Pork Tenderloin “Steaks” with Spiced Apple



OK, so this was an experiment: one of my favorite meats for cooking, pork tenderloin, with some of my favorite seasonings, even if they don’t usually go together. It was a chilly evening right now, so this hearty though fairly easy dish fit well for dinner. It seems like something that should be Central European, maybe German or Czech or Hungarian, but if it is, that’s a coincidence.


Pork Tenderloin “Steaks” with Spiced Apple

Currently pork tenderloin is often a screaming bargain meat. Much cheaper, usually, than  pork chops – which incidentally I find difficult to cook without being dry, tough and dull. Tenderloins are packaged two to a container, and typically weigh between one and one and a half pounds each, They have very little waste, and take limited time to cook. But they can be herb-rubbed and roasted, chunked and made into a quick and elegant stew, thinly sliced for Asian stir-fried dishes, made into kebabs, and cut in  1/4-1/2 inch “steaks” for quick frying or braising. I don’t understand why they are often on special, say buy-one-get-one-free sorts of deals. I’m guessing that many people don’t know how to cook them. Hey, that works for me.


Here’s my chilly January dinner creation: “Pork Tenderloin Steaks with Spiced Apple“ It goes well with buttered egg noodles and either a green vegetable or a simple salad. The recipe serves four. A light-bodied red wine or a hearty white go with it.


1 small-medium pork tenderloin (half of a package),about 1-1/4 pounds

Seasonings: 3/4 tsp salt + 1/4 tsp black pepper.+ 4 teaspoons flour

2 medium apples

1/4 small onion

2 tablespoons olive oil for pork plus 2 for the sauce

2 tablespoons white wine

4 tablespoons water, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon prepared horseradish

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sugar

A pinch of cayenne

Chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish


Trim off any fibrous or fatty parts off the pork. Cut the meat across into 1/2-inch thick slices. Sprinkle on both sides with the salt-pepper-flour mix. Peel the apples, quarter and core them and cut the flesh into 1/4-inch slices. Thinly slice the quarter onion.


Heat a large frying pan to medium hot. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, then fry the pork pieces in a single layer, turning them after they start to brown. When lightly browned on both sides, transfer them to a plate.


Add the other 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Fry the onion, stirring and scraping frequently, until softened. Add the apple and fry 2-3 minutes, stirring and scraping. Then add the wine, water, and all the seasonings (not the garnish), and stir and fry as the apple cooks down, 5-7 minutes.


Add back the previously seared pork and combine well. Keep the pork in a single layer, and simer 5-7 minutes, covered but turning frequently and adding a little water as needed, until pork is tender (cut off a little piece of one to test by biting). Taste the sauce for salt, and add a little as needed.


Serve with buttered noodles, plus either a green vegetable or salad. Sprinkle the chopped cilantro or parsley over the pork.



Stir-Fried Pork Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts


For fun, I tried Chinese cooking techniques on Western ingredients for a quick, savory cold-weather braised meat and vegetable dish. The prep and cooking times were like those for actual Chinese cooking. Having lived and cooked in Asia for many years, I do stir-frying in a wok very frequently for family and friends. The cooking goes quickly, perfect for a busy evening, and the results are bright flavored and a balance of the main protein and crisp-tender vegetables. Usually cooking the rice defines the time from starting cooking until eating dinner.

Stir-Fried Pork Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts

This time I used pork tenderloin, one of my favorite meats to cook with. I worked with distinctly non-Asian Brussels sprouts  and distinctly Western seasonings: no soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil or cornstarch.. And I served it with baked potato. We enjoyed dinner. I’ll be exploring this technique further with Western flavors..


The recipe serves 4-6, when accompanied by potato, noodles, rice or grits. A red wine goes well with the meal. And as with an actual Chinese stir-fry, the dish should be served as soon as it is cooked, for maximum freshness and texture.


1 medium pork tenderloin, about 1 pound

1/2 pound Brussels sprouts

1 large shallot or small onion

1 medium clove garlic

3 tablespoons sunflower or canola oil

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons red wine

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

A pinch of cayenne

3 tablespoons crushed tomatoes or 1 tablespoon tomato paste

Water as needed


Prepare the ingredients and have them all available so that the cooking, once started, can be quick. 


Trim off tough or fatty portions of the pork. Slice it thinly across (1/8 inch) and place the sliced meat on a platter. Trim off the tough bottoms of the sprouts, then slice the sprouts lengthwise into quarters, and add them to the platter in a separate pile. Peel the shallot or onion. Cut it in half lengthwise, then slice the halves thinly lengthwise (julienne). Add it to the platter in its own pile.  Peel and mince the garlic and place it on the platter. Have the oil and seasonings ready.


Heat a wok or large frying pan to medium high. Add the oil and fry the garlic 10 seconds, stirring. Add the pork and stir and fry, scraping the bottom of the pan, until the raw color is mostly gone. Add the Worcestershire sauce, red wine, salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir and fry till pork has lost all raw color. Stir in the crushed tomato or tomato paste, then add the sliced sprouts. Stir and fry until sprouts are becoming somewhat crisp-tender, adding a little water if the liquid gets too dry. As soon as the sprouts are crisp-tender, stir in the sliced shallot or onion, and cook, stirring, for a final minute. Taste and add a little salt if needed.


Serve, accompanied by roasted or boiled potato, noodles, rice, or seasoned grits.











Mince Pie Filling for Pies and Tarts


I have no idea if anyone reading this will ever actually make homemade mince pie filling. But I wanted to record how over the years and through much trial and error I have learned to make it, just in case someone wishes to try. “Mincemeat,” as it used to be called (it began many centuries ago as a spiced mixture of meat and fruit for baking into pastries around Christmas) is now usually vegetarian. Mince pie is one of those traditional foods that some people love and some dislike. It should be clear that I love it.


Mince Pie Filling for Pies and Tarts

Even in the areas of the world where mince pies and tarts are traditional, like the British Isles, some British Commonwealth countries, and the New England of my childhood, people rarely actually made the filling from scratch. Usually they bought a commercial product. My mother preferred First National’s house brand “Finast” (both the venerable store chain and the Finast brand are gone), but Crosse and Blackwell was generally the most readily available mincemeat. The one my mother used came as a concentrate that she had to moisten and cook. She would add some chopped apple to stretch it -- and always stirred in some rum before baking the pies at Christmas.


The original mincemeat goes back to 13th century England, where Crusaders returning from the Holy Lands brought with them an acquired taste for richly flavored meat dishes cooked with fruit, spices and sweetened with honey. The earliest mincemeats for pie were based on actual chopped (“minced”) meat, particularly lamb, but vennison and beef were also used. Suet (beef fat) was also a component, even into the 20th century, well after the meat itself had largely disappeared from the mixture. In recent decades, the mixture has generally been purely vegetarian, combining apples or pears, raisins, currants (dried tiny grapes, “Raisins de Corinthe,” not true currants), orange peel, sugar, molasses, salt and spices. The traditional principal spices are cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg.


As I make mince pie filling, I think the flavor and general texture are like what I enjoyed in my childhood. But my memory may have evolved the way my method has. I leave out the suet that was there back then, and replace it with butter or oil. (If this were to be vegan, sunflower or canola oil could be used.) My spice mixture includes allspice as well as the original three. Allspice is the only true spice that originated in the New World, and would not have been available to English cooks until sometime after Columbus got to the Americas. One final adaptation is using green tomatoes, as thrifty New Englanders did in their mincemeat to make use of late produce from the garden, harvested unripe before the frost arrived. In past trials I’ve also used local pears when available, as one of the fruits. I still use dried apples, which give a good consistency. When I couldn’t find them in the past I used fresh apples, peeled and chopped, and reduced the water a little.


Here’s my recipe as it has evolved. I doubt that I will be modifying it further. It makes about four quarts, and keeps well in the refrigerator for several weeks. It also can easily be stored frozen until needed for holiday baking. If you make it, I hope your pies and tarts turn out well!


3/4 pound dried apple rings (about 3-4 cups after chopping)

5 medium-large firm green tomatoes

1 medium-large orange (preferably organic)

1 pound dried currants

1 pound dried green grape raisins or regular raisins

1 pound black raisins

1 1/2 cups molasses

1 cup cider vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

4 tablespoons butter (or vegetable oil)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons grated nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground allspice


Using a food processor, chop the dried apples, part at a time, until the pieces are about 1/4-inch in size. Place in a heavy stainless steel or enamel pot. Cut out cores from the green tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in chunks and chop them coarsely in the food processor, part at a time. Add to the apples. Cut the orange, skin and all, into thick slices and remove any seeds. Chop the sliced orange finely in the food processor and add it to the pot.


Add the dried currants and raisins, molasses, vinegar, water, butter or oil, sugars, salt and spices. Bring to a boil, then over very low heat, cook slowly, stirring frequently and covering the pot between stirrings. If the mixture gets somewhat dry, add a little water. Cook the mixture for half an hour or more, until apple pieces are tender and moist.


Cool and store refrigerated, or frozen, for later baking. The flavors mellow and improve with aging, and are best after at least a few days storage.


Some cooks (like my mother did) stir in a little rum, bourbon, or (in the UK) whisky before baking their mince pie or tarts. The alcohol cooks off during baking, leaving behind only delightful flavor overtones.



Chickpeas Braised with Spinach


Here’s a substantial main dish that I developed many years ago while volunteering at my friends’ Turkish restaurant in Decatur. On Saturdays if I wasn’t otherwise busy I served as “Guest Chef” there, and learned a great deal about Eastern Mediterranean cooking.


Chickpeas Braised with Spinach

The dish is influenced heavily by what I learned hanging out with those Turkish chefs, though it is not specifically a Turkish dish. They wanted a vegan “special” that would meet the preferences of some of their customers. The dish went over well and got added to their regular menu, where it still remains several decades later. At our restaurant, Donderos’ Kitchen in Athens, we use a version of it for both catering and for sale from the freezer. 


Here’s a sized-down version of the recipe we use at the restaurant that approximates the restaurant dish. A batch serves six, accompanied by a rice dish, such as a pilaf, or warmed flatbread, such as pita. In the Turkish manner, the chickpea-spinach dish can be garnished with julienned red onion plus some chopped fresh parsley when served. Add a chunk of feta cheese or some yogurt seasoned with garlic and dill or cacik (tsadziki sauce) for a nice complement.


1 medium-small onion, finely diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium clove garlic, minced

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup water, plus more as needed

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon (or more) crushed dry hot pepper

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed

1 (12-ounce) bag frozen cut or chopped spinach leaves

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar

Julienned (lengthwise thinly sliced) red onion for garnish

Coarsely chopped parsley for garnish


In a heavy pot, gently fry the onion in the olive oil, stirring frequently, until well softened and starting to turn faintly golden. Add the garlic, stir and fry for half a minute, Add the tomato, water, salt, spices and herbs. Simmer a few minutes.


Add the drained and rinsed chickpeas, plus enough water to come a quarter inch below the surface of the chickpeas. Simmer, stirring often, for ten minutes. Add the frozen spinach and bring back just to a boil. Add a little water if the sauce is too thick. Remove from the heat.


Stir in the lemon juice or vinegar. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve now, or let cool and reheat later for serving. Sprinkle some julienned red onion and chopped parsley as a garnish. Accompany with a rice dish, such as a pilaf  (see elsewhere in this blog) or warmed pita bread,



 Brunswick Stew – A Dish of Muddy Origins


Where was Brunswick Stew, that venerable, spicy, delicious concoction of meat, tomato, butterbeans and corn, created? Several places named Brunswick claim it, including in Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. There is general agreement, however, that the dish began as a hunter’s stew made from boiled squirrel -- or possum – with hot peppers and local vegetables.


Brunswick Stew – A Dish of Muddy Origins
In front of the Farmers Market at Mary Ross Waterfront Park in Brunswick, Georgia, an iron cauldron sits atop an aged stone pedestal engraved tombstone-like with these exact words, “In this pot the first Brunswick Stew was made on St Simon Island, July 2 1898.”


Unfortunately, another memorial pot in Brunswick claims the stew was made a in the Brunswick-Golden Isles area in early colonial days. And a local newspaper account in Petersburg, Virginia, in 1855 cites the origins of the stew as Brunswick County, VA. Finally, a  Georgia newspaper ad from 1871 for one Med Henderson’s saloon in Savannah promotes a lunch special, “Old Virginia Brunswick Stew.”  As I reviewed the evidence for an article on Brunswick Stew that I wrote for Boom Magazine here in Athens, Georgia, it was hard to escape the conclusion that the stew was created in Brunswick County, VA. But the claims and counter-claims are fun.


Regardless of its geographic or culinary origins, the stew is now a thick, fragrant and satisfying mixture of well-cooked chicken and/or pork, hot peppers, and colorful vegetables. The Virginia and Georgia versions vary, but locally each cook makes his or her stew differently as well. The stew is typically sold at barbecue restaurants, mostly as a side dish, along with the beans, mac and cheese, and coleslaw. Unfortunately, at many of these restaurants Brunswick Stew is just a mixture of their already-barbecued meat, tomatoes, vegetables and their regular barbecue sauce, rather than an exciting dish in its own right.


Here’s my version of Brunswick Stew. The recipe makes several quarts, enough to eat with family and friends, with perhaps some left to enjoy at a later meal. (Leftover stew can be frozen.) Serve it in large soup bowls, accompanied by corn bread or biscuits. Offer bottled hot sauce, which diners can add to their stew if they wish. And a fresh salad is always nice.


2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast

A little oil for frying

1 medium-large onion

3-inch piece of celery

2 medium-large jalapeño peppers (including seeds)

2 quarts water or water plus part chicken broth

1 large or 2 medium potatoes (red or golden preferred over russet)

2 tablespoons Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons brown sugar

2 teaspoons paprika

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (12-ounce) package frozen butterbeans or “baby” lima beans, still frozen

2 medium ears fresh yellow corn, or 1 (12-ounce) package frozen corn kernels


Trim off excess fat and any tough parts of the chicken (save these trimmings). Cut chicken into roughly 1-1/2-inch pieces.


In a heavy pot, gently fry the chicken trimmings, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot. When the scraps are fried and golden, remove them from the pot (they make great treats for a pet). Add a little vegetable oil to the pot, if needed, to make about 2 tablespoons of drippings. Fry the chicken pieces together in the pot, turning and scraping frequently, until all the raw color is gone.


Meanwhile, prepare the onion, celery and jalapeños and chop them finely, either in a food processor or with a chef’s knife on a cutting board.


When the chicken has lost all its raw color, add the chopped vegetables and fry gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.


Add the water and the peeled, cubed potatoes to the chicken and vegetables and bring back to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. With slotted spoon remove the chicken to a bowl (it’s OK if some potato comes with it) and break up remaining potato pieces with a big spoon against the side of the pot or use a potato masher. Chop up the chicken in the bowl with the end of a metal spatula, or cut it up coarsely, part at a time, on the cutting board with a chef’s knife. Add the chicken back to the pot. Add the Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt, brown sugar and spices. Simmer five minutes. Break up any chunks of potato that appear.


Add the can of tomatoes with its juices, plus the butterbeans or lima beans. Bring back to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender, stirring occasionally. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cobs with a sharp knife. Add either fresh or frozen corn to the soup, and simmer 5 minutes. If the stew is too thick, add a little water. Remove pot from the heat and taste for salt. Add a little if needed.


The stew can be served now, or cooled and reheated later. Offer hot pepper sauce for diners who wish their stew spicier.



Baked Stuffed Eggplant with Tomato Sauce


Here’s a wonderful Eastern Mediterranean vegetarian dish that is also gluten-free: stuffed eggplant. It’s rich in olive oil, chickpeas, rice and aromatic spices, with a complementing tomato sauce to top it with. The colorful dish makes a full meal, especially when accompanied by a salad.


The unusual spice used, in limited quantity because it penetrates, is allspice. Allspice is almost invariable in traditional stuffed vegetables and other stuffed dishes in the Arab countries. In nearby Greece and Turkiye, the equivalent spice would typically be cinnamon, which has some flavor and aroma overlaps with allspice. Cinnamon can be used in place of the allspice in the recipes below. Already-cooked rice is part of the eggplant stuffing, and should be cooked before making that stuffing. Rice expands about four-fold during cooking, so cook a quarter to a third the volume of raw rice that you will need for the recipe.


Allow half an eggplant per person. I’m writing the recipe to serve four people, but it is easily halved or increased. The stuffed eggplants can be baked ahead then reheated in the oven or microwave for dinner. The sauce should be reheated in the microwave.


Stuffed Eggplants:

1 1/2 cups cooked rice from about 1/2 cup raw rice

2 medium-sized eggplants (about 1 pound each)

1 quart water for soaking eggplant

Salt for the eggplant

1 small onion, finely diced (about 6 tablespoons diced)

1 medium-sized clove garlic

4 Roma type tomatoes for stuffing plus 1 additional for topping

1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella or jack type cheese

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt for the stuffing

1/2 teaspoon oregano

3/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice (or cinnamon)

A large pinch of cayenne

6 tablespoons olive oil for the stuffing plus extra for drizzling

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon (approx.) minced parsley for topping


Cook the rice with 1 cup water and no salt in a small pan, reducing the heat when it boils to lowest heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes without opening the lid. Remove from the heat and keep covered until needed for the recipe.


Rinse the eggplants. Keep the leafy top attached. With a long knife cut each eggplant in half lengthwise. With a small knife make a shallow cut into the eggplant flesh all around about 1/4 inch in from the skin. With a teaspoon, carefully scoop out (and save) the flesh, leaving a shell about 1/4 inch thick. Very lightly salt the insides of the eggplant shells and set them aside. Chop the scooped-out flesh coarsely (1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces) and place the chopped material in a bowl containing 1 quart water and 1 teaspoon salt to extract the bitter juices. Soak this for at least 15 minutes.


On a cutting board, dice the onion finely and set it on a platter. Mince the garlic and set it near the onion, Finely dice 4 tomatoes (core end cut out), and set them in another pile on the platter. Drain and coaresly chop the eggplant flesh, and set it on the platter. With the side of the knife, mash the drained chickpeas and place them on the platter. Have the cooked rice measured and ready. Into a small bowl, measure the dry seasonings, including the salt, spices and herbs.


Heat a frying pan to medium hot. Add the olive oil and onion. Stir and fry until the onion has softened but not browned. Add the minced garlic and stir and fry 1/2 minute. Add the tomato and chopped eggplant flesh. Stir and fry 5 or more minutes, until these vegetables are cooked, breaking up the eggplant pieces. Finally add the dry seasonings, and fry, stirring, for a final minute. Remove from the heat.


Stir the cooked rice, mashed chickpeas, and shredded cheese into the fried vegetable mixture. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste the mixture and add a little salt if needed.


With paper towel, wipe any accumulated juices out of the prepared eggplant shells. Fill the cavities in the eggplant halves, mounding up the filling evenly. Thinly slice the reserved Roma tomato across into 8 slices and place two slices onto the top of each stuffed eggplant. Sprinkle lightly with the minced parsley, and drizzle the tops with olive oil.


Bake, stuffed sides up, on a baking sheet in a preheated oven at 350 degrees until well heated, and the eggplant shell is soft, 30-40 minutes. While the eggplants are baking, make the tomato sauce.


Tomato Sauce:

1/2 of a small onion, minced, about 3 tablespoons when minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup crushed canned tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

A pinch of ground allspice (or cinnamon)

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of ground black pepper


Place the minced onion and olive oil in a small pan. Measure the crushed tomato and add to it the salt and spices.


Heat the pan and gently fry the onion, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned. Add the tomatoes plus the seasonings, and bring just to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat. Taste, and add salt if necessary.


To serve:

Place a stuffed eggplant half, either hot from the oven or, if made ahead, either rebaked or heated thoroughly in the microwave. Serve the tomato sauce hot (microwave is easiest if sauce was made ahead) for diners to spoon onto their stuffed eggplants.



Blackeye Pea and Kale Hummus



For New Year’s Day this year, I tried something new, something that combines the Southern traditions
of eating blackeye peas for good fortune in the coming year and greens to bring money in as well. The family lives in Georgia, other than one grandson who spends college time in New York State. The dish will serve all the ones in Athens this New Year. It is a dip with crackers to accompany it.


The recipe makes a little over a pint, enough to serve 12 or more as an appetizer.


1 (12-ounce) package frozen blackeye peas

1/4 teaspoon salt for the peas

1 small bunch curly kale, about 2 1/2 cups of torn-off leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil, part for the kale, part for the hummus

2 large green onions, white and green parts

2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon salt for the hummus, plus more to taste

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

A large pinch cayenne


Cook the frozen blackeye peas: place them in a small pot with 3/4 cup water plus 1/4 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, stir. Reduce heat and simmer, covered but stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Add a little water from time to time if the pot is becoming dry. Let cool.


Rinse and drain the kale. Rip the green leafy parts off the stems. Discard the stems, and coarsely cut up the leaves with a chef’s knife on a cutting board. Place kale leaves in a frying pan, add a tablespoon olive oil and a few tablespoons water to the pan. Gently fry this mixture, turning it frequently with a spatula and adding a little water as it cooks off from the pan. Fry the mixture until the leaves soften and wilt. Let cool.


Using a food processor, chop up the green onions, first cut into 1-inch lengths. Then add the tahini, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the black eye peas and their liquid, fried greens, vinegar or lemon juice, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pulse the food processor to begin to puree the mixture, scraping down the sides of the container. Add a little water as needed to make a soft paste. Puree the mixture well. Taste and add vinegar or lemon juice, if needed, to give a mild tang. Add salt to taste, if any is needed.


It’s best to store the mixture, refrigerated, an hour or more, or even overnight, for the flavors to mellow. Serve as an appetizer with crackers.

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