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.

 

 

 

 

Tantalizingly Cool and Colorful Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Tunalettucecu1sharpAnd then it was August, just like that!

With the limited time I’ve had to read other blogs lately, I’ve heard more than one fellow blogger out there remark that their lives have been hectic…and I can add my voice to that chorus. I started this post in JUNE, mind you. And since then, I’ve made this recipe several times and still not gotten a post out. As they say: Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. But I am back now and I have a very timely little recipe to share that is perfect for when the temps are very high…like ours are now and have been all summer.

Tuna with peach

BEATING THE HEAT =  SALAD TIME! 

This refreshing Mediterranean Tuna Salad is one I made up after tasting a somewhat similar Tunisian Tuna Salad at a local bakery and market many years ago. I love that this salad doesn’t use mayonnaise for the dressing. Instead, it has a light and lively dressing of fresh lemon juice, good olive oil and some salt and pepper to bind it, as well as to enhance the flavors of the fish, vegetables and herbs. Capers add the perfect little bite to this dish, so please don’t leave them out. Even if you don’t think you like capers, you’ll enjoy them here, I promise! And for those of you experiencing more temperate weather, this salad is great any time of the year.

Since I’ve made this dish several times this summer, I can tell you that it is excellent as a stand alone salad presented on top of fresh leaf lettuce, or equally wonderful paired with green salad and fresh peaches, a Grilled Corn Salad or my Mediterranean Couscous Salad. It also has the added advantage of coming together quickly.

EatingTuna

I hope you are having a lovely summer so far in the northern hemisphere and a mild winter in the southern one. Cheers!

Mediterranean Tuna Salad
Makes 4-6 Servings

2 – 5 oz. cans chunk white albacore tuna packed in olive oil, drained and flaked
20 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/3 cup jarred roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons jarred capers, drained and chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, peeled and chopped
16 pieces frozen and thawed artichoke heart quarters, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
More salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine the tuna, olives, red peppers, capers, parsley, onion and artichoke hearts. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and combine thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Stir again before serving.

A trio of deliciously cool salads!

*****

On another note, this blog celebrated its 5th Anniversary on June 15. My how time flies! Thanks to all who have followed me since the beginning and who have joined me along the way. You all make it worth while and make me smile. More to come!

Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta

finished ragoutwpolentaBSpring has popped here in Atlanta and we are leafed out! It’s been so pretty here, but the weather continues to be fickle…hot one day and downright cold the next with freezing temperatures coming this weekend, which is not good for azaleas. Still, the longer days and beautiful spring colors are most welcome.

A few weeks ago as the first buds were starting to show, we took a jaunt up to Cashiers, North Carolina for the weekend. It was still very much winter there, but the hiking was magnificent. Our close proximity to Highlands—which is only 15 minutes from Cashiers—meant that we could check out some very good new restaurants. One of them was Wild Thyme Gourmet. This restaurant used to be in a very small cottage a block or so off the main street of Highlands. They had little to no seating other than outdoors, but we had lunch there a couple of times and it was good. A few years ago they moved into a much larger space right on the main street and expanded their menu. It is now a fine restaurant worthy of reservations!

The night we dined at Wild Thyme Gourmet, both my husband and I were drawn to the vegetarian dishes on the menu. He ordered the ricotta and tapenade stuffed ravioli with fresh basil and tomato sauce. I ordered a Provençal vegetable ragout with soft polenta. The vegetables were meltingly delicious with a slightly smoky and rich undertone and were incorporated into a tomatoey sauce with briney kalamata olives. This was served atop a nutty and cheesey tasting soft polenta with just a few crumbles of soft, fresh goat cheese scattered on top. Both dishes were outstanding, so much so that the taste haunted me all the way back to Atlanta…and you know what that means!

So here’s my recreation of that delicious dish, which started off by making Jacques Pépin’s exceptionally wonderful version of tapenade which you can see here. While it wasn’t exactly like the dish at the restaurant, we thought it was every bit as good. And you guessed it, the next post will be my husband’s ravioli dish, so stay tuned.

finished ragoutwpolenta2

Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta
Serves 6

For the Ragout:
medium 
uncooked zucchini, split in half lengthwise
medium yellow summer squash, split in half lengthwise
1 each red, yellow, orange and green bell pepper, halved, stemmed and seeded
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3 medium plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 Tablespoons Kalamata olive tapenade, preferably homemade
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 1/2 fluid oz. Pernod or Pastis liquor
1 1/2 oz. unsalted vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1 Tablespoon Italian Parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, plus extra leaves for garnish
1 Tablespoon soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

For the Polenta:
3 cups unsalted vegetable stock, preferably homemade
3/4 cup skim or 1% milk
Tablespoons half-and-half
cup whole-grain yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt

Place the halves of zucchini, squash and peppers on a medium high heat grill or grill pan and grill both sides just until you have nice char marks. Remove from the heat and dice into 1/2 inch pieces.

Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the zucchini, squash, and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are starting to get tender. Add the tomato, tomato paste, olives, tapenade, vegetable stock, herbs and the Pernod or Pastis and cook on low heat, covered, until the tomatoes are soft and all the ingredients are integrated, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and leave covered while making the polenta.

Bring the 3 cups vegetable stock, milk and half and half to a gentle boil. Add the cornmeal slowly while whisking and then turn the heat to low. Continue to whisk until the polenta is creamy and tender to the bite, about 5-8 minutes. Add the parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve 3/4 cup polenta with 1/6 of the ragout on top. Finish with a tiny sprinkle of goat cheese and a spring of basil, if desired.

*****

For those of you “Jones-ing” for spring, rest assured it is on its way. Here are some pics from our yard and neighborhood to tide you over.

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A Retro Spinach Dip Redo and Some Falafel On the Side

This resulted in a "Thumbs Up" from my pottery peeps and was demolished in short order!

This Retro Spinach Dip Redo resulted in a “Thumbs Up” from my pottery peeps and was demolished in short order!

Note: These two don’t really have anything to do with each other, but are both some good eats to share.

I adore Mediterranean and Middle Eastern flavors, and this week I made a huge batch of baked falafel. I had never had falafel baked before, always fried, but these were terrific in a pita alongside a Greek salad (with feta of course) for dinner, and again topping a lunch salad with tahini dressing drizzled over it. This is another of Mark Bittman’s recipes, and you can find it here. I highly recommend this as well as another recipe he lists at this same link for his Spiked Guacamole, which I made last night but didn’t photograph…it’s awesome, too! I have to say that these falafel are as good baked as those I have had fried, with a nice, crispy texture, a great taste and they freeze beautifully, too!

Drizzled and ready to eat with the tahini dressing!

Drizzled and ready to eat with the tahini dressing!

It’s been feeling very summer-ish here during the past week, and the hot weather has made me crave some cool summer dips, just for fun.  What I particularly had in mind was creating something to take to my pottery class for us to nosh on, and I came up with this Retro Spinach Dip Redo. My inspiration was born of an amalgamation of several yogurt sauces I’ve had—basically a redo of the ancient spinach dip recipe that was so popular when I was growing up. Yes, you know the one I mean, made from the vegetable soup mix combined with mayo and sour cream, served in a bread bowl?

Cool, creamy green goodness.

The result is a lighter, healthier version, that doesn’t taste “healthy” at all. While it does remind you of the old school version, it is a bit different. This one has no water chestnuts, no mayo and no sour cream, but it does have a great mouth feel, and lots of texture and flavors that build as you eat it. Plus, it’s almost as easy to make as the soup mix version, but it’s much better for you! And here’s a little trick: Whenever you combine olive oil with plain yogurt, it emulsifies the yogurt, giving it more of a mayonnaise-like texture and making it less likely for the water to separate. This is a great tip for making tzatziki sauce, too.

The verdict from my pottery class (my test subjects) was that this is a winner, so I promised to share my Retro Spinach Dip Redo on the blog. Enjoy, and I hope that your week has started off swimmingly!

Retro Spinach Dip Redo
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 very large shallots finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, grated
1 1/2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-10 oz. package of frozen, chopped spinach, preferably organic, cooked according to the package directions (I microwave mine), then drain it and press all the moisture out
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 3/4 cups of plain Greek yogurt, whole or 2% (I used 2% Fage yogurt)

Put all ingredients in a small bowl and combine until well mixed. Place the dip into the fridge and let the flavors blend for an hour or two. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with pita or tortilla chips, or raw veggies if you like!

rose1On another note, this is a rose bush my husband gave me many years ago for Valentine’s Day. It has struggled in our front yard all these years, tolerating the drought and maybe giving me one beautiful rose each year…sometimes two when I’m lucky. This year, it has 7 blossoms on it! I think it likes all the rain.

Sadly, I can't remember the name of this rose, but I think it is a tea rose...sweet thing!

Sadly, I can’t remember the name of this rose, but I think it is a tea rose…sweet thing!

*****

A Mahvelously Mediterranean Salad with Garlic and Cumin Roasted Chickpeas

One of the main reasons that I’ve come to enjoy blogging so much is the incredible range and variety of ideas that get shared and exchanged via comments here, and in reading and commenting on other blogger’s posts as well. Honestly, there are so many terrific sounding recipes out there that I want to try, and I know I will never get to them all. But each and every one informs and inspires me in some way…informs my thought processes in planning meals, in buying and growing food, and inspires my creative efforts in the kitchen. As I rapidly approach my first year of blogging, I realize that this process has become an integral part now of who I am and how I operate.

And here’s a perfect example of this process in action. Continue reading

Picnic Perfection: Couscous Salad

Ready for the picnic, cookout or pot luck, this salad has outdoor fun written all over it!

As a complement to my last post, I’d like to share one of my favorite salads that is just great for picnics, a cookout or a weeknight vegetarian dish. I first saw this couscous salad by chance on an episode of Paula Deen’s cooking show on the Food Network, and intrigued, I adapted it a bit to my taste…then a bit more. It’s one that comes together very quickly and lends itself to adaptation, so you may wish to try your own versions as well. Couscous is so versatile, which is one of the things I really love about it! Continue reading

A Little Taste of the Mediterranean

Mediterranean Pasta Salad finished with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.

I’ve always loved a great pasta salad, full of fresh ingredients and lightly dressed. Last night I felt inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean and decided to make my pasta salad by the same name. It’s easy, makes a lot, and keeps for several days. This recipe has been the hit of many a party or pot luck gathering, and is a pretty and filling summer entree all by itself. You can find the full recipe here and the step by step is below. Mangia!

To your cooked pasta, add scallion or shallot, parsley, arugula, fresh tomatoes and Kalamata olives. But don't stir yet!

Then add the artichoke hearts with the marinade, sun-dried tomatoes with 1/4 cup of their oil, the tuna and it's oil, and then stir to combine. Lastly add the feta cheese, salt and pepper and stir again. Chill to blend the flavors and eat!

A Superb Summer Sandwich: Pan Bagnat

Recently, Pan Bagnat has come back across my radar. What a wonderful summer sandwich it is, and why haven’t I made it in such a long time? I believe the first time I tasted it was in the south of France, where it’s very common and you can find many different versions of it. It tasted so good on a hot summer day, was easy to make, and I made it many times right after we returned. But as time marched on, I somehow forgot about it. Then, just last week, I saw a post on a blog in France about Pan Bagnat made with fresh produce from a Mediterranean garden, and it looked so yummy that it brought the taste back to me, and I’ve been craving it. Continue reading