Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney

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Fall is so close we can almost taste it! It’s September, college football debuted yesterday, the NFL regular season starts this coming week, and Halloween candy and pumpkin-flavored everything are starting to show up in stores. The bad news? It’s still 90 degrees and sunny outside. The forecast is calling for 90+ degree days for the entire rest of the week 🙄🙄 So, while we’re waiting for our fall weather to show up, we’ll try to celebrate the shoulder season… with a longing gaze towards fall 🍁🍂 The figs we used tonight are the perfect fruit for this concept – a bridge from summer into fall. The main season for figs runs from August to October, when you can get these fresh, juicy, sweet fruits. We got a big pack of them this week and decided to pair them with a pork tenderloin, half because we thought they’d go well together and half because, for some reason, I associate pork tenderloin with early fall, which is in keeping with this theme we’re working on here.

We were really happy with how this came together. Figs are naturally very sweet, and that sweetness combines perfectly with the acidity of the vinegar to make this chutney. No extra sugar needed here! The choice of sage for our herb tonight was tasty and reminiscent of traditional fall dishes, so that worked well too. If you can’t find sage or dislike sage, try this recipe with rosemary or thyme. Our pork came out with a nice little crust from the sear and was juicy in the middle. Furthermore, I think pork is a great meat to stand up to a sweeter sauce. We loved every bite.

A little bit about the star of this recipe… the fig. This post should actually be called fig chutney over roasted pork, since the fig is really the pièce de résistance. Figs are native to the Middle East & Western Asia. Turkey is the largest producer of figs in the world. Interestingly enough, we have the California Gold Rush to thank for the fig’s popularity in the US. The agricultural areas of the the Bay Area & surrounding counties are along the same latitude as Turkey’s fig producing region, Smyrna.        

(Side note, I gave the figs by weight in the recipe because they can come in quite the variety of sizes. Ours are fairly small, but you can definitely find larger ones.)

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Pork Tenderloin with Fig Chutney

Ingredients:
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, halved vertically & sliced
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4+ large fresh sage leaves, chopped
  • ~2lb pork tenderloin
  • ~12oz fresh figs, stems removed & coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Instructions:
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a large pan. Once the oil is warm, cook onions, topped with a pinch of salt and several turns of fresh ground black pepper, over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
  2. Once the onions are caramelized, stir in the chopped figs and sage. Then, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up any brown, delicious bits that are stuck. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes, until well thickened.
  3. While you’re making the chutney, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Season all sides of the tenderloin with sprinkles of salt and pepper. Sear all sides in a cast iron skillet over high heat for just 1-2 minutes on each side.
  4. Once the tenderloin is seared, move it in the skillet to the hot oven for ~15 minutes. You want an internal temperature of 145 degrees, at minimum. Allow to rest for ~5 minutes before slicing. (If you prefer pork on the medium-rare side, remove it at an internal temp of 135-140, since it will cook a little more while resting.)
  5. Slice the pork and serve with the fig chutney on top! Sprinkle with some additional fresh sage.
Serves ~6

Mint & Feta Topped Eggplant

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After making Minty Watermelon, Cucumber & Feta Salad last week, we had some leftover mint.  By “some leftover mint,” I really mean, “Did this package of mint grow exponentially more mint?” I feel like it’s pretty much impossible to use all the mint in a package and even more impossible to use all the mint that most people grow. We didn’t want to waste any of the fresh herbs, so I was exploring Pinterest this weekend for a dish that would put these ingredients to good use. After awhile I found this recipe that not only required minimal shopping, using up the mint and feta, but also a mostly hands-off and healthy dinner for tonight! We were really happy with how this turned out. It’s light, but filling and flavorful! Thanks Pinterest (and Live Eat Learn) 🙂

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Mint & Feta Topped Eggplant

(Adapted from Live Eat Learn blog)
Ingredients:
  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 heaping tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice eggplant in half. Slice through the flesh on the diagonal, creating a cross-hatch pattern. Don’t slice all the way through; stop before reaching the skin.
  3. Brush the eggplant with 1 tbsp of olive oil and top with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper. Roast for 35 minutes in the oven.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining olive oil, mint, garlic, and lemon juice.
  5. After the 35 minutes, slide out the eggplant and brush the mint mixture on top. Return to the oven for just another minute or two to warm.
  6. Serve topped with the chopped feta and sprinkled with Aleppo pepper.
Serves 2

Southern Fried Chicken

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Holy *^%$ yall! We made fried chicken! We took advantage of this gorgeous summer day and went on ahead and conquered another culinary fear… homemade fried chicken. Prior to making this tonight, I typed out: “I’m 99.999% certain that we can’t best KFC or any southern back road gas station’s fried chicken, but we’re going to try!” Well, we succeeded! I’m a little shocked actually… It even looks like the gorgeous, crispy-skinned chicken you might see when you’re out picking up a bucket!

After we decided to do this, I thought, who better to help us than Paula Deen…? If you google “southern fried chicken,” her recipe is the first recipe that shows up. I’m not going to lie… I don’t know that I’ve ever cooked Paula Deen before… her devotion to butter is slightly overwhelming. But it just seemed to be the right thing to do when learning to fry chicken. (Confirming our decision to try the Queen of Southern Cooking’s recipe was an article from Food52, where they tested the recipe.) We did tweak her recipe in a few places, which luckily worked out well. The main difference between our recipe and hers is the brine. We’ve been convinced by our reading to brine chicken prior to frying. I definitely think it helped to keep our chicken moist and flavorful!

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Southern Fried Chicken

(Adapted from Paula Deen/The Food Network)
Ingredients:
  • ~2 lb bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
  • Brine
    • 1 gallon water
    • 1 cup salt
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dredging
    • 3 eggs
    • 1/3 cup water
    • 2/3 cup hot sauce (we like Frank’s Red Hot)
    • 2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups AP flour + 1 tbsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt)
    • 1 tbsp garlic powder
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 15+ turns fresh ground black pepper
  • Oil, for frying (we used peanut oil)
Instructions:
  1. Bring the ingredients for the brine to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Then remove from heat and let cool – all the way!
  2. Once the brining liquid is cool, submerge the chicken pieces and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. (We did a full 24h).
  3. Once ready to cook, remove chicken from brining liquid and pat dry. Let sit out until room temperature.
  4. Meanwhile, make two dishes of wet and dry dredging ingredients. Whisk together eggs, water, and hot sauce. In another bowl, sift together the flour, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  5. Pour oil into the pot you’ll use for frying. Don’t fill the pot more than 1/2 full of oil, but add enough to cover the chicken pieces. Heat to 350 degrees.
  6. Dredge the individual chicken pieces first in the wet bowl, then in the dry bowl. Repeat, dipping again in the wet, then dry bowls.
  7. Fry in batches until brown and crispy. [Paula says it should take 8-10 minutes for white meat and 13-14 minutes for dark meat.] Don’t crowd the pot!
Feeds 3-5

Bahraini Chicken Machboos

 

About a month ago, our friend/former co-worker Noel moved with her husband to Bahrain. Not exactly your average move to the other side of town, or across state lines. Noel has been blogging about their move and adventures halfway around the world, which is so fun to see! I was pretty jealous reading about their first Iftar in Bahrain and the gluttonous mounds of food they were offered, which prompted me to investigate the cuisine of Bahrain. From here I learned that the “national dish” of Bahrain is this one we’re sharing today, Chicken Machboos.

This is a simple chicken and rice dish, but with way more spices and flavor than the typical American comfort food version. It is not spicy, but deeply spiced. I tasted the rice both before and after the addition of the rosewater, and let me tell you… you don’t want to skip that step. Don’t fear the floral aroma! It doesn’t make your dish taste sweet or like you’re munching on a bouquet of flowers. It does bring out the flavor of all of the other spices in the dish though. Rosewater can be found at some regular grocery stores, but definitely at Middle Eastern markets. And since you’re definitely going to need to hit up a Middle Eastern market/grocer for the loomi, you now have two reasons to explore. I’ve been wanting to cook with loomi for awhile now. I love trying new ingredients! Loomi are dried limes. Sometimes they’re labelled as such, or as black limes, or even (incorrectly) as dried lemons. Loomi are used in many Middle Eastern recipes, especially those with Persian origins. To make them, fresh limes are boiled in salt water and then left out in the sun to dry. Definitely a unique taste for the average American palate! Give them a try and see what you think!

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Loomi ⇑

PS: Noel, what should we make next?? Send us more Bahraini/Arabic/Gulf/Middle Eastern recipes or ideas!

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Bahraini Chicken Machboos

(Adapted from here & here)
Ingredients: 
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 tbsp baharat*
  • 2 tbsp paprika*
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • ~3lbs mixed, bone-in chicken pieces (we used thighs & drumsticks)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 large jalapeno, de-seeded & minced
  • 3 loomi/dried limes/black limes
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped, fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp rosewater
*We’ve made our own baharat mixture, following these proportions, as suggested by a Syrian chef when we made Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha). As with most spice blends, there are many variations of exact mixtures, especially regionally. Most baharat blends contain paprika; the one we follow does not, so we’ve added it to the recipe. You can also buy this blend, usually at a Middle Eastern market or similar place.
Instructions: 
  1. In a large dutch oven, heat the oil. Combine all of the spices in a small prep bowl to the side.
  2. Pat all of the chicken pieces dry and season with roughly a third of the spice mixture. Fry the chicken, skin down, until brown and crispy. (You will likely have to do this in batches.) Remove pieces to the side.
  3. Now add the onions to the hot oil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Follow the onions with the garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Top this with the remaining spice mixture. Continue cooking for another 6-8 minutes.
  4. Poke holes into the dried limes and add them, along with the tomatoes, cinnamon sticks, and chicken stock, to the pot.
  5. Return the chicken to the pot and bring the liquid to a boil. After reaching that boil, lower heat to a slow simmer and cover, cooking like this for 1 hour.
  6. While the main dish is cooking, soak the rice in cool water. Drain when the main dish has reached that hour of cook time.
  7. Add this point, remove the chicken to a lined cookie sheet, preheated to 325 degrees. This will bake just while while the rice is cooking.
  8. Add the rice, cilantro, and parsley to the liquid in the dutch oven. Simmer until the rice is cooked and liquid absorbed, which should take less than 10 minutes. Remove from heat while the rice still appears wet.
  9. Remove the cinnamon sticks and dried limes.
  10. Sprinkle the rice with the rosewater. Adjust salt if needed.
  11. Serve with chicken on top of the rice.
Serves 6-8

White Wine Poached Shrimp

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Selim has been perfecting this dish for months now. And by perfecting, I mean tweaking it every single time he makes it, with each iteration a smidge more delicious than the last, even though the very first attempt was excellent! It all started one time when we had a left-over half bottle of wine and a ‘Manager’s Special’ of shrimp that needed to be eaten. From there, this has become one of our favorite dishes. He’s definitely figured out how to delicately poach the shrimp, while simultaneously achieving a beautiful flavor! Everyone loves shrimp, but let’s not lie here, the poaching liquid is what you want. There is no shame in drinking it. On that note – you want to use a halfway decent bottle of wine because the wine basically is your dish. I’m not saying spend $40, but take it a notch up from the Two-Buck Chuck.

This dish feels very elegant and complex, but it actually isn’t hard to make at all. As we’ve shared it, it is simply the shrimp and the poaching liquid, but you can take it a few different directions. Frequently, we just eat it in a bowl, allowing us to slurp up all of the delicious poaching liquid unencumbered. You can also serve it on top of pasta (or another starch, like rice), which we also do frequently (and as you see in our pictures from tonight), or with some bread to soak up the liquid.

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White Wine Poached Shrimp

Ingredients: 
  • 3 strips of bacon, sliced into lardons
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (750mL) bottle dry white wine
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup Asiago (or other hard) cheese, thinly grated
  • 1 lb fresh raw shrimp
Instructions: 
  1. Peel and de-vein the shrimp if not already done for you.
  2. Cook the bacon in a large pan over medium heat until the fat is released and bacon is crispy. Then remove the bacon to the side.
  3. Add the onion to the bacon fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook just another 1-2 minutes. Don’t brown.
  4. Pour the bottle of wine into the pan. Add the red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, tasting to see that the alcohol has cooked off.
  5. Slowly sprinkle in the cheese, stirring as you go.
  6. Add the shrimp to the pan. Cover and cook, keeping the liquid at a slight simmer. Watch closely, removing from heat when the shrimp turn pink. This will only take 2-3 minutes!
  7. Serve with the reserved bacon bits on top. You also might want to consider topping with a little more Asiago!
Serves 3-4

Baked Beef Empanadas

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Just a few weeks ago, we shared our Farewell Columbia homage to our food faves from our home for the past three-ish years. One of Ally’s favorite things to do in Columbia was to walk up and down the market, pretending like she might branch out, but then settle back on her favorite empanadas for brunch. Can’t blame her! We’ve been a little apprehensive to make empanadas at home for fear we won’t do them justice. But since we have time off between graduation and starting our new jobs, we’ve promised ourselves that we would attempt some of the more intimidating/time-consuming/difficult dishes that we’ve been too afraid to try! Fingers crossed 🤞🏽

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A lot of time when we attempt a recipe from a cuisine that we didn’t grow up cooking (ie: most of them), we struggle to find the authentic recipe. We don’t want to misrepresent anything on here. In standard fashion, we spent a lot of time scouring the internet for the perfect empanada dough recipe. For a basic empanada dough for baking, it seems that the biggest controversy is whether or not to use an egg in the dough. We decided to try no egg dough today. We mostly leaned on one of Ally’s favorite sites, Global Table Adventure, for our dough recipe and inspiration for the empanadas themselves. Her video of repulgue-ing the dough edges was really helpful! While Sasha made empanadas for her Argentina meal, we didn’t add the more traditional Argentine ingredients (hard-boiled egg, olives) to ours tonight – we wanted to start our homemade empanada adventure with a basic recipe. We also consulted an article – Common Empanada Mistakes – for help too!

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Baked Beef Empanadas

(Roughly adapted from Global Table Adventure)
Ingredients:
  • Dough
    • 4 cups AP flour
    • 2 tsp salt
    • 16 tbsp (2 stick) cold butter
    • 1 – 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • Filling
    • 1 tbsp neutral oil
    • 1 small onion, minced
    • 6 cloves garlic
    • 1 tbsp tomato paste
    • 2 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp oregano
    • 2 tsp chili powder
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne (omit for those who can’t take the heat)
    • 2 tsp paprika
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 10 turns fresh ground black pepper
    • 1 lb ground beef
Instructions:
  1. Prepare the dough first. Place the butter in the freezer for ~20 minutes prior to getting started.
    • Sift the salt into the flour.
    • Grate the cold butter into the flour.
    • Slowly stir the water into the mixture until a shaggy mixture forms. Then turn it out onto a floured surface and smush into a ball with your hands. (You don’t need to knead this dough!)
    • Refrigerate while preparing the filling.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large pan. Once warm, add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes.
  3. The add the tomato paste and the herbs & spices. Cook another minute.
  4. Now add the meat to the pan. Break up into small pieces and cook until almost completely done.
  5. Refrigerate the filling while rolling out and cutting the dough. The filling should be cool before placing on the dough.
  6. Remove your dough from the fridge. Roll out into two circles, an 1/8th of an inch thick. Using a mold (or a cup or a bowl), cut out rounds of dough.
  7. Place a small dollop of meat into the center. Don’t overfill! Crimp the edges together to seal. (Check out the link in our post above or YouTube “repulgue” to get visual hints how to make it pretty!)
  8. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake the empanadas for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
*Side note: these can be frozen prior to baking. They then can be baked from frozen, adding an extra 5-10 minutes to the bake time.
Makes ~ 2 dozen – this obviously depends on the size you decide to make!

Summer Turkey Kofte

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We’ve chatted about köfte here before (see our post for Sultan Selim Kofte). Usually they are made from lamb and/or beef, but really köfte can be anything. The origin of the word is from the classic Persian, meaning “to pound” or “to grind.” This obviously describes the ground meat, but really works for many other ingredients. We’re having steaks tomorrow night (a new attempt – in the cast iron skillet, on the grill!) and didn’t want red meat two nights in a row, so we thought we’d try our hand at some white meat köftes.

With the lighter turkey and the addition of the cilantro, these were a perfect summer dinner. They’re so flavorful, that when I was eating them it actually took me a minute to remember that they were turkey instead of a heartier meat. We grilled ours for ultimate summer-ness, but they would work well in a pan or under a broiler I suspect. There is a lot of delicious juice, so you want something to soak it all up. We had ours with flatbread, which was perfect for mopping up the plate, but rice or couscous would be great too.

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Side note: You may notice in our pictures that we skewered ours on the grill. This is definitely unnecessary and probably hurt us a little bit. Next time I’ll put them directly on the grill. 

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Blue Ridge Mountain sunsets just make dinner that much better!

Summer Turkey Kofte

Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground turkey (85/15)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Combine all of the ingredients together. Can be done ahead of time and refrigerated for enhanced flavor melding.
  2. Get you grill ready or place a grill pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Form oblong köftes. Grill over medium-high heat for just 3-4 minutes on each side.
  4. Serve with rice or flatbread. Hummus, veggies, feta, and/or tzatziki would go well too!
Serves 3-4