Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yummy Pork Ziti

This summer, I decided to participate in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share with two friends.  Every Tuesday, we get to pick up our veggies at the farmers' market near my house. Last week was the first pick-up and I was so excited to see all of the gorgeous produce. One of the items included was a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard. Never having cooked with it before, I set out on a hunt for an interesting recipe. I stumbled across this gem and had to give it a try. I am a big fan of mustard of any kind (seriously, it's the perfect condiment), I always like thyme, and who doesn't love a good pasta dish?

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: The bold flavors of the thyme and mustard worked very well with the pork. At the same time, they didn't overwhelm the more delicate flavor of the greens. 
  • Difficulty: No muss, no fuss! I whipped this one up in less than half an hour. How's that for a 30-minute meal?
  • Pros: Tasty, easy and quick. The trifecta of weeknight cooking, not to mention that it was a great way to incorporate veggies into a new recipe.  The recipe is also very adaptable. You could use chicken instead of pork or substitute almost any variety of dark/bitter greens for the escarole.
  • Cons: The recipe was intended for four people, but it yielded more than enough for six.  I don't like to have more than one meal of leftovers, so I would recommend halving the recipe.
  • Misc.: I used rainbow chard in place of the escarole, since that is what I had on hand. I used a grainy Dijon mustard and upped the quantity to more like two tablespoons instead of teaspoons. Taste the sauce and season it as you like. Make sure that your pork is just done, so that it stays tender. Now that the USDA has acknowledged that pork need only be cooked to 145 degrees, it's ok if there's a little pink in the middle.  Letting the meat rest for 5 minutes before slicing will allow the cooking process to finish up gently. Start your pasta water as the first step. The pasta takes longer than everything else added together.
  • Repeat Performance: I don't eat a great deal of pork, but this recipe will definitely go into the rotation.
Ziti with Pork and Escarole in Creamy Thyme Sauce
Food & Wine, January 1997

1 lb pork tenderloin
freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lb escarole, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch strips (about 4 cups)
1 shallot or 2 scallions, including green tops, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp grainy or Dijon mustard
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 pound dry ziti pasta

Cut the pork into 1/2 inch thick slices. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp oil over medium heat. Cook the pork until just barely done, about 1 minute per side. Remove the pork from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes, then cut into thin strips.

In the same pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat. Add the escarole, shallot/green onion, 1/4 of the salt and 1/4 tsp of pepper and cook, stirring until the escarole wilts, about 1 minute. Add the broth and thyme. Simmer until the broth is reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the mustard and cream and bring to a simmer. Add the pork and any accumulated juices to the sauce. Remove from heat.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the ziti until al dente (10-12 minutes). Drain and toss pasta with the sauce.

Grab some crusty bread and dig in!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grilled Flank Steak

First of all, I apologize for the lack of posts over the last couple of weeks. But now, I am back from vacation and ready to go!

I am normally not much of a red meat fan. I eat beef or even pork only once a week or so. I gravitate strongly to fish, chicken and vegetarian meals.  Last week in New Orleans, though, my inner carnivore was making a strong showing.  I often find that when I visit the South, I want meat, and lots of it!  Maybe it's because most meat there is grilled or smoked. Whatever the reason, I had brisket, burgers, catfish, duck, pulled pork and some praline bacon that was to die for!  When I came home, a good grilled steak definitely sounded like it would hit the spot. So I picked up a beautiful flank steak and used my favorite quick marinade.

The rundown:
  • Flavor/texture: This is my go-to marinade for a reason. Not only is it easy, but it's very flavorful and goes well with just about any kind of meat. The flavors are bold, but not overpowering. I cooked the steak to medium-rare (medium is the max for a cut like flank steak) and cut it against the grain in thin strips, which kept it juicy and tender.
  • Difficulty: This recipe is a snap and all of the ingredients should be readily available in your pantry.
  • Pros: Easy and tasty! This steak will make you look like a pro. It would be great for Father's Day (hint, hint).
  • Cons: I should have let my grill heat up a little more to get some color on the outside of the steak.
  • Misc.: I served the steak with roasted herb potatoes and salad. The citrus vinaigrette that I whipped up for the salad made everything look a tad orange, but oh well. I added a bit of fresh rosemary to the marinade just to bring things up a notch. If you don't like cumin, substitute chili powder instead.
  • Repeat Performance: This steak already holds a prime spot in my repertoire.
Grilled Flank Steak

2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp grill seasoning (mix salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder if you don't have grill seasoning)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp hot sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 lbs flank steak

Mix first 6 ingredients together in a shallow dish.  Whisk in olive oil.  Add meat and turn to coat evenly.  Let meat marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat grill to high heat. Grill the steak 5-6 minutes on each side for medium-rare, 7 minutes per side for medium.

Remove meat from grill and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.

Get to grillin'!