Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork Tenderloin and Veggies

It’s been a few years now since my husband and I last traveled abroad, but the memories and flavors of our favorite places along the Mediterranean Sea have stayed with us.

The colors, sights, sounds and tastes of the islands of Greece and specifically Crete, the farms and farmer’s markets in the south of France with their beautiful fresh-picked produce and the many small food purveyors tucked into the hillsides of Monaco, have informed my palette and influenced my cooking. The simple and inventive use of fresh herbs combined with lean proteins and colorful vegetables make Mediterranean flavors easy to replicate and always delicious to eat. A bonus is that eating a Mediterranean style diet is also very healthful.

With summer upon us, we fire up the grill more regularly, even during a busy work week. This is one of those “recipes” that is easy to pull together and is perfect for a busy week night. Just coarsely chop your herbs and mix with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic for the marinade, slice and chunk your veg, pop the pork tenderloin in one plastic freezer bag and the veg in another and divide your marinade between the two. Seal each bag and massage the marinade into the ingredients, then pop the bags into the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours. Grill and eat.

Simple. Delicious. Summer.

Right off the grill. Look at that bark!

The herb-centric marinade creates a fantastically herby bark on the pork tenderloin and adds loads of complimentary flavor to the veggies. Leftovers are wonderful, too. The pork makes great sandwiches and pairs well with cheeses of any type. Thin slices of pork topping a light spread of goat cheese and a touch of fig or onion jam on crostini make a quick and lovely appetizer. Extra veggies and pork can be served over greens with a light vinaigrette to make a savory salad. And the list goes on…

On your next busy night, try making this Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork and Veggies, pour yourself a glass of Provençal rosé or a Greek Retsina, sit back on your deck or porch with the stars and enjoy.

Herbed and Grilled Mediterranean Pork and Veggies
Serves 4-6 (with leftovers at our house)

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. whole pork tenderloins
2 pints grape tomatoes, washed and left whole
2 large zucchini, washed, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (you can use a mixture of yellow squash and zucchini)
8-10 mixed sweet mini peppers, washed seeded and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks (these usually come in a package but you can sub 2-3 multi-colored bell peppers)
1 orange or red bell pepper, washed, seeded and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
1 red onion, peeled, trimmed, halved and those halves quartered
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary, divided
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
3 large cloves of garlic, minced, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2-gallon sized zip lock food bags
Grill basket or aluminum foil for the veggies

Place the grape tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and onion in one ziplock bag. Place the pork tenderloins into a second, separate ziplock bag from the veggies.

Place one half of the rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil into each of the two bags containing the veggies and the pork. Seal each one and then gently toss and massage in the herbs, oil and seasonings with the contents of each bag until well coated. Place the bags into the refrigerator to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours prior to grilling.

Heat the grill to medium high. Remove the veggies from the ziplock bag and place into a grill basket, evenly spaced, and securing the top part of the basket (if it has one) tightly so that the veg will stay secure when flipped. If your basket is an open veggie grill basket, then just place the veggies in the basket, or you can make a tray out of aluminum foil to grill the veggies in. (If using aluminum foil, make sure you use heavy duty and use two layers so that the tray can be lifted off the grill. Poke about 10 small holes into the bottom of your foil tray to allow extra moisture to drip off, otherwise your veggies will stew in their own juices instead of grilling). Place the veggies on the grill and cook until tender and slightly charred. Cooking times will vary, but it takes about 30-35 minutes on our charcoal grill alternating covered and open, and flipping the veggies once at the halfway point. If you use an open basket or a foil tray, stir the veggies frequently to help them release moisture through the holes and cook evenly until done.

Just before the halfway point of cooking your veggies, remove the pork tenderloins from the ziplock bag and place them on the grill. Grill the tenderloins until desired degree of doneness, turning occasionally, about 16-20 minutes. When done, remove the tenderloins from the grill and allow to rest 5 minutes before slicing. Slice the pork into 1/4″ medallions and serve with the veggies.

 

 

 

 

Camping and Hiking Part II, Fruited Farro Salad, and Grilled Za’atar Spiced Chicken with Peppers and Onions

FinishedFarroCherrySaladSummer is in full force and it’s just flying by. Soon the children will go back to school, the wind will take on a decidedly cooler feel, and Fall will be here before we know it—but not yet! There’s still plenty of time for grilling and chilling.

Hot weather makes me crave salads and this Fruited Farro Salad is one of my new favorites. This colorful salad is more savory than sweet, with a perfect balance between the natural sweetness of the fruit and nuts, the herbaceous parsley and crisp celery, and the chewy farro with a tangy dressing. It pairs well with most any food and is particularly nice with barbecued pork, or with your favorite style of chicken…like this Za’atar Spiced, Marinated and Grilled Chicken with Peppers and Onions. These two dishes make a complete meal, and the farro salad lasts for a few days, so leftovers can be used for a light lunch. Check out the easy recipes below for these two versatile and delicious dishes to try.

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, we’ve been doing some hiking lately and have managed a hike a week all summer—with the one exception of last week when we were traveling. Hiking in North Georgia is particularly nice right now because the temps are so much cooler than those we have here in the city. Following is the continuation and conclusion of my story about our little adventure camping in the mountains in early June, featuring three more great hiking areas to explore…

Close to the Warwoman Dell recreation area is Black Rock Mountain, a beautiful state park with a visitors center which is situated at the top of the mountain, overlooking the Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains. The area features camping, cabins and hiking trails as well as scenic overlooks with some 80 miles of vistas. The cabins and the tent campsite areas literally hang over the edge of the top of the mountain, and the views are breathtaking. There are RV campsites with hookups by reservation, cabins by reservation and walk-in rustic campsites on a first come, first serve basis. Because we’d just finished our hike at Warwoman Dell when we visited here, we didn’t hike any of the trails, but we did make a note to try renting a cabin here at some point down the road.

The next day our hike was at Tallulah Gorge State Park. I had visited the gorge before from the other side, but hadn’t been to the Interpretive Center or down some of the trails that follow a series of waterfalls from the Center…some of which are quite steep. One of the most spectacular canyons in the eastern U.S., Tallulah Gorge is two miles long and nearly 1,000 feet deep. You can obtain a pass at the Center to go down to the floor of the gorge and cross over it on an 80 foot suspension bridge. On the day we were there, they had given out the limited number of passes available to hike down into the gorge, so we toured some of the waterfalls instead. We walked down 3 different trails and viewed 3 of the numerous waterfalls, but were thwarted from going further by some rather ominous storm clouds moving in. For those who are lucky and adventurous enough to get a pass to go down into the gorge, know that there are around 1099 steps down into, and back out of, the gorge. It’s considered a strenuous hike…especially coming back up. You can loop across the gorge and come out on the other side…if you’re hearty enough to do so. Another day for us, perhaps.

Our last hike on this 4-day trip was up the mountain of Brasstown Bald, the highest mountain in Georgia. Brasstown Bald rises 4,784 feet above sea level and its peak looms half a mile above the surrounding valleys. The observation deck offers a breathtaking view of the mountains’ scenic vistas, which sweep a four state area, and the “Bald” falls under the purview of the U.S. Forest Service.

“You hiked all the way up the mountain?” you ask. Heck no. We drove up most of it to the Forest Service Park Ranger parking area, took our picture with Smokey the Bear like any other good tourists would, then hiked the paved and steep 1/2 mile trail to the summit of the Bald where the Visitor’s Center and lookout station are located. For those who don’t wish to hike the trail, there’s a free shuttle that will take you to the summit.

In addition to being able to view four states from the Bald on a clear day, the weather at the summit of Georgia’s tallest mountain is very different from the rest of Georgia. The temperatures are 5-10° F cooler than the rest of the state, and at any time, fog, mist, and storms may unexpectedly move in and obscure the view. These weather conditions help to contribute to the variety of plants and wildlife found on the forested slopes of Brasstown Bald Mountain, and we were able to see spring wildflowers, mountain laurel, azalea and ferns all the way up the trail. It’s a great place to visit in the summer because the temperatures have never exceeded 84° F. The Forest Service has an interpretive center inside the Visitor’s Center, along with a little theater that plays a short film on the history and nature of Brasstown Bald. You can walk up the short flight of stairs to the observation decks and see north, south, east and west, with maps to view that show you what you’re seeing. It’s quite charming and very beautiful.

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On the last day of our camping/husband’s birthday trip, we experienced a very scary thunderstorm during the night that had us hurriedly packing up our tent and heading home the next day. Fortunately, we have a great tent with a rain fly, and were camped in a secluded spot during the storm. And most fortunate of all, there wasn’t any significant wind or hail involved and our tent didn’t leak, but the lightning was frequent and the torrential rain was relentless. All in all, we had a great time and were lucky that the weather held for us as long as it did, since scattered thunderstorms are the norm here this time of year.

I’ll share more hiking adventures soon, but for now let’s get back to the food! Being outdoors makes me really hungry and this easy meal is a tasty and healthy way finish to your day after hitting the trails, or for dinner any time. I hope you all are having a lovely summer so far…or if you’re in the southern hemisphere, a mild winter. Either way, I hope you’ll enjoy these two dishes.

Fruited Farro Salad
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light’s Farro, Cherry and Walnut Salad
Makes 8 Servings

5 cups water
1 1/2 cups uncooked farro
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 pound sweet cherries, pitted and halved (about 2 cups) or an equal amount of red seedless grapes, halved
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
additional freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add farro and 1/4 teaspoon salt to boiling water; cook 15 minutes or until al dente. Drain; cool at room temperature, about 15 minutes. Combine farro, cherries or grapes, celery, walnuts, and parsley in a large bowl.

Combine lemon juice, mustard, honey, pepper, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, stirring with a whisk. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Pour dressing over farro mixture; toss to coat. Taste for seasoning and add a little more pepper if needed.

Soup’s On! Easy Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup

Mmmm, mmm, good! I don’t know about you, but a bowl of soup and some good bread always says “come hither” to me.

Feeling a little pressed for time lately? I know I feel this way a lot, and when I do, it’s hard to face cooking a big meal at night. I try to make some foods on the weekend that will carry us through a few hectic weekdays. But sometimes the weekends are hectic, too, and you find yourself facing that ever challenging dinner question: What to make?

This week, it was veggies to the rescue! Roasting vegetables is truly a wonderful way to enjoy them, and an easy way to cook them. It amplifies their natural flavor and caramelizes all the sugars, which makes them even tastier than most other simple preparations. Once roasted, you can eat them “as is,” add them to eggs to make a frittata, use them as a side dish to your favorite meat, toss them with some pasta or rice for a vegetarian main dish, or put them on top of salad greens with a light vinaigrette.

Or, as I decided to do the other night, you can make them into an easy, delicious and immensely satisfying vegetable soup, which will be all the better because of the depth of flavor from the roasting. Soup is definitely my go-to meal in the cooler months and I never get tired of it. And with a roasted veggie soup, there are so many vegetables to choose from to make this soup your own. You can mix and match as you please, but as a very general starting point, most root vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, parsnips, beets, etc. play well together, and the lighter, vine-ripened vegetables like tomatoes, squashes, peppers and eggplant are good partners.

For this soup—a great way to use up vegetables by the way—I chose some vine-ripened veggies which are still available locally grown, and added some Mediterranean flavors. I already had two slicing tomatoes left over from a CSA box, and some cherry tomatoes and lots of fresh herbs from my garden. I found yellow summer squash, zucchini and sweet bell peppers in the market, and I always have garlic and onions on hand. All I had to do was a tiny bit of prep and then throw the lot into a roasting pan, sprinkle on some olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary, and roast the veg in the oven. When the veggies were ready, I transferred the contents of my pan into a stock pot, added some chicken broth, water, fresh herbs and seasoning, and cooked that for a little while until the flavors infused the broth. Then out came the stick blender and I pureed the whole thing in the pot to blend all that goodness together, and hurrah! I had an amazing, delicious soup, filled with roasted flavor and savory goodness. A soup I think even a kid could love, especially because they need never know what veggies are actually in it!

Easy, yes? And it made enough to have for several nights, to boot. Perfection.

In fact this simple, healthy and quite low calorie soup was so good, it’s got me thinking about making more easy roasted veggie soups and dishes to share with you this fall, so stay tuned…this may quickly become a series!

If you like the idea of roasting vegetables and soup, I hope you’ll give this one a try, or maybe a version with your own favorite veggie mix. After all, I haven’t even mentioned roasted broccoli or cauliflower, but that may be next up! For yet another easy roasted soup, check out my Asian-Inspired Butternut Squash Soup, too. Add some crusty bread or corn muffins and a little salad, and dinner is…on!

I’d like to take a moment to give a little shout out to blog friend Tanya of Chica Andaluza, whose last two posts provided some inspiration for this post (I love when that happens), turning my thoughts to roasting the veggies to make this soup. And on another note, my Facebook page is soooo lonely out there…it’s kind of sad. If you haven’t yet, please join me there for more shared food, photos, tidbits and good links by clicking this link or the one on the home page of this blog and “like” me!

Easy Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Soup
Makes 8 servings

2 medium tomatoes, core removed and cut into large chunks
2 cups cherry tomatoes, or 1 pint
3 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 medium to large zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 large sweet onions, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large red bell pepper and 1 large orange bell pepper (or two sweet bell peppers)
10 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled and left whole
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil, preferable extra virgin
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped (or 1 Tablespoon dried, crumbled)
6 cups low sodium chicken broth (or homemade)
2 1/2 cups water
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried and crumbled)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon, dried and crumbled)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and more to taste if needed when the soup is finished.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place all of the prepared vegetables (tomatoes, through peppers) and the garlic into either a deep non-stick roasting pan or a cookie sheet with sides that has been covered in aluminum foil. Pour the olive oil over the vegetables and toss to coat. Add 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the rosemary to the vegetables and toss again. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until the cherry tomatoes have burst and the veggies are tender and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven.

Pour the vegetables and their juices into a large stock or soup pot. Add the chicken broth, water, basil, oregano, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and bring to a simmer over medium high heat, then reduce the heat to low and continue to simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and puree the soup carefully in the pot with a stick blender, or in batches in a regular blender, returning the soup to the pot once pureed. Place the soup back on the heat just long enough to heat it through, and taste for seasonings. Serve with crusty bread.

The soup is such a beautiful color from all the veggies and I love the little flecks of herbs and pepper.

That Thing About Spring

Nothing says spring like Greek marinated and grilled pork loin chops, veggie kabobs and tzatziki sauce...at least to me!

We’re really getting a taste of spring around here now with our temps moving up from the mid to upper 60’s on Saturday to the low 80’s tomorrow and for the foreseeable future…whhaaaat???? Am I living in Florida? Pinch myself…nope, still in Atlanta. Whoa, that’s more like early summer!

Anyway, the birds are returning and the bees are buzzing, and all this activity resulted in some rather demonic energy on my part last weekend. Continue reading

Bourbon-Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Butternut Squash Salad

A match made in heaven...Bourbon-Mustard Glazed Pork Tenderloin and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad. Yes indeed, I'm gonna make these two together again!

This week we’ve had quite a warm spell and my plans to make either my recipes for either split-pea soup or chicken noodle soup—soup being one of my favorite meals this time of year—went by the wayside when the temps went up to the mid-60’s and then 70 degrees. Really? In January? This time last year most folks here were racing for the grocery store like the non-snow savvy southerners that we are, trying to out-buy each other in the milk, bread, salt and chili-making ingredient categories, and battening down our hatches for what turned out to be a significant snow storm that shut Atlanta down for several days….not that it actually takes snow to do that, as you already know if you live here!

Continue reading

E.K.’s Pork with Parsley-Shallot Sauce

There's Ellie posing with some of the last fresh herbs from my garden: parsley, sage and rosemary.

I’m determined to keep the promise I made to myself to cook healthy and delicious things in between the parties, holiday foods and gift making. Here’s a comforting recipe that falls along those lines and has lots of flavor from the use of garlic and plenty of fresh herbs in the form of parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. (The song is stuck in your head now, isn’t it?) Continue reading

D-Con, D-Book Festival and Some De-licious Sliders

A sailing machine of some sort...anyone know what this is, besides amazing?

Not sure, but I think these folks may have just come from a dip in the pool after walking the 1/2 mile parade in the heat!

It’s D-weekend (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) and a lot is going on in the big city. We decided to try something new and headed downtown to see the Dragon Con Parade, which kicks off the world’s largest fantasy/SF convention, held annually in Atlanta, GA, on Labor Day weekend. Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans come from everywhere, donned in their finest Star Wars, Star Trek, Road Warrior, Alien, Thunder Dome, Ghost Busters, Harry Potter (or at least we saw Snape there), Dr. Who, and any and all other related costumes you can possibly think of, and some you couldn’t imagine. We saw a working replica of a truck from Thunder Dome that some 10 people were riding, and a time machine. There’s some serious money laid down for this, people! Continue reading

Taters 101, 2, 3

Tiny red potatoes and rosemary

All dressed up and ready for the oven.

Roasted and ready to eat!

Who doesn’t love a good ‘tater? Baked. Boiled. Smashed. Grilled. Fried. Sauteed. Salad-i-fied. Totted. Roasted.

‘Tis the season for new potatoes and fingerlings, and one of my favorite and quickest ways to prepare them is roasted. With a little scrub, a few quick cuts, a little olive oil, salt, pepper and a few fresh herbs you may have on hand, you can eat restaurant-style potatoes any day of the week. And by changing your herbs, changing your cut, adding a little garlic powder, paprika or cayenne, a little onion and bell pepper—or combos of the above—you can have a completely different side dish customized for whatever meal you’re making.

Last night we had these rosemary roasted potatoes as a side to souvlaki and tzatziki. I usually make a frittata with any leftover potatoes, if I have them—adding some veggies, cheese and sometimes a little ham to the mix—because potatoes and eggs are so good together. Here’s a basic technique for roasted potatoes with variations, and an easy way to “bake” potatoes on the grill. Also try roasting or grilling potatoes for your next vinaigrette-based potato salad.

What’s your favorite easy spud preparation? Do tell…

Related Links:  Souvlaki, Tzatziki