Memorial Day ~ Lime Marinated Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Tomato, Mint and Watercress Salad and Lemon Blini with Raspberry Sorbet

Cheers and thank you to all of the members of our military, past and present!

I attended one of my favorite Williams-Sonoma technique classes this weekend, which featured recipes for Memorial Day. They are free cooking classes held almost every Sunday before the store opens, and you get to taste the creations after they are made. I would highly recommend checking them out! I had a whole Memorial Day menu already figured out, but the samples were so tasty at the class that I changed my mind. We had lime marinated pork tenderloin medallions over a tomato, mint and watercress salad and lemon blini with raspberry sorbet. A very summery menu to kick off the unofficial start of summer! 🙂 This is my take on the recipes I learned. As usual, I tried to make them a tad healthier. For example, I used less salt in the marinade, quite a bit less olive oil for the dressing and more veggies than called for. In the dessert, I used skim milk instead of whole.

 

Lime Marinated Pork Tenderloin Medallions with Tomato, Mint and Watercress Salad

1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed of any excess fat

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 tablespoons light olive oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

Small garlic clove, minced

2 tablespoons finely minced onion

2 oz chicken stock

1 oz red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 oz extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups cubed tomatoes (bite size)

2 cups watercress

2 tablespoons fresh mint

2 tablespoons toasted slivered almonds

Cut the pork into uniform medallions, about 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, and place in a baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk the coriander, cumin, lime zest and juice, olive oil, salt, garlic and onion. Pour the marinade over the pork, mix well so every piece is coated, cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 375

Preheat an oven proof grill pan over medium heat. Remove the pork from the marinade, and reserve the remaining marinade. Grill the pork on the preheated pan, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the pan to the oven, and finish cooking for about 6 minutes, or until cooked through.

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the pork to a platter to rest under a tent of tin foil. Add the remaining marinade, stock, vinegar, and honey to the pan and simmer together until it is reduced by one third on the stovetop. Whisk in the extra virgin olive oil.

Mix the tomatoes, watercress, mint and almonds in a large bowl. Toss the warm dressing into the salad and serve with the pork on top.

Serves 2

Lemon Blini with Raspberry Sorbet

1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese

1/2 cup skim milk

1 full egg (separated) and 1 egg white

2 tablespoons sugar

Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon baking powder

Two pinches of salt

Store bought raspberry sorbet

In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, milk, egg yolk, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice until the mixture is smooth. Sift the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt over the ricotta mix and stir until everything is combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they are frothy. Add one more pinch of salt to this, and continue whisking until you have soft peaks.

Fold 1/3 of the egg whites with a spatula into the ricotta mix, and then gently fold the remainder of the whites in.

Preheat a pan over medium low heat and spray with cooking spray. 1 tablespoon at a time, drop the mixture onto the preheated pan. (This will make each blin about 3 inches in diameter.) Make sure not to crowd the pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side, until golden on the outside and cooked through.

Serve with small melon ball sized scoops of raspberry sorbet for a nice compliment to the mildly sweet lemony pancakes.

Serves 2, with leftovers

By the way, I’d like to note that I’m normally not a huge watercress fan. I find it too peppery and strong for my taste. But this dressing mellows out the flavor, so I actually enjoyed it! I think I’ll be eating more of this vegetable in the future with this new recipe. I’d recommend trying it if you find you steer away from peppery greens like I do.

I should also mention these aren’t technically blini, which are made of buckwheat flour and often served with caviar. But these are sweet little dessert pancakes along the same lines as that classic. Whatever you call them, I hope you enjoy!

Happy Easter! Homemade Bread

Happy Easter! This Easter Sunday I decided to try my hand at a homemade loaf of bread since bread and Easter naturally go together. My first try with a different recipe didn’t go so well, but my second with the recipe below turned out better than I had hoped! It still amazes me when I put something in the oven and it transforms into something yummy. The wonders of cooking science! We really thought it tasted like something from a fine artisan bakery. This recipe is adapted a little from Bon Appétit magazine. The original can be found at Epicurious.com. It really isn’t that hard to make…Just a little bit time consuming. But really, is there anything quite as inviting as fresh baked bread? 🙂

Sesame and Sunflower Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 envelope dry yeast

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 egg (separated)

1/2 cup cracked wheat (also called bulgur wheat) or bran

2 teaspoons salt

1 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (approximately)

1/2 cup sunflower seeds (shelled)

2 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds

1 tablespoon water

2 teaspoons rolled oats

2 teaspoons caraway seeds

2 teaspoons fennel seeds

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

(Or whatever other seeds you have on hand that you think might go well on top of the loaf)

Combine 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour and the yeast in a large bowl. Heat milk, honey and sesame oil in a saucepan over medium heat until it feels very warm to the touch, but not too hot to put your finger in. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir in egg yolk, remaining 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour, bulgur wheat or bran (whatever choice you are using), and salt. Mix in enough all-purpose flour a little at a time to form a soft, slightly sticky dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface about 10 minutes, adding more all-purpose flour if it is very sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl. Add the dough, turning to coat the entire surface. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let it rise in a warm draft-free area until it has doubled in volume. (About 1 3/4 hours).

Grease a cookie sheet. Punch the dough down. Mix in the sunflower seeds and 2 1/2 tablespoons of sesame seeds. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it is smooth. Divide the dough in half. Pat each half into 1 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Cover and let them rise again in a warm draft-free area until they are almost doubled in size. (About 1 1/4 hours).

Preheat your oven to 375. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the mixture over the loaves. Sprinkle oats, fennel seeds, poppy seeds, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, or whatever seeds you choose to use on top.

Bake until the loaves are brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 40 minutes.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I made a batch of festive chocolate Guinness cupcakes to celebrate one of my favorite holidays. I started with a recipe from the Food Network, and I switched it up a bit to make it a little healthier. These make a lot of cupcakes, but this recipe also divides in half nicely. Then you’ll just have half a bottle of beer to finish while you bake. 🙂 (If you decide to go this route, use a full egg and one egg white.) Or, the cupcakes also freeze well, so you can keep them for quite a while if you decide to make the full batch. These have actually become a favorite at our house even when it isn’t anywhere close to St. Patrick’s Day. I hope you like them as much as we do!

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes

3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

2 cups sugar

2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 bottle or can of Guinness

1/2 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

3/4 cup non-fat sour cream

Before you begin, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the cocoa, sugar, flour and baking soda in a large bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl, blend the Guinness, oil and vanilla. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and blend until incorporated. Then mix in the sour cream. Gradually mix the dry blend into the wet blend. Spray 24 muffin tins with cooking spray and divide the batter equally. Bake for about 12 minutes, rotate the pans, and bake for another 12 minutes. They should have a nice little dome and be set in the middle.

Sprinkle with a fine dusting of powdered sugar if you wish.

These go very well with a glass of green sparkling wine. 🙂 Again, we chose what has become our sparkling wine of the year, Sofia Blanc de Blancs. It is so fun to be able to pick up just one or two little individual cans at the store when we are having a festive moment. Sláinte!

Our Favorite Homemade Crackers

One of my favorite things to do with my husband is to make homemade crackers. We have a tag team system where I make the dough, he rolls it out and I apply the final toppings. Then we watch a movie while we wait for them to bake, savoring the aroma that wafts through the house. It’s a really cozy way to have a date at home on a cold and rainy night. 🙂

Our Favorite Tomato, Oregano and Parmesan Crackers

1 cup and 1 tablespoon whole-wheat pastry flour

¾ cup and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon table salt

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon tomato paste

½ cup and 2 tablespoons water

Grated Parmesan and dried oregano for sprinkling on top

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together except for the Parmesan and oregano. (I find that kneading it together with my hands is a bit messy, but it works the best.) Then roll out little pieces of the dough as thinly as possible on a lightly floured surface. Place the very thin dough in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (This will make enough crackers to cover about 6 baking sheets, so we do them in a few separate batches.) Sprinkle the crackers with a little grated Parmesan and dried oregano to taste. Bake for 12-18 minutes, depending on how thin you were able to make the crackers and depending on your oven. (Just watch them very closely because they are easy to burn.) They are done when they are golden and crispy.

I hope you like them as much as we do!

Valentine’s Day/Chinese New Year ~ Moo Shu Pork and Homemade Fortune Cookies

This year Valentine’s Day (and our engagement anniversary) and Chinese New Year happened to fall on the same day, so we celebrated everything together with a romantic Chinese dinner at home. I love to celebrate holidays from all over the world in my own little way. It gives me one more way to spice things up with special moments. Who can’t use another reason to celebrate in the dark winter months? I tried two new recipes, and I would recommend them both if you would like a quiet night at home with Chinese take-in ~ Moo shu pork and homemade fortune cookies. It was an adventure in the kitchen, and I now have a greater appreciation for what my favorite local Chinese restaurant does after trying these dishes! The dishes were a little healthier since I could control the salt, cuts of meat, etc. Plus, we could make our own personal fortunes for each other to open, which was a fun bonus of making our own fortune cookies. (Is it cheating if you write your own fortunes?) 🙂 The first recipe I tried was Moo Shu Pork. The original recipe was from my favorite Cooking Light magazine, and it can be found at MyRecipes.com. I used simple cremini mushrooms instead of shiitake and wood ear to save quite a bit of money. But other than that detail, I followed the recipe pretty closely since it was already a lightened version of the dish.Moo Shu Pork2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

2 tablespoons sake

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 (1 1/2-pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed of excess fat, and cut into 1 x 1/4-inch strips

4 ounces sliced cremini mushrooms

1/2 cup sliced green onions

3 tablespoons minced garlic (about 12 cloves)

2 tablespoons fresh ginger grated on a Microplane

3 tablespoons sake

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage stalks

4 cups thinly sliced napa cabbage leaves

2 tablespoons sake

Hoisin sauce and flour tortillas for serving

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a zip top plastic bag. Add the pork. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour, turning occasionally. Remove the pork from the bag, and discard the marinade.

Combine the sliced mushrooms, green onions, garlic, and ginger in a small bowl, and set aside.

Combine 3 tablespoons of sake and the next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl. Stir well with a whisk, and set aside.

Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork, and stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Remove the pork from the pan. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of vegetable oil to the pan. Add the eggs, and stir-fry 30 seconds or until soft-scrambled. Add the mushroom mixture and stir-fry 1 1/2 minutes. Add the cabbage stalks and stir-fry 30 seconds. Add the cabbage leaves and 2 tablespoons of sake. Stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the pork and the cornstarch mixture. Stir-fry 2 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.

Serve wrapped in warmed tortillas with hoisin sauce.

The second thing my husband and I made together was a batch of fortune cookies. I would recommend doing these with a partner, since they harden very quickly once they come out of the oven. We each filled out personalized little strips of paper for the fortunes, and then opened each other’s for a surprise. The original recipe was from the Food Network.

Homemade Fortune Cookies

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 cup sugar

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon water

Cooking spray for the pans

Write your fortunes on little pieces of paper before you begin.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch and sugar.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg whites, vanilla, oil, and water. Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until smooth.

Working in batches of 4, drop the batter by tablespoons on a baking sheet covered with a silicone mat. Tilt the baking sheet in a circular motion (and use your finger if need be) to spread the batter into 4-inch diameter circles.

Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and working quickly, use a spatula to remove the cookies from the baking sheet. Put a fortune into the center of a cookie and fold it in half. Bring the points together with open seams on the outside. Arrange in muffin tins to help keep their shape while they are cooling.

Repeat with the remaining fortunes and cookies.

We paired the meal with Sofia Blanc de Blancs (the same kind of sparkling wine that we enjoyed on New Year’s Day, which seemed fitting) with mandarin orange slices floating in the bubbles for the occasion.

I decorated the table with red (the color of both holidays) and a blend of Chinese New Year and heart decorations for Valentine’s Day and our engagement anniversary. For example, I printed a Year of the Rat image and a Year of the Dragon image, since they were the years that Rob and I were born. That added a little personal romantic touch. I also printed a matching Year of the Tiger image for the middle of the table, which was the year we celebrated today.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! My husband and I are planning to celebrate a little belatedly this year since he’s out of town today, but I published a little article about some of my ideas for the holiday at this link –

Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year Celebration for February 14th

I hope you all have a good day!

Baked Coconut Shrimp

One of my favorite restaurants in town called Cactus used to have my very favorite coconut shrimp in the city. Actually, I would say they were my favorite coconut shrimp, period. I have tried them in quite a few places and nothing ever beat theirs, in my humble opinion. Their chef decided to change the menu recently, however, and they no longer serve them. Soo…That inspired me to try to figure out the recipe! I learned that baking them works really well, as opposed to frying them. This recipe is based on one I found in Cooking Light magazine (the original can be found at MyRecipes.com) with a few personal touches.

Baked Coconut Shrimp

30 large peeled and deveined shrimp with the tails still attached

1/3 cup cornstarch

Pinch of salt

3 egg whites

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Cooking spray

Aluminum foil

Preheat oven to 400°.

Coat a baking sheet with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Rinse and dry shrimp. Combine the cornstarch and salt in a little dish. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl with a hand mixer until they are slightly frothy. Place the coconut in a third dish. Dredge each shrimp in the cornstarch mixture, the egg white and then the coconut. (Press gently to keep the flakes in place). Place the coated shrimp on the baking sheet, and spray the top of the shrimp lightly with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes, depending on the size of your shrimp, turning once. (Watch them closely, so as not to over bake).

I also made a super easy salsa to go with them…Just a mix of crushed pineapple with jalapeno pepper jelly to taste.

A little side note is that I try to find farm raised or wild shrimp from the US or Canada instead of imported shrimp. I like this little seafood selector website (find a fish) since it’s sometimes hard to remember which choices are the healthiest when I’m at the store.

Happy New Year! Rice Pudding with Pomegranate Syrup

Welcome 2010! To celebrate this day, I decided to make dinner with an array of lucky New Year dishes from all over the world. I got my inspiration from an article from Epicurious.com. We had thyme coated pork tenderloin, braised lentils with onions and spinach and rice pudding with pomegranate syrup (with an almond hidden in each serving for luck.) Of the three, the dessert was our favorite! Definitely a keeper to make again throughout the rest of the year. The original recipe was from Cooking Light magazine, and it can be found at MyRecipes.com. I followed the recipe pretty closely since it was already a lightened version of traditional rice pudding, but I changed a few little things to lighten it up even more. (For example, I used skim milk instead of 2% and I omitted the butter.)

Rice Pudding with Pomegranate Syrup

3 1/2 cups skim milk

1/2 cup uncooked Arborio rice, sushi rice or other short-grain rice

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

6 whole almonds

2 pomegranates

1/4 cup sugar

6 tablespoons pomegranate seeds

(Or you can cheat a tiny bit and replace one pomegranate fruit with a small bottle of pomegranate juice.)

Combine 3 cups of milk, rice and 1/3 cup of sugar in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Whisk 1/2 cup of milk and the egg. Gradually stir about one quarter of the warm rice mixture into the egg mixture. Add it all back to the pan, stirring constantly. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes or until the rice is tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla.

To prepare the syrup, squeeze the juice from the pomegranate halves to measure 1 cup. (Or use a bottle of juice.) Combine the juice and 1/4 cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until reduced to 1/3 cup, (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently.

Spoon the pudding into 6 individual dishes. (Martini glasses are an elegant presentation.) Drizzle the syrup evenly over the pudding, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds. Also, don’t forget to hide an almond in them for luck in the New Year! 🙂

We also had the classic pairing for this day…sparkling wine. This year I chose cute little individual cans of Sofia Blanc de Blancs by Francis Ford Coppola Winery. They were a unique, economical and fun way to go.

Here’s to lots of luck in the New Year!