strawberry buttercream

One of my favorite parts of birthdays as a kid was flipping through my mom’s stack of Wilton yearbooks to pick out my cake. I remember cakes shaped like treasure chests, dice (every guest got their own die), telephones, dollar bills, a whole scene with penguins and an igloo and a pond (that was my brother’s cake, two years in a row), so many others.

My mom, of course, used the Wilton buttercream recipe, a simple mixture of powdered sugar and solid fat (butter or shortening), with a bit of vanilla for flavor, milk to loosen it up, and meringue powder to help it set. This is what I knew as frosting as a kid; I loved it then and still do.

To some, it’s too sweet and it’s certainly grainy, and those people often prefer swiss meringue buttercreams, in which butter is mixed into a meringue built from egg whites and sugar. My first experiences with these weren’t great; I felt like I was eating lightly sweetened butter. Dorie Greenspan’s recipe, a lemon version, changed my mind, because it actually tasted like something.

Now I love both types of frosting (is there any horribly fattening food I don’t enjoy, I wonder?), although I always add at least a couple drops of lemon juice into my meringue buttercreams to brighten their taste. But this strawberry version might just take the cake. It’s light and smooth, like all meringue buttercreams, but it has plenty of flavor from all those strawberries. I don’t think anyone will be shaping this frosting into penguins anytime soon, but it might top my next birthday cake anyway.

One year ago: Bacon-Wrapped Goat Cheese and Almond-Stuffed Dates
Two years ago: Beer-Battered Fish
Three years ago: Cream Cheese Brownies

Printer Friendly Recipe
Strawberry Buttercream (adapted from Martha Stewart via Annie’s Eats)

The original recipe calls for fresh strawberries, but I prefer to use frozen strawberries when their texture isn’t important, because they’re available year-round and always picked at the peak of their ripeness.

1 cup strawberry puree (from 8 ounces frozen defrosted strawberries)
4 large egg whites
1¼ cups (8.75 ounces) sugar
Pinch salt
24 tablespoons (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar dissolves and the mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

2. Remove the bowl from heat and attach it to a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes. (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

3. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking well after each addition. With the mixer on low, whisk in the strawberry puree, mixing just until incorporated. Use immediately, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. (Bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth before using.)

This frosting topped Sky High’s Pink Lady Cake.

rhubarb crumb coffee cake

Did you know rhubarb has a second harvest in the late summer? It was news to me, but very happy news, as I’d missed the early spring crop in the busyness of starting a new job. Every time I saw rhubarb at the store, I thought, Next time. Next week. Next week I’ll have more time, more opportunities for baking, a rhubarb recipe I just can’t resist.

You know how this story ends. Finally, I said, Enough! I’ll make scones! I’ll shape the dough and freeze the scones to eat whenever the mood strikes! And then there was no rhubarb.

Taking pity on me, my friend in Tacoma sent me a jar of homemade strawberry rhubarb jam. And then another, bigger jar of strawberry rhubarb jam when the first didn’t last through a week. And then, finally, the perfect birthday present for someone like me: rhubarb from her garden.

After the freezer was stocked with scones, I still wanted rhubarb for breakfast. And I always want cake. Especially this one, with its fluffy and soft cake studded with sweet-tart rhubarb and topped with a layer of sugary crisp crumbs. I’m so grateful for that second harvest of rhubarb – and to friends who send me produce as gifts!

One year ago: Amaretto Cheesecake
Two years ago: Fruit Bruschetta

Printer Friendly Recipe
Rhubarb Crumb Cake (from Smitten Kitchen via the New York Times)

Serves 6-8

For the rhubarb filling:
8 ounces rhubarb, trimmed
¼ cup (1.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
½ teaspoon ground ginger

For the crumbs:
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) dark brown sugar
⅓ cup (2.33 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
⅛ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
1¾ cups cake flour

For the cake:
⅓ cup sour cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
½ cup (3.5 ounces) sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons softened butter, cut into 8 pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-square baking pan. For filling, slice rhubarb ½-inch thick and toss with sugar, cornstarch and ginger. Set aside.

2. To make crumbs in a large bowl, whisk sugars, spices and salt into melted butter until smooth. Stir in flour with a spatula or wooden spoon. It will look and feel like a solid dough. Leave it pressed together in the bottom of the bowl and refrigerate.

3. To prepare the cake, in a small bowl, stir together the sour cream, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream mixture and mix on medium speed until the flour is moistened. Increase the speed and beat for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sour cream mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition, and scraping down the sides of bowl with a spatula. Scoop out about ½ cup batter and set aside.

4. Scrape remaining batter into the prepared pan. Spread the rhubarb over batter. Dollop reserved batter over rhubarb; it does not have to be even.

5. Using your fingers, break the topping mixture into big crumbs, about ½-inch to ¾-inch in size. Sprinkle over cake. Bake cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean of batter (it might be moist from rhubarb), 45 to 55 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

roasted red pepper pasta salad with peas and beans

I had my doubts about this salad the whole time I was shopping for it, making it, testing it for seasoning, and serving it. But now, weeks later, my doubts are gone and I want some more. Except with better peas.

Most of the doubts came from an unsuccessful shopping trip for ingredients. Sometimes I complain after shopping at my regular grocery store, but in truth, I usually get by just fine with what I can find there. However, it is a 7-minute drive from my house. Walmart, while not my favorite place on earth, is a 2-minute drive. I tried to cut corners, and I paid the price. Walmart didn’t have whole wheat pasta, any sort of fresh pea or bean, frozen petite peas (which are sweeter and less starchy than regular peas), or shallots.

So, yes, frozen petite peas would be better than the larger starchy ones, and fresh peas are so fun, and I would love some sort of fresh beans, and yellow beans would add a nice contrasting color. But one change I was forced to make, skipping the shallots, actually worked out better I think, with some lightly pickled red onions adding tartness to the salad instead.

And even at its simplest, this salad is unique and interesting, with smoky sweet roasted red pepper dressing coating pasta, creamy white beans, and crisp vegetables. Plus I learned a valuable lesson about driving that extra five minutes to the regular grocery store, and how it’s worth every second.

One year ago: Sourdough Bagels
Two years ago: Danish Braids

Printer Friendly Recipe
Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad with Peas and Beans (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Deb based this salad on one she had in a restaurant, which also included yellow string beans, fava beans, fresh cranberry beans, among other wonderful bean types that simply aren’t available in small desert towns. I would have loved any or all of those, but the salad was wonderful at its most simple as well.

1 pound small pasta
salt
¼ red onion, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
4 ounces snow pea pods, ends trimmed, cut on an extreme diagonal
1 cup peas (from about 8 ounces with their shells, if you can find fresh)
1 (15-ounce) can great northern (or navy) beans, drained and rinsed
¾ to 1 cup Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette (recipe below)

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the pasta and 1 tablespoon salt and cook according to the package instructions. One minute before the pasta is done, add the peas. Drain the pasta and peas together.

2. Meanwhile, combine the onion, vinegar, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl; set aside for 10 minutes. When the pasta has cooled, add the remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly. Taste and add more salt if necessary, which it probably will be.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Makes about one cup of dressing

1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and seeded or the equivalent from a jar, drained
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus up to 1 tablespoon more
½ teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or vinegar if necessary.

pasta with asparagus and goat cheese

I feel like I used to have this room (my life), and it had some stuff in it; mostly stuff I liked (cooking, reading, teaching, gardening), although of course there were things I didn’t (cleaning). My main problem was that it was too empty. There was too much space, and I could never get it arranged in any pleasing way. It made me frustrated and unhappy, and I took less enjoyment even from the things I did like.

Then I added this huge, I don’t know, piece of furniture or some other room-dominating thing (a full-time job). And now the room is too full. I like it more overall, I just don’t know where to put everything. Some things I’m willing to give up (hours mindlessly spent searching the internet), but the rest I’m trying to rearrange. Where does exercise go? What about blogging? Keeping in touch with friends, spending quality time with my husband, learning new things? I know there’s room for them all, I just have to find out how to make it work.

I’m not going to stop cooking, obviously. But I will change the way I cook most nights of the week, keeping things simple. This dish, with only a handful of ingredients and one ingredient to chop, is a perfect example of how easy meals can still be tasty meals. This meal definitely fits into my crowded new room, and it leaves me plenty of space for exercise, a full day of work, a long chat with a friend, and even a batch of brownies. A life too full is certainly better than a life too empty.

Two years ago: Kung Pao Shrimp

Printer Friendly Recipe
Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

16 ounces pasta
salt and pepper
2 pounds slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut into 1- to 1½-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon
8 ounces soft goat cheese

1. Bring at least 6 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat. Add the pasta and 1 tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta until it is almost tender, about 2 minutes short of the package instructions. Add the asparagus and cook until it is crisp-tender, about 2 minutes. Reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta and asparagus.

2. Return the pasta and asparagus to the pot and add the oil, zest from the whole lemon, juice from ½ the lemon, goat cheese, a generous grinding of pepper, and ½ cup pasta cooking water; stir until the goat cheese melts. Taste and add salt (you’ll probably need some), freshly ground black pepper, and more lemon juice if necessary. If the sauce becomes thick and sticky, stir in more pasta cooking water.

tender shortcakes

Dave and I ate dessert first this weekend, but not in the fun-loving, live life to its fullest, carefree kind of way. More in the ‘it’s too hot outside to grill dinner until the sun goes down’ kind of way. 110 degrees, people. I told you I live in the desert.

But whatever, I got to eat strawberry shortcake for dinner, so I’m not complaining. With a tender biscuit, sweet berries, and silky whipped cream, what is there to complain about? Especially since we have air conditioning. Otherwise I have a feeling I’d be doing a lot of complaining, shortcakes for dinner or not.

Cathy chose this recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has it posted. I used cake flour for half of the flour and doubled the salt.

One year ago: Parisian Strawberry Tartlets
Two years ago: Strawberry Tart

I see a pattern here…

grilled artichokes

When it comes to groceries, I’m not particularly thrifty. I don’t know if my old grocery store (the much-missed Wegman’s) even had sales, and if they did, it wasn’t on anything I was buying. I see more sales at my new grocery store; I don’t plan my shopping around them, but I can’t always resist them either.

Fresh artichokes for 69 cents each! That is a deal that is not to be passed up, especially when I was keeping an eye out for some fancy sides to compliment my celebration lamb.

When Dave and I grill, we like to cook the whole meal on the grill, so I definitely wanted to grill the artichokes. Katie’s recipe uses the perfect approach, because the artichokes are steamed in foil packets first, and then unwrapped and seared over a hot flame. The artichokes end up both perfectly tender and decorated with beautiful grill marks.

Artichokes aren’t as time-consuming to prepare as I used to think, but they’re still pretty messy to eat. You remove individual leaves and scrape the meaty edible part off with your teeth, until you get to that delicious heart. Artichokes are good on their own, but they’re even better with a decadent dipping sauce; we used the sauce that was served with the lamb. It made a perfect compliment to perfect artichokes that accompanied a perfect meal.

Two years ago: Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Cannellini Beans

Grilled Artichokes (adapted from Good Things Catered)

Katie added extra lemon to the packets and served the grilled artichokes with cherry tomatoes. It makes for a beautiful presentation, but didn’t compliment the flavors I was serving these with. However, it serves as a great example of how easily this recipe can be adapted to the meal you’re serving.

Serves 4

8 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled
4 globe artichokes
salt and pepper
1 lemon, quartered
about 2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Prepare a two-level fire, where one side of the grill is hotter than the other.

2. Tear off four 12-inch pieces of aluminum foil. Place two cloves of garlic in the center of each square of foil.

3. Working with one artichoke at a time, cut the stem off and the top 1½ inches of leaves. Cut the sharp tips off of the outside leaves. Halve the artichoke and carve out the fuzzy purple choke. Place the artichoke halves in one square of foil, season with salt and pepper, squeeze one lemon quarter over it, and drizzle with about 1½ teaspoons of oil. Enclose the artichoke in the foil. Repeat with the remaining three artichokes.

4. Place the foil packets on the cooler side of the grill and cook, rotating occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, until the center of the artichokes are tender. Remove the artichokes from the foil and place, cut side down, on the hot side of the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes, until seared.

5. Serve immediately, with a dipping sauce if desired.

home corned beef

Can someone explain to me why the only way I can buy brisket in my tiny town is to get the whole brisket? (And why are there no dried currants? Or mini-cupcake liners?) I didn’t even know what a whole brisket looked like before last month. First off, it’s huge. Who needs to buy 15 pounds of meat at a time? Second, half of that 15 pounds is fat. I actually weighed the fat after I spent an entire hour aaaargh! trimming it off the brisket. An inch-thick layer of fat, yum.


monkey peeler for scale

And why is brisket so much more expensive to buy than prepared corned beef anyway? Corned beef is just seasoned brisket. I didn’t corn my own beef because I have a problem with the store-bought versions of corned beef; it’s just that…I can’t help myself. Homemade corned beef sounded fun.

I tried it a few years ago (back in the glorious days when I could buy pre-trimmed brisket in reasonable sized roasts), using Cooks Illustrated’s dry rub recipe. In that one, a mixture of salt and other seasonings is rubbed onto the brisket and left to set for several days. It was good, because it’s salty brisket, but I didn’t think it was significantly better than what I could buy.

I started out this time using Alton Brown’s recipe, which is a wet brine similar to what is often used for chicken. However, I balked when I was supposed to add 2 pounds of ice to 2 quarts of water to make the brine for four pounds of brisket. That seemed like an excessive amount of liquid per meat; I’m not sure I have the fridge space for all that. So I halved the liquid, but that means that my brine was far more concentrated, and the resulting corned beef was not-quite-inedibly salty.

I tried again (after all, I still had plenty of brisket in the freezer), dialing back the amount of salt by half. And what do you know? Perfection. Dave is already requesting more reubens, so it looks like I’ll use up 15 pounds of brisket after all.  Maybe next time I can get the butcher to trim it for me.

One year ago: Roasted Baby Artichokes
Two years ago: Red Beans and Rice

Printer Friendly Recipe
Corned Beef (adapted from Alton Brown)

6 to 8 servings

The use of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) is up to you. Its purpose is to make the meat pink; without it, it turns the purpley gray that you see in my pictures. Cooks Illustrated’s corned beef write-up reported chemical flavors whenever they used saltpeter, and I couldn’t find it anyway, so I left it out, and truthfully, I quite like the color of the meat at the end of cooking.

4 cups water
½ cup kosher salt
6 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon saltpeter (optional)
½ cinnamon stick, broken into several pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
4 whole cloves
4 whole allspice berries
6 whole juniper berries
2 bay leaves, crumbled
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
4 quarts ice
1 (4 to 5 pound) beef brisket, trimmed

Place the water in a 5-quart pot along with the salt, sugar, saltpeter (if using), and spices. Cook over high heat until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add the ice and let set the mixture until the ice is mostly melted. Once the liquid is cold, place the brisket in a 1-gallon zip-top bag and add the brine. Seal and lay flat inside a 9×13-inch pan. Refrigerate for 5 days, turning occasionally. After 5 days, remove the meat from the brine and rinse it under cool water. Cook using your favorite recipe. (I like to keep it very simple, just simmering the brisket in water for a few hours until it’s tender, adding potatoes, carrots and cabbage near the end.)

tortellini soup with carrots, peas and leeks

Copy of IMG_7222

It turns out that pea-picking is way more fun than strawberry picking. For one thing, it isn’t nearly as crowded. Shocking, I know, that strawberries are more popular than peas. There’s also nothing squishy lurking under the foliage, and the peas are plentiful and just demanding to be picked. And pick we did, far more than we needed for this soup.

Copy of IMG_7448

I know, it’s July, and you’re not interested in soup. Rest assured that I tried it both ways, and it’s just as good with frozen peas, so you’re free to wait until the weather cools down a bit. Either way, it takes all of 15 minutes to make. Even better, it covers all of your nutritional bases, making side dishes unnecessary, although we found that a chunk of crusty bread is a welcome addition.

Copy of Copy of IMG_7433

It comes together like any soup, starting with sautéing aromatics, adding broth, then tortellini, and finally the peas near the end. Pour it into bowls, top with some parmesan, and enjoy an assortment of light, spring flavors.

Copy of IMG_7457

One year ago: Cherry Rhubarb Cobbler

Tortellini Soup with Carrots, Peas and Leeks (from Fine Cooking, November 2006)

I doubled, or maybe even quadrupled the carrot. Also, the second time I made it (when I took photos), I didn’t have leeks, so I had to use red onion instead.

2 medium leeks (12 ounces untrimmed)
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
½ medium carrot, peeled and finely diced (2 tablespoons)
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
5 cups low-salt canned chicken broth
8 ounces frozen cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas
¼ cup (½ ounce) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano

1. Trim the roots and dark green leaves from the leeks. Slice the white and light green part in half lengthwise and then slice the halves thinly crosswise. Rinse well and drain.

2. Melt the butter in a 4-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, leeks, and carrot. Season with a couple pinches of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes. (It’s fine if the vegetables brown lightly.) Stir in ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook for about 20 seconds, then add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook for 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the peas. Continue to simmer until the tortellini are cooked, 3 to 5 minutes.

3. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Portion the soup into warm bowls, top each with some of the cheese, and serve.

Copy of IMG_7223

strawberries and cream pie

copy-of-img_6404

Those U-pick places tend to be better in theory than in practice for me. I do like knowing that my food is picked at its peak ripeness. It makes for some wonderfully sweet strawberries. On the other hand, ew, bugs. And thorns, and rotting berries that you can’t see under all the leaves and you don’t find until you reach under to grab for a nearby berry and squish!

copy-of-img_6327

Not that you shouldn’t try it! Or you could just buy the pre-picked cartons in the farm store right nearby.

copy-of-img_6341

It was worth it in the end though, because I love this pie. I’ve managed to make it once each spring since I found the recipe. And Dave and I managed to eat three-quarters of it within 24 hours this year! That’s something to be proud of.

copy-of-img_6393

The thing is, I can’t resist cheesecake batter (sugary cream cheese!), and that’s mostly what this pie is. Cream cheese is mixed with sugar and a bit of almond extract, then whipped cream is folded in to lighten it. (I love when heavy cream is used to lighten something.)  The cream filling is topped with strawberries, which are kept whole for maximum visual impact, and then a bit of dark chocolate is drizzled over the top for some contrasting color and flavor.

copy-of-img_6402

You don’t need fresh-picked strawberries for this pie. The little raspberry-sized berries we picked made it a little easier to cut nice slices, but bigger strawberries require less hulling.  And anyway, it’s hard to mess up this pie, with the sweet, creamy filling topped with slightly tart strawberries and just a bit of bitter chocolate, all supported by flaky pie crust.  This is the only strawberry dessert I make a point to make every single spring.

copy-2-of-img_6419

One year ago: Poached Eggs with Arugula and Polenta Fingers

Strawberries and Cream Pie (adapted from Pillsbury’s Complete Cookbook)

Serves 8-10

You could definitely use the full cup of cream in the filling (which is what the original recipe recommends) if you have more cream around for the chocolate, but I didn’t and I kicked myself for not saving a bit of the 1-cup container of cream I’d brought. I used butter with the chocolate instead, but the chocolate hardened too much when it was cold and broke apart into shards when I cut slices.  Cream will keep it softer.

1 cup cold heavy cream, divided
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup (2.33 ounces) sugar
¼ to ½ teaspoon almond extract
1 pie crust for a 1-crust pie, completely baked and cooled
2 pints fresh whole strawberries, hulled
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1. In a medium bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment), beat 1 cup minus 1 tablespoon of the cream on medium speed. When the cream is frothy, increase the speed to high and whip until the cream holds firm peaks.

2. In a separate large bowl (or the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until it’s soft and creamy. Add the sugar and extract and continue beating until combined.

3. Fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the cream cheese to lighten the mixture, then add the remaining cream and continue folding until it’s incorporated. Evenly spread the cream mixture in the pie crust. Arrange the strawberries, pointed side up, over the filling.

4. Melt the chocolate with the remaining 1 tablespoon cream over very low heat, stirring constantly, or in the microwave on medium power, or in a double boiler. Drizzle the chocolate over the strawberries. Refrigerate the pie until set, about 1 hour.

copy-of-img_6413

pork tenderloin with rhubarb sauce

copy-of-img_6083

For years, before I had a food blog, I primarily cooked Cooks Illustrated recipes. I did worry about whether I was relying on them too much and if I was creative enough, but because I was making great food and learning useful tricks, I didn’t think too much of it. The main problem I had was that CI’s schtick is to perfect common recipes, so while I was making very good versions of familiar foods, I rarely tried unfamiliar flavor combinations.

copy-of-img_6056

To solve this problem, I bought their Restaurant Favorites at Home cookbook. And then I started a food blog, found other fun recipes to try, and this cookbook mostly got ignored. Feeling uninspired recently, I did a quick flip through it and lucked into something perfect – an opportunity to use rhubarb while it’s in season, plus a type of meat that I underutilitize.

copy-of-img_6057

Pork tenderloin seems underappreciated, considering that it’s the pig version of filet mignon. Plus one tenderloin is such a perfect serving size for two people, and it’s easy to cook. Season, set in a hot pan, flip. Then maximize flavor by using the fond in a sauce – a sauce with reduced port and rhubarb.

copy-of-img_6070

As much as I do like sweet sauces with pork, the ratio of rhubarb to meat was too much for me. I’d prefer about half of the amount of sauce because it overpowered the meat. The other, less important, change I needed to make was to cook the rhubarb for a lot less time, previous to adding it to the rest of the sauce ingredients. Reaching the recommended “softened but still retains its shape” texture took about half the time as the recipe implies.

copy-of-img_6081

With those very easy adjustments, this was a simple and elegant seasonal main dish. I love rhubarb, so I’m happy with any chance I get to eat it, and especially with one of my favorite cuts of meat.

copy-of-img_6087

One year ago: La Palette’s Strawberry Tart

Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Sauce (from Cooks Illustrated’s Restaurant Favorites at Home)

6 servings

This is the original recipe. Next time I make it, I’ll halve the rhubarb and the sugar (using 3 stalks of rhubarb and 6 tablespoons of sugar) and keep a close eye on the rhubarb while it cooks in Step 1, counting on it being tender after about 15 minutes of cooking. Also, I found it unnecessary to pound the meat – I just squashed it down a bit.

6 large rhubarb stalks, cut into ½ inch dice (about 4 cups)
¾ cup sugar
3 small pork tenderloins (12-16 ounces each, for a total of 2.5-3 pounds), trimmed of silver skin and excess fat
salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
½ cup ruby port
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1. Cook the rhubarb and sugar together in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat until the rhubarb has softened but still retains its shape, 25-35 minutes.

2. Cut each pork tenderloin crosswise into six 2-inch-thick slices. With a cut side facing up, lightly pound each slice into a round ¾-inch-thick medallion. Season the medallions generously with salt and pepper.

3. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a 12-inch skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat until just smoking. Lay 9 medallions in the pan and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the medallions and cook on the second side until lightly browned and nearly cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes longer. Transfer to a clean plate and keep warm in the oven. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining 9 medallions. Transfer to the plate in the oven.

4. Add the port and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the port is thick and syrupy, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and any accumulated rhubarb juices and return to a simmer. Simmer until the mixture is thick and has reduced to about ½ cup, about 12 minutes. Stir in the rhubarb mixture and any accumulated juices from the pork medallions and heat through, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange 3 pork medallions on each of 6 individual plates and spoon about ¼ cup of the rhubarb sauce over the top. Serve immediately.