Pork tenderloin is really one of those great secret weapons that can make any person seem like a fabulous gourmet. It's simple to dress and when it cooks, it always comes out juicy and tender. In fact, as far as my memory serves, pork tenderloin was the first "fancy" dinner that I made for John that really seemed to impress him.
That was back when we lived in Cleveland. I had bought a cookbook to support the local PBS station that contained recipes from the city's best restaurants, most of which we couldn't afford at the time on my nonprofit salary and his student loans. But we were able to splurge every now and then, including a dinner at Oz where I made sure to get the famous pork tenderloin and cabbage noodles. I bought the cookbook particularly because it had that recipe. It did not disappoint as it shows how much flavor can be yielded by a good cut of meat when the only thing you do to is put some simple seasoning on it and cook until it's the right temperature. That recipe taught me some basic skills which I used here.
I always return to that pork tenderloin in the fall or winter, mostly because the cabbage noodles make such a comforting meal. But lately with cherries in season, I keep running across menu items and recipes for pork with cherries. That still seems like an autumnal meal to me, maybe because of the sweet richness of a wine reduction. Since our CSA gave us a bag of delicious, deep red Bing cherries, my thoughts turned to a salad of some kind to lighten up pork tenderloin into a summertime meal. I thought I'd try making a vinaigrette using port as a nod towards cherry wine sauces and maybe as an excuse to have a glass of port while cooking, but you won't judge me, of course.
The main CSA challenge for me with this meal? Lavender. For the last 3 weeks we've received a bunch of lavender in our share. Lavender is the one thing I do not need: 1) we have bunches of it growing around our house, and 2) I can't stand the taste-- it's like having the taste of old lady in my mouth. Blech! The first week, I had John put the lavender in with our CSA share of lilies. Faced with a new bunch the following week, I thought that I should try putting it in something I make to eat, just to give it a try.
So with a lot of trepidation, I tried a sip of the port with the lavender to see how they paired together. I winced as I put a small leaf on my tongue but was surprised to find that instead of the flavor of grandma, it was peppery! I thought that this might actually be a nice sharp contrast to the sweetness of the cherries, and when you add some fresh thyme, the woodiness of the thyme helps the flavor of the lavender mellow into those cherries resulting in what John said, a flavor that's reminiscent of Thanksgiving-- kind of perfect for what was intended to be a light, summer tribute to a fall meal. :)
1 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 tbsp Kosher salt (I'm guessing at a smaller amount since I over-salted mine)
1 tsp course black pepper
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sesame oil
8 oz shitake mushrooms, stemmed and cut in half
1/2 medium onion, sliced in half moons
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Blend together the 2 oils and use 1/2 of it to coat the pork tenderloin. Mix together salt, pepper, and thyme and coat the outside of the tenderloin. Sear each side of the tenderloin until browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add the rest of the oil on both sides of the tenderloin and add the onions and mushrooms on each side. Cook in the oven until the pork's internal temperature reaches about 160 degrees. Remove and let the juices redistribute before cutting on a bias and plate, spooning the mushrooms and onions over the slices and pouring any juices from the pan on top as well.
Salad with Cherries & Port Vinaigrette
1/2 cup cherries, pitted and sliced in half
Butter Leaf and Little Gem lettuce
2 oz chevre
1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts
1.5 tbsp port
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp fresh thyme
pinch of dried lavender leaves
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp olive oil
scant amount of salt and pepper
Mix together the port, vinegar, thyme, lavender, honey, salt and pepper. Using a whisk, mix in the olive oil until combined. Plate the lettuce and top with chevre, walnuts and cherries then drizzle with vinaigrette.
CSA Count: 3
Cherries, Little Gem Lettuce, lavender
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