Cracked Peppercorn Pork Tenderloin with a Pineapple Chipotle Glaze

Picture by the Serving Wench

Picture by the Serving Wench

I will never be an artist. Ever.  My paintings or drawings are just glorified stick figures.  I get lucky with that one perfect photo, but that is after a million takes.  However, cooking is where I can just be me.  I zone out in the kitchen.  I love to entertain and feed others because there is that small part of me that I’m sharing with you.  There is a certain intimacy that comes from food.  There are times where an artist loses inspiration and for writer’s it’s called “writer’s block”.  What do they call it when a cook has lost his/hers touch?  I don’t have a name for it but it pretty much means get your butt back in the kitchen.  I’ve poured over many other food blogs, magazines, Pinterest boards, tweets and I envied the time and dedication they had.  Finally, it was like a light switched hit me (yes hit me, okay maybe I ran into it).  In a single moment I had remembered why I loved cooking so much and why baking is therapeutic to me.  Amongst the daily grind and the focusing so much on school and work that I forgot (essentially) about me.

Do what you love and never lose sight of who you are.  For when you do, everything you do thereafter, has no meaning or purpose.  Yes, it was a pretty gnarly run in with the light switch, to lead to an existential moment.  Inspiration and ideas starting flowing and so my kitchen is constantly a mess, my phone notepad app is filled with random ideas.  I’m sure some of the things I’ve thought are not original and that somewhere in this blogosphere there are replications of my ideas but hey, food is art.  The only thing that matters is how it makes you feel in the end.

Today’s post consists of a pork tenderloin seasoned with a cracked peppercorn blend.  You can find several different cracked peppercorn blends at your local grocery store. For this recipe, I chose a blend that contained onions, garlic, salt and peppercorn.  I’m fascinated by the fusion of sweet and spicy.  I thought a pineapple-chipotle glaze would be a good complement to pork.

Prep Time: Cooking Time: Difficulty: Serving Size:
5 min 1 hour Easy 4

INGREDIENT:

  • 1          1 lb. pork tenderloin
  • 2 TBS  cracked peppercorn seasoning
  • 1 can   (8 oz.) diced pineapples
  • 1 C      packed brown sugar
  • ½  tsp ground allspice
  • ¼ tsp  ground ginger
  • ½-1 tsp  ground chipotle peppers

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a baking pan with non-stick spray.  Season the pork tenderloin well and generously.  Cook the tenderloin between 35-50 minutes.  *Depending on the directions of the package for the tenderloin, cooking times and temperature will vary.
  2. To make glaze, combine all ingredients into a blender and liquefy.
  3. In a medium saucepan, bring mixture to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes (or until it thickens.)
  4. Turn off the heat and let it stand for 10 minutes.
  5. When pork is done, slice it up and serve on a plate and drizzle glaze on top.

Asian Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Cantaloupe Salad

IMG_0929Originally I found a version of this recipe in a magazine, and what really drew my interest was how easy it looked. For years I had been under the impression that cooking game hens was a lengthy process. I was delighted to discover that game hens can be found frozen in most grocery stores, usually for a cheap price. These glazed hens are delicious and can be easily made on a weeknight. I do recommend having butchers twine on hand in the kitchen, as well as purchasing your hens the day before so that they can defrost in the fridge overnight. Please enjoy these spicy, tangy, sweet and delicious hens!

Prep Time: Cook Time: Level: Serves:
25 min 40 min-60 min Intermediate 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cornish game hens, roughly 1 ½ lbs each, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons Asian chili sauce (Sambal Oelek brand can be found in most grocery stores)
  • ½ small cantaloupe
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 cucumber
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 500°. Thoroughly rinse off hens in cold water then pat dry. Season the hens all over with salt and pepper then truss with butchers twine. (If you need help trussing there are some great videos available on YouTube)
  2. Place hens in a roasting pan and roast in the oven for 15 minutes.
  3. While the hens are roasting, whisk the chili sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, olive oil and 2 teaspoons salt together. Set half on this chili mixture aside in a bowl to use on the salad.
  4. Baste hens with the remaining chili mixture, and then continue to cook until the hens register at 160° on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, which should take 20-30 more minutes.
  5. While hens cook, peel and thinly slice shallot and the cantaloupe.  Peel, seed and thinly slice the cucumber. Combine the cucumber, cantaloupe, shallot and toss with the remaining half of the chili mixture dressing.
  6. Once the hens are done, use kitchen shears to cut the twine and serve the hens with the salad, drizzle any juices from the roasting pan over the hens and salad as a finishing touch.
  7. Enjoy!

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Photo Taken by: Nicole Ramos

I hardly barbecue anymore, which is a shame.  I always associate barbeques with grilling and being poolside, because that was what summers were all about growing up.  Now as an adult, I find it hard to find time to fire up the grill, especially since most of the time I’m cooking for one.  However, this summer has been a real treat.  I’ve been able to hang out around the pool and flex my own grilling muscles (which need some flexing, if you ask me).  The trouble with barbecuing for one is, you have all this leftover bbq sauce, and I never know what to do with it.  It stays in my fridge for months and I end up tossing it.  To my great surprise, I didn’t realize how easy and fairly quick it was to make your own sauce at home!

I love this idea, because it allows me to control how much I need to make and I LOVE the idea for fresh ingredients and fresh sauces without any added preservatives.  This sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks, so making it ahead of time is ideal for those of you on time restrictions.  This recipe yields about a quart of sauce and has a sweet and tangy flavor.  The next time I make this, I plan on adding some liquid smoke because I love sweet and smokey flavored bbq sauces.

 

Prep Time: Cook Time: Level: Serves:
10 min. 35-40 min. Easy 1 quart

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 C          Ketchup
  • 1 C          tomato sauce
  • ⅔ C         brown sugar
  • ⅔ C         apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ C         molasses (unsulphured)
  • 1 TBS     butter
  • ¼ C         minced onion
  • 1 TBS     minced garlic
  • ¼ tsp     chili powder
  • ½ tsp     paprika
  • ¼ tsp     cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp     salt
  • ½ tsp     ground pepper
  • ½ tsp     Coleman’s mustard powder
  • ¼ tsp     ground cinnamon

DIRECTIONS:

  1. In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, sautéed butter, onions and garlic until the onions begin to sweat.
  2. Add in all the wet ingredients, and then add the seasonings.
  3. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. The sauce will thicken as it simmers (and then as it cools).
  4. The sauce will refrigerate for up to two weeks in an airtight container.

Beef Bulgolgi (Korean BBQ)

Photo taken by Nicole Ramos

I lived in Korea, on and off, since I was nine years old.  It was my mother that I learned the art of cooking and I found very early on that I had a passion for food.  In fact, my mom would argue I wasn’t really sick if I was still hungry, haha.  If I didn’t want to eat, she worried.  My mom was the kind of mom that wouldn’t let me out of the house without breakfast, made my lunches and always had a hot dinner ready every night.  I would watch my mom day in and day out put so much energy and care into what made.  To her, she was preparing meals for her family, to me it was an experience, from preparing the ingredients to creating a meal.  I never realized until I was older that food was such an important part of my Korean culture.  It brought the family together, neighbors bonded preparing for the day and even in this fast paced society, going out to eat is central to socialization.

Since then, I have prepared some of the dishes my mom taught me to my friends.  I have decided to share my mothers recipes with you.  If you’ve never tried Korean cuisine, I definitely recommend it and this dish should be the first you should try.

Serves:  4                              Level:     Easy                                        

 Cook Time:          5-10 mins.                     Marinate:  1hr.-overnight (in fridge)

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ lb  sirloin or rib-eye beef (thinly sliced)
  • 1  lg. onion
  • 4  green onions (cut in long strips)
  •  toasted sesame seeds (garnish)
  • shredded carrots (optional)
  • broccoli (optional)

Some people add vegetables like carrots and/or broccoli to their bulgolgi.  My mother never did this and neither do I, but I included it as an option.  I sometimes prepare a side of steamed vegetables, however Korean dishes/meals are served with a wide variety of side dishes (many vegetables).  Kimchi, being a staple at all tables and meals, I recommend trying if you’re not afraid of spicy!

Bulgolgi Marinade:

  • 2 TBS  garlic (minced)
  • 5 TBS  soy sauce
  • 3 TBS  sugar
  • 1 TBS  sesame oil
  • 1 TBS  Kirin sauce or rice wine
  • 1 lg      Nashi pear (Korean pear) *optional
  • ½ tsp   black pepper
  • ½ tsp  ground ginger

(*The Korean pear may not always be in season and can be large, so I recommend only using half and chill the other half, slice it up and enjoy.  Sweet like pears we know here in the States, but slightly different flavor.)

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients for the marinade together.  The marinade should not taste salty, but slightly sweet with a hint of the soy sauce flavor.   Add in beef, sliced onions & green onions. 
  2. Marinade for 1 hour (bare minimum 30 min.), like all marinades, the longer you do the better the flavor soaks in.
  3. Heat a large skillet or frying pan on medium-high heat.  Add the beef marinade mixture and stir fry until beef is cooked thoroughly.  .
  4. Be careful not to over cook the meat, as it will get tough.  Add toasted sesame seeds for garnish.

Can be served with a side of rice, or used in a lettuce wrap with Korean red pepper paste (gojuchang). 

**NOTE:  You find all of these ingredients at Asian specialty markets.  Although it may seem expensive at first to stock up.  These ingredients will last many dishes and many meals to come. **

Sesame Seed Vinaigrette

 

Photo Taked by Nicole Ramos

We all have our favorite salad dressings, and this is mine. My mother is an amazing cook, and I learned this recipe from her. I don’t know if people realize just how easy and fast salad dressings are to make. Plus, if you use fresh ingredients the flavors are brighter and you’ll know that the only ingredients in it are there by your design.  This dressing goes well with both savory and sweet salads, although I don’t recommend it on pasta salad (a failed experiment on my own).

Ingredients:
3Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon Mustard (ground preferably, the whole doesn’t have the same flavor)
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Instructions:

  1. In a pan, over medium heat, slowly toast sesame seeds until lightly brown, set aside to cool.
  2. Mix all ingredients.

Makes 4 servings