Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago.  Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy.  I had big plans for this blog, for instance.

I know.

Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode.  So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 bunch mint, torn
  • good handful of parmesan
  • arugula
  • dressing:
    • juice from one lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • olive oil
    • salt, pepper
  1. If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute.  You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
  2. Whisk dressing together.
  3. Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.

The Verdict:

This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious.  Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.

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Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash

We all know that chez nous, we have a strong, strong affinity for the slow cooker.  One might even say it’s a deep, passionate love, if that weren’t a somewhat odd thing to say about something you plug into the wall.

However, I do have a bone to pick with some slow cooker recipes. I’m looking at you, Williams Sonoma.   As in: the whole POINT of the slow cooker is so you can fix it and forget it and still have a delicious meal at the end of the day.  So while I love you, WS, think about this the next time you suggest an ingredient addition at the two hour mark, or a quick pass through the oven at the 90 minute mark, or removing the meat and adding some separately cooked vegetables about 3 hours in.  Just, no.  No one has time for that.  If they did, they’d be actively cooking, and not plugging their dinner into the wall.

Now that the rant section is over, let’s get on with the rave section.  As in this pork recipe.  Adapted from WS, this is a (really) good one, folks. And it’s a (mostly) fix-it-and-forget-it situation.

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Slow Cooked Pork with Spicy Squash

for the pork

  • large (2-3 pounds) pork tenderloin
  • salt, pepper
  • olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • big splash white wine or sherry
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock

for the squash

  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red peppers
  • asian-lime vinaigrette:
    • olive oil (about 2 TBs)
    • soy sauce (about 2TBs)
    • juice from 1 lime
    • sherry or red wine vinegar (about 2 Tsp.)
    • pinch sugar
    • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper
    • Sriracha (about 1 TB)
    • big handful basil, chopped
    • big handful cilantro, chopped
  1. Season the pork with salt and pepper and then sear each side in olive oil, over medium-high heat, in a large saute pan.  (This is important for flavor.) Transfer to the slow cooker.
  2. In the saute pan, add the onions and let them cook down a bit, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic when the onions are nice and soft and cook about a minute or two; add the wine/sherry.  Scrape up the nice brown bits, add the stock, cook it off for about a minute and then add to the slow cooker, over the pork.  Cover and cook on low about 6-7 hours (Note: if you’re using a fattier cut of meat, such as pork butt or shoulder, you could let it roll for longer.)
  3. About 30 minutes before the pork finishes, get your squash roasting.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  On a large jelly roll pan, spread out the squash, drizzle olive oil, and then season with salt, pepper and crushed reds.  Make sure it’s nice and tossed through, and then pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is nice and roasted.
  4. While the squash and pork finish, make your vinaigrette.  Combine all of the ingredients, whisk them together, and set aside.  You could also add jalapeno or chilis, if you have them on hand.  Reserve a bit of vinaigrette, as well as cilantro/basil for sprinkling on top of the pork/squash.
  5. Shred the pork in the slow cooker and spoon some of the liquid over it, to keep it moist.  Add the vinaigrette to the squash separately, and give it a good toss.
  6. On a plate, make a bed out of the squash and serve the pork on top.  Drizzle with a bit more vinaigrette and top with basil and/or cilantro.

The Verdict:

Hello, delicious!  The vinaigrette and fresh herbs really make this one pop, so make sure you have that on hand and ready to go for this meal.  (After, of course, you enjoy 6-7 hours away from your plugged-in dinner!).

 

Throw Back: Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Mashed potatoes – likely not the kind of post to make the interwebs go pitter-patter.

And yet, they have a sort of special place in the relationship between Husband and me. Ergo, I’m posting them anyway.

Way back when, when we first graduated from college, we moved into the same apartment building.  This was a ridiculously fun year  – a college redux, except for now we had a little bit of money in our pockets (and earlier alarms).  On Sunday evenings, to delay the inevitability of Monday mornings, Husband, his roommate, my roommate, and I would all get together for Sunday suppers.  We traded off cooking and hosting duty each week, and we almost never missed a week.  (We were much less consistent about our jobs – we had all quit those within nine months of starting them.)  In the midst of this, Husband and I started (not-as-secretly-as-we-thought) dating, which our friends were kind enough to pretend to ignore until we decided we actually really liked each other.

Husband and I now joke that we knew he was in it for the long haul when one week I made – and burned the bejesus out of – pumpkin soup…and he ate the whole thing. (Our roommates were less kind about this particular meal.)  But really, I think he knew he’d want to stick around when I made mashed potatoes for our first “Friendsgiving” (and also, that garlic would be a taste he’d have to grow to love).

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Garlic Mashed Potatoes (for two)

  • 3 Yukon potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 5-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • cold water
  • salt, pepper
  • big splash of heavy cream
  • big splash of buttermilk
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream cheese (we used some with a hint of jalapeno…so delish)
  1. Throw the roughly chopped potatoes into a big pot, along with the garlic & a pinch of salt, and add cold water until the potatoes are just covered.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 13-15 minutes.
  2. Drain potatoes & garlic, return to the pot, and add butter.  Add a splash of heavy cream, buttermilk, and a dollop of cream cheese, another pinch of salt and pepper, and gently mash with a masher – I like my potatoes a big lumpy, and the garlic will fall right apart.
  3. Adjust seasoning and butter/cream/buttermilk to taste.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

There are about 4 million ways to make potatoes, and probably about a quarter of those are variations on mashed potatoes (I’m just spitballing here). However you choose to make them, I hope they taste like these – reminiscent of love and the start of something new. These went perfectly with the ribs Husband made me this past Easter, another Sunday evening.

This is my Mom’s Pork Loin.

I grew up in an incredibly food-rich household.  We sat down to dinner as a family every single night after my dad got home from work.  We said grace (because of or despite being Unitarians, not really sure).  And every single night, my mom made a fully balanced, completely delicious and nutritious meal, composed of vegetables, a starch and some protein.

I never ate it.  If you’ve been following along, you know I was a picky, word-class, non-eater.  I’d devour the starch (usually pasta, as I maintain an aversion to rice for whatever weird reason, even to this day), pick at the veggies, and that was that.

Did I mention my mom is a trained chef?

I’m sorry, Mom.  You were right.  Food is awesome.  Especially yours.

Mom’s Dijon and Tarragon Pork Loin with Roasted Broccoli

For the pork–

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin
  • Dijon mustard
  • fresh or dried tarragon
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream

For the broccoli– (inspired by my girl Ina, obvi.  You can do almost ANY vegetable this way, adjusting the time in the oven: Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cauliflower, you name it.  I was hoping for Brussels sprouts tonight, but they were just so…le tired looking at le Safeway.)

  • as much broccoli as you can stand, cut into florets
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • lemon zest
  • optional: lemon juice, basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese
  1. First, get all your veggies prepped.  If you time it right, you can have both of these dishes coming out of the oven around the same time.  Peel and chop your garlic, cut the broccoli, wash and (important!) dry the florets thoroughly.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a pan that can go from oven to stovetop, rub the pork loin all over with Dijon mustard, sprinkle tarragon, a bit of salt (not too much! there’s salt in the mustard) and a good amount of pepper over the loin.
  3. Spread your broccoli on a separate baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and the garlic.  Give it a good toss – don’t be afraid to use your hands.
  4. Put both the broccoli and the loin in the oven for 20-25 minutes.  Take out the broccoli when it starts to brown at the edges; take out the loin when just slightly pink in the center.
  5. Take the pork out of the dish and let it rest (don’t cut into it just yet).  In the same pan it cooked in, add wine and sour cream, bring to a boil on the stove and reduce.  Be careful not to let the sour cream burn.
  6. Toss the broccoli with lemon zest and Parmesan cheese.  Add a few squeezes of lemon juice, some basil and pine nuts if you please.
  7. Slice the loin, serve with the sauce and veggies.  Think about how fast, easy, and tasty your dinner is!
is it weird to love broccoli this much?
get your broccoli on.
this sauce is #killingit
this sauce is #killingit

The Verdict:

This was fast, easy, healthy, and tasty.  What more could you ask for?

More Martha: Super Simple Garlic-Roasted Chicken and Sauteed Broccolini

Back-to-back Martha nights.  Flipping through (one of her many) cookbooks this past weekend, I was drawn to a recipe so simple, so straightforward, I was surprised Martha bothered to devote two whole pages (granted, one is a full-blown, gorgeous picture) to it.  Could making tasty chicken be as simple as sticking it in the oven?  Martha: challenge accepted.

Super Simple Garlic-roasted Chicken Breasts

  • olive oil
  • 4 heads garlic
  • fresh rosemary (or oregano, or thyme, or whatever fresh herb you have)
  • 2 chicken breasts, rinsed and patted dry (I used skinless and boneless; this would probably be way better with both skin and bone intact)
  • salt & pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the tops off from the garlic heads and reserve them.  Arrange the tops, cut sides down, in the center of a baking dish.  Lay the herbs over the garlic, place the chicken over the herbs, and put another sprig of herbs over the chicken.
  2. Arrange the reserved bottoms next to the chicken in the pan.  Drizzle the chicken and the garlic with olive oil.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the chicken for 25 minutes or so, or until cooked through.  If you’re using skin-on breasts, continue roasting until the skin is browned and juices start to run clear – you’ll want to save the juice to drizzle over the top at the end.

Sauteed Broccolini with Lemon and Pine Nuts

  • 1 bunch broccolini (or broccoli, or broccoli rabe), ends trimmed
  • handful pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • crushed red pepper
  • salt & pepper
  • optional: parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil; cook the broccolini for about a minute, or until bright green.  Drain.
  2. Heat a medium saute pan over low-medium heat and toast the pine nuts until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the pan.
  3. Add olive oil and heat through.  Add the broccolini; toss with salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.  Cook about 3-5 minutes, until heated through but still crunchy.
  4. Toss the broccolini with pine nuts, lemon juice and parmesan cheese, if you so choose.
  5. Serve the chicken and broccolini with crusty bread – I drizzled a loaf with olive oil and rubbed the extra roasted garlic and heated it through.
not nearly as pretty as martha's picture, but it'll have to do.
not nearly as pretty as martha’s picture, but it’ll have to do.

The Verdict:

As an answer to the challenge, Martha, this was tasty, but I think you (and I) can do better.  Given I used skinless, boneless breasts, this would have been better with a sauce.  I thought about making one with white wine, the lemon juice and a little bit of butter, but somehow execution escaped me.  Luckily, both the Husband and I actually like chicken breast on the drier side (proof that there’s someone out there for everyone!).  I also feel the garlic went a bit wasted (just stuck there in the little garlic head packets?)- good thing roasted garlic is delicious on its own.  Unfortunately, the Husband likes that a little less than I do…