with an added bonus of some truly fantastic recipe ideas.

In my mind, few foods capture the sweetness of nature like fresh berries, whether eaten straight off the bush or baked to perfection beneath a flaky crust. We're nearing the end of our fresh strawberry season, but I was able to go earlier this week and pick just a few more quarts for the freezer. No pies or jellies tonite will be made--just a very simple pork dish. The balsamic vinaigrette enhances the flavor of the sweet berries, but manages to retain it's savory notes with the rosemary-garlic pork loin. I'm pretty certain I could eat this salad every day if given the option.

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Strawberry Balsamic Sauce
Adapted from The Berry Bible

1 TBLS chopped fresh rosemary
1 TBLS minced garlic
2 shallots, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/4 lbs. pork tenderloin
1 1/2 TBLS olive oil
Pinot Griogio
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
1 lb mixed fresh greens

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix the rosemary, garlic, shallots, sea salt, and pepper. Pat the meat dry with paper towels then rub with the rosemary-garlic and shallot mixture. In a large, skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat. Brown the meat on all sides. Transfer the tenderloin to a baking dish and drizzle a bit of the olive oil drippings from the pan over it and two TBLS Pinot Grigio wine and roast covered with foil for 30 minutes.

Put the skillet over medium-high heat and pour in the balsamic vinegar. Use a wood spoon to loosen the caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce the vinegar by about half, then gently stir in the strawberries and the olive oil. Stir to combine and season lightly with just a pinch salt.

Carve the meat into 1/2-inch slices. Pour any collected juices into the strawberry sauce pan and stir to blend.

Spread your greens onto a plate. Arrange the pork slices on top of the greens. Drizzle with the warm strawberry dressing and serve immediately, garnished with fresh strawberries if desired. Enjoy!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Roasted cauliflower with Orzo

This started as a clean-out-the-fridge meal that turned into something amazing. Sometimes, happy accidents occur in the kitchen and this is one of them. The funny part is, I had to go out and re-buy the ingredients I was trying to use up in the first place in order to make this again for this post. But that's okay, as I'm a big fan of cauliflower prepared any way.

I loved all the components of this dish--the roasted cauliflower with red peppers, the almost creamy multicolored orzo and the astringency of the balsamic vinegar. Paired with roast chicken, it made an excellent side dish.

Roasted Cauliflower with Orzo

3 cups cauliflower florets
1 red pepper, sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil,
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp dried summer savory
1/4 tsp dried oregano
sea salt and pepper to taste
1 cup orzo
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup frozen peas,thawed
2 TBLS grated Parmesan cheese
2-3 tsps white balsamic vinegar

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet, combine the cauliflower, and sliced red peppers with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, red pepper flakes, and a generous pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, stirring the vegetables a couple of times as they roast.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo according to the package directions, but sub in the chicken or vegetable stock for the water. During the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the thawed peas. Drain and return to the pot over low heat. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.

Pour the orzo onto a plate and spoon the cauliflower mixture over it. Drizzle with the balsamic and serve immediately. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Berry Exciting Shortcake

Mid June has to be the sweetest time of the year. This is the time of year we take to the open strawberry fields and pick til our fingers are red and our backs are broken. So today I picked strawberries for tonite's dessert, tomorrow's cereal and afternoon smoothies.
Then I'll go back next week and pick more to make jams and to fill the freezer for a taste of spring in the height of winter. Strawberry picking has become my favorite season these last few years for me--though, I'm pretty keen on our blueberry season as well--but fresh, just picked strawberries are just that good! I just had my cast removed from my fall and still hobbling along in a half cast, but my good friend Marianne came along to give me a helping hand picking. Thanks so much my friend!

To me, the most important part of a strawberry shortcake, besides having beautiful strawberries is the shortcake. Wouldn't you want a moist, sweet flavor of a cake, mixed with the buttery, flakiness of a pastry. These biscuits are so moist on the inside they will almost seem like they are not cooked- but they are! The top is biscuity and has a nice sugary crust. Paired with a vanilla scented whipped cream and fresh strawberries, well it's just a delicious treat. Your friends and family will just love them!

Strawberry Shortcake

2 cups flour
3 TBLS sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cut up into small pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups fresh strawberries, stems removed and halved
3 TBLS sugar

Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
2 TBLS white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

The Berries

Take two cups of the sliced strawberries and add them to a bowl. Sprinkle them with the 3 TBLS of sugar, and leave them to meld.

Shortcake Bisquit

In a food processor, add the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Pulse to combine. Pulse in the cold butter and mix until the dough has a coarse crumb texture.
In a separate bowl, combine the cream and the vanilla. Add this to the wet ingredients and pulse to combine. The dough will be moist and crumbly. Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Press the dough together with your hands until it forms a disc of dough. Cut it into 4 pieces, and gently form them into circles.

Place the shortcakes onto a silpat or parchment lined sheet pan. Gently brush the tops with a little leftover cream and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake the shortcakes for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let them cool at least slightly before cutting them in half horizontally.

Now remove the top of the shortcake and spoon about a half cup of the strawberries and juices onto the bottom of the cake. Top those berries with a big dollop of whipped cream. Place the top on the shortcake, and add another half cup of sliced strawberries, another smaller dollop of whipped cream and garnish the top each with a strawberry, and serve. Enjoy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Classic Maine Lobster Rolls

How can it be possible that I have not uttered the word “lobster roll” on this blog yet? Well that is about to change. The lobster roll is one of the true glories of Maine coastal dining and one of the most popular lunch items on the Maine coast, and plenty of places up and down our coastline to enjoy these delicious morsels. It seems every Maineiac and visitor has an opinion on this subject “where to get the best lobster roll”. Now it is my turn to weigh in on the debate. Why even get them at all? They're just so simple to prepare on your own.

I’m guess I am just a traditionalist when it comes to lobster rolls and take a minimalist approach to preparing one– the star always being the lobster. Only large, chilled chunks of the freshest meat combined with a small amount of mayonnaise will do. And then there’s the bun, yes the bun– it must be a top loader, buttered and grilled to a golden brown. The lobster meat should be piled high and generously with perhaps a few chunk spilling out onto the plate. Maybe just a squeeze of fresh lemon and utter perfection.

And then there's the lobster salad, which on a steamy hot day like yesterday--a perfect choice for dinner last night and even easier to prepare than the roll. Same formula basically--chilled and served over a bed of fresh greens and a splash of lemon juice along with an icy cold beer. Perfection, and.. Dad might just love this dish for Father's Day too!

Lobster Salad or Rolls

2-3 cups cooked and diced lobster meat
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 TBLS unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup finely diced celery * optional
white pepper
4 split top hot dog rolls
OR fresh greens from the garden

Toss the lobster with lemon juice in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and stir to combine. Add the celery if you like. Season with just a bit of white pepper--no salt necessary and refrigerate for a couple of hours if not using right away.

For Lobster Rolls:

Heat a griddle or skillet over medium heat. Brush the crustless sides of the rolls with the melted butter and place on the griddle. Cook, turning once until both sides are golden brown--about two minutes per side.

Spoon in the lobster salad into the grilled rolls, heaping it high ;-) and serve immediately.

**Note--You can buy cooked lobster meat in most grocers or just pick up three 1 1/4 pound lobsters and steam them yourself. Once cooled, crack and pick out the meat yourself.

For Lobster Salad:

Pick the freshest greens in your garden or pick some up at your local farmers market. Rinse, and pat dry the salad greens and generously mound the lobster salad over the fresh greens. Enjoy!