Cider and Sage Pork Loin

As you may’ve noticed, I eat a lot of bacon.  But, otherwise, I am not a huge fan of pork. I’m always trying to find ways to incorporate it into dinner dishes that don’t leave me “meh.”

The boy harvested a bumper crop of herbs from our allotment this week, and I had a lot of sage to get through.  And we always have beer on hand (I’ve been on a cider kick for the past few months).  So I threw this together, and it was so delicious, I had to share. The pork turned out perfectly tender and succulent, and paired nicely with the sweet and tangy sauce.

It’s also super quick! From prep to plate should take a half hour—another great recipe for weeknights.

We used organic Niman Ranch sliced pork loin from Wheatsville; a mixture of homegrown and frozen organic green beans; fresh sage; and prepared, low sodium, organic chicken broth.

For a twist, you might try substituting coconut milk for the sour cream, and cilantro for the sage! It’s also tasty served over a bed of rice.

1 lb. sliced pork loin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tsp olive oil, halved
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
~2 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider (alcoholic or non)
1/2 chicken broth
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 heaped Tbsp sour cream, plus more for garnish if desired
fresh sage leaves for garnish

1. In a large skillet (preferably cast iron), heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium heat. Add pork, salt, and pepper. Turn pork over in oil mixture so that both sides are coated with salt and pepper. Cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through, turning once or twice; cooked pork turns light grey.

2. Remove the pork and set aside in a warm spot; I take the medallions out when they are just done and put them in a smaller pan, covered, over low heat on another burner. For this recipe, I threw in a drizzle of olive oil and the green beans, so that they would be lightly steamed and absorb some of the pork juices. You might also simply wrap the pork in foil and set aside.

3. Add remaining olive oil, onions, and chopped sage to the original pan. Cook for just two minutes over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk vinegars, cider, broth, and mustard in a measuring cup. Add to pan. Stir thoroughly and bring to a boil.

4. Reduce heat to simmer and stir thoroughly. Remove pan from heat and stir in sour cream.

5. Plate pork (and any vegetables, as applicable) and pour sour cream and sage mixture over the medallions. Garnish with additional sage leaves (and, if you’re a sour cream fiend like me, a dollop of sour cream!), and serve immediately.

Serves 2-4.

Pecan-Stuffed Delicata Squash

It’s decorative-gourd-eating season!

So, I had these two Delicata squash.  I had a bag full of pecans.   I had a handful of freshly-picked sage from our garden.  And I had a little sour cream that was about to go off (do we say that in America, or is that a Britishism I’m still saying, to everyone’s bemusement?).

Lucky for you, I created this recipe, which I’m earmarking for re-use at Thanksgiving.  It would make an excellent main for vegetarian guests, and could be easily veganized by substitution tofu-based faux sour cream for the real thing and skipping the egg.  I might add some breadcrumbs if I was making it vegan, too.

This dish is rich enough for an entrée, but would also make a delightful surprise served alongside a plainer chicken or turkey main.  It’s hard to beat the combination of parmesan, sage, and nuts!

So autumnal, y’all.  It was 63 degrees this morning (when I had to go for a walk instead of a swim!), so this recipe was perfect for dinner.  I hope you like it as much as we did.

2 Delicata squash
2 Tbsp butter
2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
~1 Tbsp fresh sage, roughly chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 black pepper
1/3 cup sour cream
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook for about five minutes, until translucent and fragrant. Add sage, salt, and pepper. Stir, and cook for about one minute. Add pecans, stir again, and remove from heat.

2. Slice each squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds. Delicata squash are some of the easiest to work with, and the pulpy center is perfectly sized for a tablespoon! Place each of the four halves, skin-down, on a cookie sheet or shallow roasting tin lined with foil. Set aside.

3. In a medium-sized bowl, mix beaten eggs, sour cream, pecan mixture, and Parmesan, reserving a little of the cheese for garnish. Spoon into each of the squash halves, so that each has about the same amount of stuffing. Sprinkle with a tad more Parmesan.

4. Bake for 45 minutes (or until squash is soft and easily pierced with a fork). The cheese should be slightly browned when done.

Serve immediately, either as a main or a side dish (one squash half per person should be enough as a side).

Serves 2-4.

Pizza Eric

This recipe was inspired by the Pizza Sagra at—you guessed it—Sagra Trattoria and Bar. Now that Eric has mastered the fine art of a crispy thin crust pizza, we decided to try one at home, complete with our not-so-secret favorite ingredient: eggs!

The first time I ever encountered the eggs-on-a-pizza thing was at Pizza Express, a chain in the UK. Their Fiorentina pizza with spinach, grana padano, garlic oil, black olives, and a cracked egg blew my mind. This is how unsophisticated my palate was! So, you see, I’ve actually come a long way! (Besides, I never said I was a role model.) And now I’ve convinced Eric that eggs are the ultimate pizza-perfecting ingredient.

At a loss as to what to name this one, and considering that it includes some of his other favorite inclusions (like fresh kale and homegrown herbs), I’ve decided to christen it simply “Pizza Eric.”

First, make Eric’s Easy Pizza Dough.

Pizza Eric
Dough (as prepared ahead, above)
6 oz. tomato paste (small can)
1 tsp fresh chopped oregano
two eggs
fresh mozzarella, too taste*
1 cup shredded kale
1/3 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved***
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 300°. Meanwhile, drizzle one half of the olive oil on the pizza stone and spread with your fingertips.

2. Next, take the ball of pre-made dough in your hands, and spread it out on the stone so that it covers the whole thing thinly and evenly, curling up at the edges. You can make the crust as thin or as thick as you like, but for this recipe (and according to my personal taste), you will want to spread it comparatively thin.

3. Once dough is evenly spread on the stone, bake it in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes.

4. Remove the stone from the oven and turn up the heat to 425°. Meanwhile, spread the remaining olive oil evenly over the dough using a spoon. Next, spread tomato sauce. Crack the two eggs over the pizza, and add oregano, salt, and pepper as desired. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

7. Remove the stone from the oven; add mozzarella, basil, and kale, and return entire to oven. Bake at 425° until the crust is brown and crispy around the edges and the center looks firm.

9. Carefully remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle the parmesan over it, and let it cool for a few minutes. Cut with a pizza cutter or wheel, then serve immediately.

You won’t have any leftovers.

*Enough to cover the pizza, as desired. Here, we used a couple of mozzarella balls, sliced and spread out over the pizza. You could grate it if you prefer.

Creamy Garlic Zucchini Soup

Over the weekend, my household gardener and brewmaster (a.k.a. Eric) met up with a chicken-keeping pal to trade some homegrown produce. In exchange for a bag full of jalapeños and habaneros and a nice bunch of fresh herbs, we got six eggs and the Largest Zucchini Ever. This zucchini was seriously about two feet long and weighed at least ten pounds! Eric took half of it to a Memorial Day pool party and grilled it in thick slices; I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with the rest.

I don’t really get tired of squash—especially zucchini—and I’m glad it’s zucchini season. You can roast them, grill them, use them as filler, make them into soups, put them in pasta—the possibilities are nearly endless, and they are healthy and filling. But I am kind of afraid to see what size zucchini we’ll be getting from this guy by August!

Anyway, this soup is easy, not requiring a lot of prep work, and the result is shockingly rich and quite silky! I would encourage you not to peel your zucchini; leaving the skin on adds to the nice green color, as well as providing additional nutrients.  Sometimes leaving the skin on gives the final dish a bit of a bitter aftertaste, but, in this case, that’s more than compensated for by the half stick of butter.

What?

I also highly recommend making the sourdough croutons. The rich, tangy flavor of the bread, especially after it’s toasted in olive oil, is an excellent counterpoint to the fresh, creamy flavors of the soup. The addition of the croutons transformed this from a great dinner into a memorable one that I will no doubt make again soon.

Especially if I get anymore ten-pound zucchini!

Creamy Garlic Zucchini Soup

6 cups zucchini, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil, halved
~1 tsp garlic powder
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 tsp paprika
~ 2 cups roughly chopped greens*
salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
3-4 slices sourdough bread (stale is perfect!), roughly cut into 1″ squares

1. Preheat oven to 325°. In a large roasting tin, toss diced zucchini in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, along with the garlic powder and some salt and pepper. Roast for about 30 minutes, turning the pieces over with a spoon about halfway through.

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining olive oil and butter over medium high heat in a large stock pot. Add onions and garlic, stir, and cook for about five to ten minutes, until onions are fragrant and translucent. Add celery, paprika, and a dash of salt and pepper, and cook for another five minutes. Pour in vegetable broth. As soon as it starts to lightly boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover, and allow to cook for approximately 20 minutes.

3. Remove zucchini from oven and add to pot. Stir thoroughly, and allow to cook for about five more minutes. Meanwhile, add the sourdough squares to the pan, toss in remaining oil and juices, and spread out evenly. Return the pan to the oven and cook for about three minutes, until nicely browned, then remove and set aside.

4. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool slightly (for about five minutes). Add greens, then pour the soup into a blender (you will need to do two separate batches) and blend to desired consistency. I prefer this soup very creamy, so I blend for about three minutes on a higher setting like “cream” or “purée.” After all your soup is blended, return it to the pot and stir in cream. Taste, and add more salt and pepper as desired.

5. Ladle out into serving bowls and garnish with the sourdough croutons. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. Reheats nicely to make even tastier leftovers, and also freezes well.

* I used homegrown green leaf lettuce.

Refreshing Homemade Fruit-Infused Green Iced Tea

3-6 tsp loose green tea leaves or 3-6 bags, to taste*
1 lemon sliced
1/2 an orange, sliced
handful of fresh mint leaves
1 Tbsp raw honey

You will also need a large pitcher and about 2 cups of ice.

1. Bring a full kettle of water to a boil.  If you don’t have a kettle, use a regular pot on the stovetop.

2. To steep the tea, you can do one of three things: you can either place bags of tea directly in your kettle or pot; you can pour the boiling water into a separate kettle or pitcher and then add the bags; or you can use a tea strainer or ball strainer for loose leaf tea.  We use a lovely little cast iron Japenese tea pot with a built-in strainer that my out-laws gave us when we moved in together.  Steep the tea for at least ten minutes.  If using tea bags, remove them from the tea and discard.  Add honey and stir vigorously until it is dissolved.  Allow tea to cool a bit, say for about another ten to fifteen minutes.

4. Meanwhile, pour the fruit and mint into your pitcher.  When the tea is cooled, add the ice to the pitcher, and then pour the tea over it.  Stir to mix in fruits and mint.  Refrigerate immediately.  Allow to cool further in the refrigerator–for at least 30 minutes.

5. Serve over ice, adjusting the amount depending, again, on how weak or strong tea you like your tea.  I like mine stronger and with a bold tea flavor; the boy likes his weaker and with more ice, as he finds it more refreshing.

*Use more or less to taste, depending on how strong you like your iced tea. Here, we used loose leaf green tea with mango.