Category Archives: Meat

Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce

Pistachios and prunes make up the filling and the sauce for this simple pork tenderloin roll.
Pistachios and prunes make up the filling and the sauce for this simple pork tenderloin roll.

This is one of those dishes that looks like you slaved over yet is really as simple as it gets.

“Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce” may have only seven ingredients, but it delivers on flavor and presence so much that it’s definitely worthy of being served to company.

This recipe is from the new “Tuscan Women Cook: Nonnas. Memories. Recipes.” (self-published), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Coleen Kirnan with Rhonda Vilardo, who run the aforementioned Tuscan Women Cook, a culinary immersion program in Italy, in which students learn authentic, time-honored dishes during hands-on, week-long classes.

The recipes in the book are inspired by the family recipes and culture of the Val d’Orsia region of Tuscany, just south of Siena.

Recipes such as “Zuppa di Stracci” (“Stracciatella Soup”), “Ravioli di Ricotta ed Erbe Aromatiche” (“Ravioli with Ricotta and Herbs”), and “Melanzane alla Parmigiana” (a lighter version of “Eggplant Parmesan” that forgoes breading and frying) are sure to appeal to any Italian food lover.

“Filetto di Maiale con Prugne e Pistachio” or “Pork Tenderloin with Plum Sauce” makes use of a mix of pistachios and prunes (yes, dried plums) in two ways.

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 31

Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.
Cuban pork-plantain enchiladas from Aqui.

Aqui, San Jose, Campbell, Cupertino

Long before certain chefs in Southern California and on the East Coast were gaining fame for stuffing tacos and burritos with all manner of global ingredients, there was Aqui.

It was a forerunner to the novelty of folding flour tortillas around a filling of Thai peanut saucy chicken or tangy goat cheese to create something anew.

It opened way back in 1994 in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood. I remember going there in the late ’90s, where no matter if it was lunch or dinner, you’d have to time it just right or risk not getting a table. Today, Aqui is not only still going strong, but it now boasts five locations in the South Bay.

It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. It’s fun, vibrant California-ized Mexican-inspired food in generous portions. Order the avocado dip ($7.49), and you’ll get enough tortilla chips to feed four handily, along with salsa fresca on the side for good measure. The avocado dip is essentially a chunk guacamole with habanero, lime, and cilantro. The menu says there’s mango in it, but it’s not readily detectable. The chips are very crisp and have a great rustic corn taste.

The Cuban pork enchiladas ($12.49) come three to an order, along with black beans and crunchy, mild tasting Aqui slaw. The enchiladas are filled with ground pork that’s been cooked with mashed plaintains, giving it a nice sweetness, before being napped with a red, nutty tasting achiote sauce. Squiggles of sour cream decorate the top.

Don't miss the flourless chocolate cake.
Don’t miss the flourless chocolate cake.

On the lighter side, the Southwest Caesar ($9.49) was a kaleidoscope of color with yellow, purple and red fried tortilla strips all over the top. It’s a simple mix of crunchy Romaine, pumpkin seeds, black beans and grilled corn, done up with a flourish of Asiago cheese, but really hits the spot.

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Effortless Grilled Pork Kebabs With Hoisin and Five-Spice

The most time-consuming part of this simple dish is just threading the pork onto the skewers -- and that takes hardly any time at all.
The most time-consuming part of this simple dish is just threading the pork onto the skewers — and that takes hardly any time at all.

When you’re married to a man whose nickname is Meat Boy, and a “Meat Illustrated: A Foolproof Guide to Understanding and Cooking with Cuts of All Kinds” cookbook lands on your porch, you know you’ll have to practically pry it out of his hands to ever get a look at it, yourself.

Such was the case when a review copy of that meat-centric tome (Cook’s Illustrated) by America’s Test Kitchen arrived.

With more than 350 recipes for beef, pork, lamb, and veal, it’s a true meat lover’s manual. It includes illustrations showing where each cut is found on a particular animal. It also will teach you how to make meat juicier through pre-salting or brining; what kind of fat to trim off and how much; and how to cure your own bacon.

The recipes make use of a range of cooking techniques and run the gamut from “Sous Vide Pepper-Crusted Beef Roast” and “Slow-Roasted Pork Shoulder with Peach Sauce” to “Slow-Cooker Sweet-and-Sour Barbecue Spareribs” and “Egyptian Eggah with Ground Beef and Spinach.”

You can’t go wrong with “Grilled Pork Kebabs with Hoisin and Five-Spice” that’s easy and quick enough to make on a busy weeknight.

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Nik Sharma’s Beef Chilli Fry with Pancetta

An easy flank steak stir-fry with the unexpected addition of pancetta.
An easy flank steak stir-fry with the unexpected addition of pancetta.

Nik Sharma is not a triple, but a quadruple threat. And we’re all the better for it.

Writer, photographer, recipe developer, and food scientist, he does it all. And those talents are on big display in his new cookbook, “The Flavor Equation” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

Born in Bombay (Mumbai), Sharma studied molecular genetics at the University of Cincinnati, before getting a a full-time research job at Georgetown University’s Department of Medicine. His creative side soon took hold, though, as he started cooking his mother’s recipes, as well as developing his own, which he chronicled on his award-winning blog, A Brown Table.

That led to his first cookbook, “Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food” (Chronicle Books, 2018). His follow-up makes use of his science background even more, along with his always beautiful food photography.

Through more than 100 recipes, he teaches how certain techniques or ingredient additions can heighten brightness, bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, savoriness, fieriness, and richness — the flavors that make food taste so good. Sharma also delves into how sight, sound, mouthfeel, aroma and taste all play into how we react to food.

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Pork Cheeks Braised in Tomato Wine Sauce

Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.
Have you tried pork cheeks? If not, you are missing out.

This is one of those no-fail, largely hands-off, wintery main courses, in which the oven does all the work.

In fact, the only real heavy-lifting you’ll have to do is procuring the pork cheeks, which is not an easy find at most supermarkets. Nor is it a necessarily inexpensive one, either.

I lucked out in buying mine from California’s only commercial Iberian pig operation, Encina Farms. What makes Iberian pork so sought after is the fact that the pigs are finished on acorns, giving their meat incredible richness. In fact, in Spain, this is the pork that’s cured into luxurious jamon Iberico.

Encina Farms does sell out of pork cheeks fast, especially since there are only two cheeks per pig, of course. But if you are serious about buying some, fill out its contact form online, and the farm owners will either alert you when the cheeks are available or save some for you.

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