Cooking Ginger-Sesame Marinated Pork Loin With Sugar Snap Peas

My wife and I are hoping to get into a house in the relatively near future, so to get prepared for that added expense in our lives, we’re implementing a budget. This has altered how I tackle meals and groceries to an extent. I used to go to my sources first (cookbooks, websites, blogs, The Big Blue Binder, etc.), write out my list and go shopping. Now, I check the grocery store circular first to see what’s on sale, specifically in the meat section, and then create the menu around that.

That’s what lead me to pick up pork loin last week. From there I went through my recently organized Big Blue Binder and came across a recipe for Ginger-Sesame Marinade from Real Simple that would work well with that particular cut of meat. About four or five hours before dinner, I got the meat in a sealable bag and then mixed together 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon grated ginger, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 2 scallions cut with kitchen scissors and 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Combine those things, put the bag in the refrigerator and make sure to shift it about every now and then.

Since the actual Real Simple recipe just featured the marinade instructions, I went to my trust Betty Crocker Cookbook and looked around for some guidance. On page 255 I found the recipe for Italian Roasted Pork Tenderloin. I didn’t completely follow this, but it was certainly helpful. I got the oven going to 450 degrees and then got a cast iron pan super hot before putting the pork loin and some of the marinade in there. I seared the meat in the pan and then put it in the oven with my new electric thermometer aiming for 155 degrees. At that point I took it out and let sit on a rack — a trick I learned from watching David Chang and Anthony Bourdain’s excellent The Mind Of A Chef — which allows the air to hit all sides of the meat. After about 10 minutes, I sliced it up and served with some sugar snap peas my wife picked when she went strawberry picking with my daughter.

Unfortunately, we had some more refrigerator trouble after I made this so the majority of the leftovers had to get tossed, but before that we were treated to a salty, tangy bit of pork that was just delightful. My wife made herself a cuban with the meat for lunch the next day which gave me an idea to do a more Asian themed version of the cuban with kimchi, which I’ve never actually tried, so who knows if it would work? Maybe I’ll give that a shot next time I make this ridiculously simple, very tasty meal.

MacGyvering Thai-Style Lentil, Coconut & Green Bean Soup

Do you have a blindspot when it comes to a certain aspect of cooking? I do and it comes in the form of the slow cooker. For some reason, my mind always forgets to remind me that I need to actually get those dinners ready until there’s not enough time. With ingredients ready to go bad in the next few days and a need for a dish, I took to my trust copy of The Ultimate Soup Bible and did a little digging.

After looking up a few soups by ingredient, I realized I had most of what I’d need to follow the recipe for Thai-Style Lentil & Coconut Soup (p. 123), plus a bag of green beans, so I got to work. I had to make a few changes for this one. First off, I didn’t have sunflower oil, red onions, a Thai chili, lemongrass or cilantro so I swapped out for peanut oil, a yellow onion and shallot and omitted the rest.

I cooked two chopped onions, two cloves of garlic and the cleaned and broken-up green beans in some peanut oil for five minutes before adding 7 ounces of lentils (I had regular, not red), a teaspoon of coriander that I warmed and ground myself as well as a teaspoon of paprika. Then the can of coconut milk went in followed by 3 3/4 cups of water. I brought that to a boil and then simmered for 45 minutes. When that was done I added the juice from a lime and some sliced scallions. And thus a soup was born!

I’m sure the recipe as written has a much greater depth of flavor thanks to the additional heat from the chili (which I probably would have skipped anyway) and the lemongrass, but I thought this worked out pretty well for a quickly MacGyvered meal. For an extra bit of protein and saltiness, I put some lightly salted roasted peanuts on top of mine which helped round things out.

Cooking Nigella Lawson’s South Indian Vegetable Curry

I think it’s good to drop in a vegetarian meal about once a week or so. I have noticed, though, that those dishes tend not to go as fast as some of the other leftovers. I’m not sure what it is, but those kinds of meals — or at least the ones I’ve made — tend to be pretty good on the first day but don’t look so appealing after that. That was the case with Nigella Lawson’s South Indian Vegetable Curry (also seen on page 154 of Nigella Kitchen).

The idea behind this dish, which I didn’t really realize until after I bought all the ingredients and then decided to read the intro, is to use up a bunch of vegetables that you might have in your fridge that are getting close to heading south. I guess it doesn’t really matter, but I bought everything new and tossed it into the pot which might have made for more of the dish than we needed.

Anyway, the meal came out well enough. I must admit, I’m not overly familiar with curry. My wife bought some light and dark curry powder when she was over in Sri Lanka, so I know we’ve got some of the good stuff, but I’m a little nervous when it comes to messing around with that particular spice both because I don’t know it very well and partly because I don’t want to waste it. Like I said, it was good the first time around, but that yellow and green bowl of mush didn’t look super appealing sitting in the fridge. I probably didn’t give it enough of a shot, but I don’t know if I’ll be returning to this one…unless I have a bunch of veggies I need to cook before they go bad.

Cooking Giada De Laurentiis’ Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops

I’m not really sure why, but pork is second only to fish when it comes to proteins I have the least experience with. I try to keep my weekly menus well balanced, going with one beef dish, one vegetarian and not too much chicken, so I’m always looking for new ways to cook pig, which usually leads me to pork chop recipes. I can’t say exactly why, but that isn’t always the most thrilling prospect to me. However, when I came across Giada de Laurentiis’ recipe for Giada De Laurentiis’ Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops, I was pretty excited. Not only have I had really great luck with Laurentiis’ recipes lately, but I think it’s also hard to go wrong with parmesan-encrusted anything. It also helps that this is a really easy recipe to put together, especially if you already have bread crumbs on hand like I did.

Instead of the cup of Italian breadcrumbs mentioned in the recipe, I actually used the last of the rye ones I had leftover from making Ruben Mac & Cheese a while back. From there, it was just a matter of whipping a few eggs, grating 3/4 of a cup or so of Parmesan cheese and getting the pork chops out of the fridge. As these things tend to go, you dip the chop in the eggs, then the cheese and finally the bread crumbs before putting them in a pan with hot olive oil. Cook, flip, let cool and eat. I also steamed some green beans to go along with this dish.

I’ve got to say, I was really impressed with how good and flavorful these chops were. The parmesan really worked well with the rye breadcrumbs and made for a really simple dish that I can mostly make from items in my pantry. For all those reasons, this recipe gets the double thumbs-up.

Cooking Marinated Flank Steak, Baked Potatoes & Green Beans With Carmelized Onions And Almonds

A couple weeks ago, I found this recipe for marinated flank steak on AllRecipes.com, so I got everything I’d need for that at the grocery store. I had also picked up some green beans, but didn’t really know what I was going to do with them until I came across Tyler Florence’s recipe for Green Beans with Carmelized Onions and Almonds on FoodNetwork.com. I happened to have all the ingredients, so that worked out well. I also had some potatoes on hand and was able to put together Alton Brown’s super simple baked potato recipe. The pictures are far more organized than the actual cooking process. I got the steak marinade together first and put that in the fridge. Then I got the potatoes in the oven because they took an hour followed by the green beans which also took a while with the onion carmelization. Anyway, here’s a more specific rundown.

Like I said, the marinade was very easy to put together, so I got that done first and put the steak in it while I worked on the rest. I only had the three potatoes, so I did as Alton said, covered them in some oil and salt and tossed them right into the oven. The most work-intensive dish was the green beans and even those weren’t very hard to put together.

The first step was getting a pot of water boiling and blanching the green beans. I didn’t have quite the full three pounds the recipe calls for, but it didn’t turn into a problem. Anyway, in the same Dutch oven, I toasted the sliced almonds. I’m always leery about toasting nuts, so I go a little light on them, not wanting to burn anything. I think I did alright this time. Once those were done and removed, in went the olive oil, butter and onions and carmelization started, or something like it. Once that was done, the almonds and beans got put back in and all mixed up.

With 10-15 minutes left on the beans, I got the steak out, cut it in half and got them cooking on my cast iron grill pans (can’t wait to have an actual grill some day). Everything finished cooking around the same time, I nailed the done-ness of the steaks and we feasted on goodness. It’s been a while since I made this one, so I honestly can’t remember how good the marinade was, though I do remember loving this meal as a whole. It’s hard to compare because my mom always made me flank steak for my birthday using a different marinade, so that’s kind of ingrained in me. I do remember that the potatoes were great, basic, but spot-on. The green beans were fantastic, the saltiness of the onions mixed with the sweetness of the almonds and the crisp of the beans made for a wonderful combination, one that I will return to for sure.

Cooking Pan Fried Chicken & Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions & Green Beans

I originally planned on giving another Rachel Ray entree recipe a try last week, but the timing wound up not working out and I had to toss the turkey because I waited too long. I hate doing that, but I’m glad that it’s been a long, long time since it happened. Anyway, I still had the ingredients to make the side dish of Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions & Green Beans (2, 4, 6, 7 Great Meals For Couples or Crowds, page 157) and some frozen chicken and that was enough for a meal.

For the chicken, I basically cooked it the same way I did the poultry in the Chicken Milano recipe I made recently. I simply sprinkled it with salt and pepper and then cooked in a little bit of olive oil in a pan. Since I had the nice kalamata olive oil I got from Scarborough Fare, I used that and the chicken got a a really nice, crispy screen on it and tasted great. Sometimes it’s the simplest treatments of meat that accentuate their natural flavors and stay with you.

The Balsamic-Glazed Pearl Onions & Green Beans were a little bit more complicated, but not much. You get some water boiling in a pan. Once that’s done, you drop in the cleaned and trimmed green beans. Those go for a few minutes before draining. The same pan then gets some olive oil and the pearl onions (I forgot to defrost the ahead of time, so I ran them under hot water before cooking and then cooked a little longer than the recipe suggests). After those cook for a few, you add in some red wine vinegar, chicken stock, salt and pepper and reduce the liquid by half. Put the beans back in the pan along with some butter and you’re good to go.

I’m always looking for ways to prepare vegetables as sides that are more interesting than simply steaming them, which is what I usually do with green beans. This is a great alternative to that without adding too many extraneous or fatty ingredients aside from the butter. I also like the presence of the pearl onions, which I’m not sure if I’ve had before. I’ll definitely keep this in my repertoire for veggie sides because it’s pretty simple and reheats well for the next day’s meal.