Monday, October 11, 2010

Local Ingredients: from the side of my grandma's house

I love it when I just happen across recipes using random ingredients I already have. Was this recipe designed with the current contents of my fridge in mind?

Of course not, but it's a really convenient coincidence.

My parents came up a couple weeks before I made the recipe below, and they brought me a big grocery bag full of catawba and concord grapes from my grandma's house, which is essentially covered on 1 and a half sides by grape vines. As a child, I have no memories of the grapes, aside from them being there, and the dining room reflecting the exterior wall with a grapevine wallpaper. I don't remember picking or eating them until I was a freshman in college, and picked a mess of grapes that were different than any I'd ever had before- I'm used to the seedless green and red grocery store varieties, which are as unlike grandma's house's grapes as mangoes from apples- they're both tasty, but they're completely different, and one of them has a really tough skin.

In the following recipe, I used catawba grapes. My parents brought be both concords and catawbas, but mostly catawbas, so I ate all the concords. Both these varieties of grapes have seeds: concords have very bitter, hard seeds that I prefer to spit out, but catawbas had 2-4 small seeds that aren't quite as hard, and are mostly tasteless. So essentially, you can happily eat the seeds of the catawba. However, that being said, it is a little annoying to eat a dish with lots of grape seeds, so matter how tasteless they are. And I did not seed the grapes. Why, you ask? Because I couldn't figure out how, without ruining the perfectly round grape. So, if you have any pointers, I'd love to hear them.

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes and Shallots
from Blue Kitchen

4 shallots, peeled cut in half
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1-1.5 lb pork tenderloin
1T dried sage
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
2-1/2 cups grapes

Preheat oven to 375F. Place shallots in a small baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and bake for 15 minutes. (This is all you need the oven for, the rest of the meal is cooked on the stove top.)

Rub the pork with olive oil and salt and pepper. Wash and destem the grapes, and toss with a little olive oil.

In a large skillet/pan (I used my LC braiser) over medium-high heat, heat 1T olive oil. Add the pork, and brown on all sides, about 2min per side. Remove the pork and set on a plate.

Add the garlic and sage to pan, cook for a minute while stirring. Add the chicken broth and remove from heat. Place the pork back in the pan, carefully arrange the shallots around the pork (after being roasted, they may want to fall apart) and add the grapes around the pork. Cover and cook over medium-high for 10 minutes, then uncover and cook 10-15 minutes more, until pork reaches 155F at the thickest part. (During the uncovered cooking time, I poked around a bit with a wooden spoon, so make sure things weren't sticking to the bottom of the pan.)

Remove pork from pan, and let rest 5-10 minutes. Cut and serve with shallots, grapes, and liquid from the pan.

We all found this dish to be delicious. It's like savory grapes, with pork, and we love pork with fruit flavors. I actually served this when a friend came over for dinner, and he's an easy-going guy and too polite to ever say anything, but I was a little embarrassed about underestimating the crunch of the grape seeds. Oops! Then, to make matters worse, I served the pork along withthe following sauteed spinach recipe, which I reduced by 1/3.... except for the salt, which was the full amount. It was very salty spinach!

Ina's Garlic Sauteed Spinach
from the Food Network

(for the full recipe)
1.5 lbs fresh spinach
2T olive oil
2T minced garlic (6 cloves)
2t kosher salt
3/4t black pepper

optional: 1T butter, lemon juice

Rinse the spinach, and half-heartedly dry (as in, a little water on the leaves is ok).

Heat the olive oil in a very large pot, add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the spinach, salt and pepper, toss around and cover the pot, and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover the pot, cook for another minute, until the spinach is wilted, and place in a serving bowl. Optional: top with butter and lemon.

Have you ever wondered how much spinach cooks down? theoretically I know, but I'm still always surprised.

Crazy, huh?

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