Grilled pork tenderloin with Thai-ish green sauce and charred red cabbage

You guys. YOU GUYS! This experiment? Totally worth it. I knew I wanted the charred red cabbage. But I wasn’t sure with what to pair it. It was just hubs and myself so I knew I wanted meat but I had had steak the night before (and hubs had had salmon) and we have been tiring of chicken. So we decided on pork tenderloin. When I went to the store to pick some up, there was the most succulent looking basil hitting me in the face as I walked in. And the mint in the garden is a bit out of control. So I figured why not doing something similar to my chopped chicken, Thai style. Do I stuff it like this recipe? Or make it more like a chimichurri sauce? Or chop up the pork similar to the chicken and mix it all in there together, like this? I decided on something sort of in the middle of all of that. Grill the lime and ginger rubbed pork tenderloin and then make a basil-mint-lime-ginger pesto. And holy cow. It was juicy and flavorful and really delicious.

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Ingredients:

The pork

  • pork tenderloin
  • salt/pepper
  • lime zest
  • ginger
  • thai chili oil
  • grapeseed oil

The pesto

  • 1 cup of basil leaves
  • 1 cup of mint leaves
  • 2 inches off a knob of ginger
  • zest of two limes
  • juice of one lime
  • half of red shallot
  • a few drops of thai chili oil
  • 1 teaspoon of finely chopped jalapeno
  • 1 teaspoon of grapeseed oil

The cabbage

  • red cabbage
  • balsamic vinaigrette of your choice

When I told Hubs what we were having for dinner, he went outside to get the grill ready. He came inside and said, “okay, we have 20 minutes worth of gas!” so I made this dinner in a MAJOR hurry.  After patting the pork dry, I quickly rubbed on a bit of salt and pepper, a few drops of the chili oil, about a teaspoon of grapeseed oil, the lime zest and ground ginger (using my plane grater). I actually wore a disposable glove for this one because, not only did I have to move quickly, but I had other things going on at the same time and wouldn’t have time to deal with chili on my hands (avoiding my eyes, the kids, etc). Put it on a cutting board and then cut the red cabbage, after having removed the outer layer, into wedges (leaving the core intact), sidling them up beside the pork. Hubs is a master vinaigrette maker and I don’t really know what goes into his (oil, balsamic, salt, pepper, mustard, and sometimes plain yogurt I think…but I asked him to leave out the yogurt on this since it would be on the grill) but really, any vinaigrette would be okay here. I brushed it on one side telling Hubs that that side should go on the grill first.

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Out he went and I got to making the pesto.\

After washing and drying the basil and mint, I threw all of the ingredients into the cuisinart. I pulsed them, using a spatula to pull the displaced pesto back into the mix often, until it was pureed. I tasted as I went adding a dash more of chili oil or jalapeno if it needed more spice or ginger if it needed punch. At one point I considered putting in a bit of plain yogurt to smooth it out a bit…but I’m glad I didn’t. It REALLY didn’t need it.

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Hubs is a master griller so can tell when things are ready by touch. I need an instaread thermometer. With the cabbage, he grilled it until the first side began to wilt and char. He then doused the other side with the vinaigrette and flipped them so that the other side would char…about 10 minutes for the first side (depending on how hot your grill gets)? The pork and the cabbage will take almost the same amount of time to cook so they were a good match. When he taken all of the cabbage and the pork off of the grill, I went out with my jug o’ pesto and doused the entire thing on while it was still toasty.

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This wasn’t just beautiful to look at. It was GOOOOOOOD. Hubs likes his meat a bit more cooked so he took the ends. I like my pork pink in the middle (AS IT SHOULD BE!) so I took the center pieces. Both of us were happy.  The cabbage was caramelized on the outside with some crunch and the interior was a perfect mix of bitter and sweet. The grilling really mellows the flavor and the vinaigrette ups the flavor throughout.

My dad, who was delayed on his flight to visit us last night and didn’t land until 12:30am (5 and a half hours later…) had the last remaining piece when he arrived and, even cold, he was talking about it when he woke up this morning. A hit for sure!

Thyme and Lime Chicken with Crispy Leeks and Spaghetti Squash and Kale

I have more thyme than I could ever possibly use. The garden is absolutely being taken over. I use it here and there, normally, but have never cooked a meal that was heavy on the fresh thyme…now was the (wait for it) time (commence groaning now).

In my refrigerator I had chicken that needed to be cooked, a stalk of leek that was just holding on to life and a bunch of dinosaur kale. In my window I had a bag full of persian limes, a small spaghetti squash, a basil plant just screaming to be used and a gorgeous farmer’s market yellow onion.

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The chicken:

  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Thyme
  • 2 or 3 limes
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1/2 of a thinly sliced leek
  • Grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

The spaghetti squash and kale:

  • Small to medium spaghetti squash
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • Half of yellow onion
  • The other half of the leek
  • 1/4 cup of red wine (leftover wine is fine)
  • Handful of basil
  • Thyme
  • Feta
  • 1/2 tablespoon of butter

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I knew we wanted to eat early last night (our au pair was going to a concert) so I prepped the chicken and the marinade just after lunch and roasted the spaghetti squash.

After collecting a VERY large handful of thyme and washing it, in a glass bowl I put probably a cup full of thyme and the juice of two limes (three if they are not very juicy).  I added a few tablespoons of grapeseed oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper.

The next step was the slice the chicken into smaller pieces (the better to soak up the marinade in my opinion…and it spreads out the portion so that people can take what they want to eat) and then cut the leek. To thinly slice the leek, cut off the green top, leaving the bottom root intact. Using a very sharp knife and tucked away fingers, cut the leek, from the top into a checkerboard (see picture).

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And THEN cut off the bottom, “rooty” portion. It should fall apart into long, thinly sliced leek. Usually about 3 inches long. If there are any pieces that aren’t cut through, tear them apart with your hands or with a paring knife.

Put the half of the leeks into the bowl with the rest of the marinade, saving the other half for the other part of the meal, and then add the chicken, pushing the chicken into the juice and squishing it into the bottom of the bowl so that all of the chicken got the yummy marinade. Put it in the fridge until you are ready to cook it, about 10 minutes before you want to serve dinner.

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Preheat the oven to 375.

Cut the tail off of the spaghetti squash and then, with a very sharp knife and the squash standing on the cut end allowing for it to be flat, cut the squash lengthwise.

Then clean out the seeds and the wet pulp with a spoon. I sometimes save these seeds to roast and top the meal but today I wasn’t into separating it all out.

Spray or rub the inside of the cleaned out squash  with some olive oil. Get out a cookie sheet and either cover it with parchment paper or a silpat. I used a silpat. You will be putting the squash cut side down on here. But before you do that put a few sprigs of thyme on the inside. The spaghetti squash on its own can be pretty bland. A healthy dose of herbs really does a lot to add flavor…as well as the other ingredients that we will mix in later.

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Place them face down on the cookie sheet and into the over about halfway up. Depending on how soft you want your spaghetti squash, time it from there. I wanted this to be pretty soft…but actually cooked it just a bit too long (40 minutes instead of my usual 30). I got distracted by the kids and so the squash, when I forked it out later, wash more like a mass instead of individual threads. You can tell when it is done by sticking a knife into the skin. If it goes in easily, it is finished. After roasting it looks like this:

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Let the squash cool for about 20 minutes (or longer) before “forking” it. Then using a pot holder to hold the outside of the squash, run a fork through the inside, forming spaghetti like threads. Set this aside.

A few hours later I came back to finish up the meal before our au pair prepared the food for the kids.

I chopped the onions and prepared the kale. The easiest way to do this, I have found, is take the stalk of kale in your hand by the white end and then pull back the towards the green leaf and the kale will separate easily. I then tore the kale into bite size pieces.

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In a 12 inch saute pan, I put a pat of butter. Once hot and slightly browned (YUM!), I added the chopped yellow onion and let that soften. When the onion was close to translucent, I added the kale and the rest of the leeks.

I let this cook down for a bit, until the kale was beginning to wilt. I tore the basil into small pieces (no need to be precise here…it will blend in with the kale) and threw those into the mix. I then added in a splash of red wine (OKAY, okay, I’ll admit it…it was more like a 1/4 cup. No? Alright. 1/2 a cup) to help the kale cook down and offset some of the bitterness.

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I cooked it over low heat until the leaves were bright green and wilted, the onions soft and the wine absorbed.

This is a good time to turn off the greens until you are ready to cook the chicken. While the chicken cooks you will add in the rest of the ingredients.

Pull out another saute pan, big enough to fit all of your chicken with about an inch between the pieces. Heat up a pat of butter in the pan and swirl it around. The chicken has been marinating with grapeseed oil so you don’t need to add more oil to the pan.

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My husband likes his onions, especially leeks, incredibly crispy (and practically burned…much to my chagrin). So I add them in at the beginning with the chicken and cook them at a medium temp. If you want them less crispy, add them a bit later. Save the marinade to pour back over the chicken when you flip. I don’t flip until the first side is browned. As these pieces are smaller than a full chicken breast, they take less time. Keep an eye on them. Also, make sure that you push the cooking chicken and leeks around in the juices.

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While the chicken is cooking, turn the kale mix back on at a low temp and add to it the spaghetti squash and sprinkle on some feta cheese and a splash more of the red wine and a squeeze of lime juice, should you have any left over.

Break up the feta so that it is throughout the dish. Same goes for the spaghetti squash…try to break it up so it isn’t in big clumps. Also, if you see any random thyme stems, pull those out. Nooooot tasty those stems! Taste and see if it needs any more salt. It may. Spaghetti squash can be WAY undersalted.

Let the feta melt, the rest of the dish heat up and all of the yummy goodness to absorb that last splash of wine and lime. As I am completely dependent on my istaread thermometer, when both sides of the chicken are properly browned, pull them off the heat when they reach 160 degrees. I usually test the smallest pieces first and pull them off if they are done before the big guys.

We served in a shallow bowl with the kale and spaghetti squash under the chicken. It was incredibly fragrant and the chicken majorly juicy with the savoriness of the thyme and leeks and the citrus of the lime.  OH! I almost forgot. I felt like it needed a bit of crunch so at the very end I also added a dash of Onion Crunch. Totally finished it right.

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Grilled Mahi Mahi with Pineapple Salsa and Broccolini

Last night’s dinner was a super success. I had hubs pick out the fish for us when we were at the farmer’s market yesterday (quickly becoming my favorite Sunday morning activity with the kids — helps P try new foods, too!) as I really want to get him involved in the food we eat. The best way to do this (in my experience) is to have him grill the food…and to have him pick it out himself.

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Yesterday he chose a GORGEOUS mahi mahi (after helping P make friends with the little guy to our left…this lil’ dude was about three inches long).

I wasn’t sure what I could do with the mahi mahi as I sometimes have a major fear of “new to me” ingredients. But if he was comfortable grilling it, I was sure I could figure out a side, marinade and/or sauce. Apparently, I mastered two of the three (in hubs’ opinion).

Once we were home and were unpacking the days glory, I noticed that the pineapple that I had purchased two weeks ago (before “the sick”) was on last legs. It had to be used. And from there I got creative!

The fish marinade:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (we used low sodium)
  • 3 limes (zest and juice)
  • 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 3 tablespoons of cilantro, finely chopped
  • salt/pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed oil (for the high temps)

The pineapple topping/salsa:

  • At least a cup of freshly cubed pineapple (reserve the juices when cutting)
  • 1/2 of finely chopped vidalia onion
  • 1 tablespoon of cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of super finely chopped jalapeno
  • 12 mint leaves chiffonaded and then finely chopped
  • Squeeze of lime juice

I forgot to take a picture of the final plate…because we dove into it so quickly that I didn’t even have time to consider it. It looked and smelled THAT good.

Before doing anything else, whisk all of the ingredients for the marinade together and then place the fish flesh side down (skin up) into the marinade in a dish (I used a pirex pan).

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Then, go outside and clean the grates on your grill VERY well and coat them in grapeseed oil…while the grill is still cold.  Come back inside and prepare the salsa.

Chop all of the ingredients, mix in a glass bowl, taste and add more heat from the jalapeno if it seems light on heat or add some more lime juice if it needs more acid and let them sit. Make sure you have put back all of the pineapple juices lost when cutting it up. Because hubs likes his food extra hot, I chopped up a bit more jalapeno for him to add after I had plated dinner.

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Once the fish has sat in the marinade for at least 30 minutes, it is ready to grill. Hubs took over at this point but we followed this tutorial. Basically, hot grill skin side down first for 8 minutes or until the bottom side is turning white (1/4 of the way up), flip and cook until the other side is almost completely opaque (about another 8 minutes). Hubs made sure to pour the marinade over the fish throughout the cooking.

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While he was outside cooking the fish, I steamed the broccolini in my wok with the bamboo steamer. I salted the water prior to turning on the heat and squeezed a bit of lemon on it at the very end of cooking.

Once the fish was finished cooking, we served it immediately. And it was freaking DELICIOUS! The perfect mix of hot and sweet and tangy. It tasted fresh and light…but amazingly filling, too. The perfect meal.

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