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

Bacon Jam

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I have a confession. I am not on board with the bacon trend. I do not think EVERYTHING is better wrapped in bacon. I know this is an unpopular opinion around here. I mean, is there anything more American than being obsessed with bacon? My brother even informed us when we were planning our wedding that he wouldn’t attend if our cocktail hour didn’t offer bacon-wrapped scallops, his favorite hor d’oeuvre. (He was joking, obviously.) So when I first heard of bacon jam awhile back, on a menu somewhere I think, I thought 💭 ‘Ugh… and here it is, another perfectly good dish that people felt the need to add bacon to so they can be cool and bacon-centric.’

I still feel this way – I’m looking at you Bloody Mary with four strips of bacon hanging out, bacon sprinkled donuts, and chocolate-covered bacon👀 BUT… I have definitely been convinced when it comes to bacon jam. I think I thought bacon jam was like regular jam (ie: raspberry or strawberry) with bacon bits stirred in. Which, in case you were wondering, is NOT what bacon jam actually is. It’s a sweet and savory spread, with just as much of a caramelized onion flavor as a bacon flavor. The use du jour is on top of a gourmet burger, but I think it’s much better used on foods that don’t already have meat in them. Hence, we made some bacon jam to slather on our Cheddar & Shallot Skillet Scones. Such a good decision! I’m already dreaming about bacon jam grilled cheeses, scrambled eggs topped with bacon jam, and adding bacon jam to my cheese & crackers regimen. But you do you, put this stuff on whatever you want!

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Bacon Jam

(Adapted from this recipe)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb bacon
  • 2 large Vidalia onions, sliced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5+ turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Instructions: 
  1. In a large skillet, cook all of the bacon until slightly crispy. Remove to the side. Retain enough grease to coat the bottom of the pan, but discard any in excess.
  2. Cook onions, topped with salt and pepper, over medium-low heat for ~1 hour, until fully caramelized. Stir every 10 minutes or so, scraping up any onions stuck to the pan.
  3. Once onions are caramelized, deglaze the pan with the vinegar. Scrape up all the brown, delicious bits. Now stir in the sugar. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until thickened.
  4. Remove from heat and allow to cool for ~15 minutes. Then combine the onion mixture and the bacon in food processor. Pulse to desired consistency – we like it well-combined, but with some chunks remaining.
  5. Refrigerate when not in use.
Makes ~1 1/2 cups

Strawberry Ricotta Toast

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You know how avocado toast suddenly became a thing? Kudos to whoever first thought, “Hmm… let me smash some avocado on a piece of bread, top it was something Instagrammable, and see if people will pay 10 times more than the ingredients are worth for it…” #avocadotoast And Instagram has never been the same.

Well I’m here to tell you that ricotta toast is the next avocado toast. Dare I say it… It may be bigger than avocado toast. Unlike the avocado, ricotta can pair with sweet or savory ingredients. I really can’t think of anything that wouldn’t work with ricotta. And that white background will provide quite the Instagrammable contrast for the toppings. We have a ways to go until my theory is proven – #avocadotoast has been used more than 760,000 times on Instagram, while #ricottatoast is hovering just under 3,000. I always favor the underdog 💪🏼💪🏼

I’ve seen ricotta toast on a few restaurant menus (and a few Instagram shots) and thought it’d be perfect for my breakfast. I have leftover ricotta from our Prosciutto & Basil Topped Lemon Ricotta Pappardelle dish the other night. Leftover basil makes an appearance on this one too. Best part about this breakfast was that every ingredient already resided in my kitchen. All of these proportions and ingredients could easily be adjusted to personal tastes as well.

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Strawberry Ricotta Toast

Ingredients:
  • Slice of bread
  • 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
  • A few strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (preferably a thicker, more syrupy type)
  • Fresh basil, torn
  • Fresh ground black pepper
Instructions:
  1. Toast your bread.
  2. Smear the toast with ricotta.
  3. Top with strawberries, basil, a few turns of fresh ground black pepper, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  4. Instagram your creation.

Wine & Honey Brisket

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When I decided to make surprise Hanukkah dinner tonight, I knew I wanted to make latkes and dessert, but what to make for a main dish…? I’ve never made brisket before, but I don’t live under a rock. I know that this cut of meat is beloved by Jewish bubbes and Texas pit-masters alike. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever made a brisket before, but tonight seemed like the perfect night to give it a whirl!

Brisket is a cut that comes from the chest of the cow. It is a tough cut of meat, with a lot of connective tissue to support the cow’s weight. Hence, it requires a long, low, slow method of cooking to tenderize it sufficiently. Those Texas pit-masters like to smoke over low heat for long periods of time, but Jewish cooks traditionally braise it. We love any kind of braised meats, as we’ve mentioned a few times (check out our Braised Balsamic Pork with GrapesKimchi Braised Chicken with NoodlesRed Wine Braised Beef, or Braised Chicken Thighs with Middle Eastern Spices).

This recipe is an interesting mix of sweet and savory. The honey and balsamic add sweetness that balances out the meat and onions. The meat comes out so tender, but the sauce and vegetables really make it. I’m not going to lie – I think I actually liked the onions and the carrots even better than the meat.

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Wine & Honey Brisket

(Minimally adapted from Leite’s Culinara, recipe originating from Modern Jewish Cooking)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 tbsp neutral oil
  • 3 1/2 – 4lb brisket
  • Salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • cup + 1 cup red wine
  • tbsp + 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 6 large whole carrots or a few handfuls of baby carrots
Instructions: 
  1. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Generously season both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper. Sear on all sides, several minutes per side.
  3. Remove the brisket from the dutch oven and set to the side.
  4. Deglaze the pan with 1 cup of red wine. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, and 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar.
  5. Cook, stirring occasionally, for ~ 10 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, whisk together the other cup of red wine with honey, remaining 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, and stock.
  7. Nestle the carrots under the onions. Then place the brisket on top of the vegetables. Pour the wine and honey mixture over top.
  8. Cover and place in the oven. Braise for 2 hours. After those 2 hours, stir the vegetables and flip the meat. Re-cover and braise for another 2 hours.
  9. Remove the brisket from the dutch oven. Place on a cutting board and tent foil overtop. Allow to rest for ~15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, return the dutch oven to the stovetop. Simmer the pan sauce and reduce it while the meat is resting.
  11. After resting, slice the brisket on the perpendicular. Serve with the onions, carrot, and topped with pan sauce.
Serves 6-8 (the brisket shrinks considerably as it braises)

Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes

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We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!

Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!

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Braised Balsamic Pork with Grapes

(Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine)
Ingredients: 
  • 3lb boneless pork loin
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • ~1lb black or red grapes (~3 cups)
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups vegetable or poultry stock
  • 4 large fresh sage leaves
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary
Instructions: 
  1. Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
  3. Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
  4. After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
  6. Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
  7. Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
  8. Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
  9. Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
  10. Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
  11. Serve the pork sliced, topped with sauce.
Serves 8-12

Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits

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We may have mentioned it once or twice, but we’re big fans of wine in general and Virginia wine in particular. We used to live in Charlottesville, the de facto capital of Virginia wine country. There are many perks to living in Charlottesville, but definitely one of them is the proximity to the many wines of the Monticello AVA. There are dozens of wineries and vineyards, as well as breweries and cideries within easy day-trip distance from the center of town.

Sadly, we can’t say the same about SC, but we are lucky enough to remain wine club members at one of our favorites, King Family Vineyards, and receive a shipment of Virginia wine every quarter. In our package of wine from them, there’s always a newsletter with vineyard updates on one side and a seasonal recipe on the other side. When we received our shipment last week, this quarter’s recipe caught our eye! Tonight’s dish, with its fall flavors of cider and apples, is inspired by the one they shared with us.

{Relatedly, hit us up if you want to plan a long weekend or a day trip to Virginia wine country! We have lots of suggestions!}

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Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits

Ingredients: 
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, sliced & halved
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 2 persimmons, chopped
  • 1 large tart red apple, sliced
  • 1 12oz bottle hard cider
  • 2 tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 1/2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 sprig of fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 bunch of spinach
Instructions: 
  1. In a large, high-sided skillet, cook the chopped bacon over medium heat. As soon as the bacon begin to release its fat, add the onions and garlic to the pan.
  2. Cover and sweat for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then remove to the side.
  3. Now increase heat to medium-high, brown the chicken thighs on both sides in the remaining bacon fat. Once browned, remove these to the side as well.
  4. Add the fruit to the pan with the bacon and chicken drippings. Cook for just 2 or 3 minutes, tossing once or twice, to get the fruit slightly browned. And then remove these to the side as well.
  5. Now, deglaze the pan with the cider. Stir in the mustard, fish sauce, herbs, and a few shakes of salt & pepper.
  6. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, return the chicken to the pan. Cover and cook for 6-8 minutes.
  7. Remove lid and flip the chicken. Keep the liquid boiling and allow some to cook off for the next few minutes.
  8. Return all of the rest of the ingredients that were sidelined to the dish. Continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
  9. Serve the chicken, topped with fruit and onions. Spoon some of the cider mixture overtop.
  10. Once the skillet is emptied of these ingredients, place the spinach in with the remaining liquid. Cover and lower heat. The spinach will be ready to serve on the side once wilted, just another two minutes longer.
Serves 6-8

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Roasted Grape & Prosciutto Flatbread

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Ok. Obviously when we share recipes on here, we think they’re pretty good and that you should make them. But this one… I’m multiplying that sentiment by a million! These flatbreads are amazing!! Plus they are just a little bit fancy… Makes you feel like a fancy person, having fancy dinner. But the secret is, they’re easy and fairly quick to make.  We devoured them whole for dinner tonight, but they would also be perfect sliced into smaller slivers as an appetizer.

Let’s talk about our ingredients. Each one adds something to the flatbread, building to a huge depth and variety of flavor in each bite. We love Trader Joe’s naan for the base of our flatbreads, but you certainly could make your own or use something similar. We like these because they have great texture, the edges crisp up a bit in the oven, and are reasonably priced! (Trader Joe’s doesn’t pay us to say this – we really just love that place.) The next layer of Boursin herbed cheese makes for a creamy, sauce-like coating to the bread. The caramelized onions add a fragrant smokiness and the fresh rosemary, a pungent, almost piney, herbaceous taste and aroma. The roasted grapes are amazingly sweet, but in an entirely different way than you’re used to. (Even if you don’t make this flatbread, go out and roast some grapes.) And then prosciutto… I mean really… Prosciutto makes everything that much more delicious. The last drizzle of honey balances out all of the sweet and savory elements.

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Roasted Grape & Prosciutto Flatbread

(Adapted from Spices in My DNA blog)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup red or black grapes
  • 1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 1 package Boursin cheese (you won’t use it all)
  • 2 slices of prosciutto
  • Fresh rosemary
  • Honey
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 pieces of pre-made naan or other flatbread (we like Trader Joe’s)
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm 2 tsp olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and stir to coat in the oil. Top with several turns of fresh ground black pepper and 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary.
  3. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, for at least 30 minutes until caramelized. Lower heat slightly after first ten minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, toss grapes with 1 tbsp olive oil and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.
  5. Spread grapes out on foil-lined cookie sheet and roast for ~15 minutes.
  6. Lower oven heat to 350.
  7. Assemble flatbread: spread Boursin liberally on the naan, top with caramelized onions, and grapes.
  8. Place flatbreads directly on the oven rack. Bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove flatbreads from the oven. Top with prosciutto, additional chopped rosemary, and a drizzle of honey.
Serves 2.

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