Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lighten up


Like everyone else in the universe, we’re starting off the new year by trying to eat a little healthier. Nothing extreme, mind you: our diet isn’t all that bad to begin with, but it never hurts to be more mindful of the things you are putting in your body. So we’ve been spending the last few days trying to eat lighter and drink less.

Week one went well: lots of whole grains, fish (I’m really getting into fish), and plenty of vegetables. We kicked off week two with a lighter take on the Sunday roast with low fat pork tenderloin standing in. I wanted something light, but still comforting, so I made a spice rub with juniper and rosemary, resinous, woodsy flavours that make me think of snowy days and Nordic forests. This would pair well with something tart, like a sour cherry coulis or even some of the lingonberry jam you can get at IKEA!

Pork tenderloin with juniper and rosemary
1 pork tenderloin, about 500g or so
1 tablespoon juniper berries
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Coarsely grind juniper, rosemary, pepper and salt in a spice grinder. Trim pork of excess fat and silverskin and rub all over with spice mix.

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed, oven proof pan until it shimmers. Add pork and brown well on all sides.

Transfer pan to oven and cook pork for 20 minutes, turning halfway through, until an instant-read thermometer shows an internal temperature of 140F. Remove from oven and let rest in pan for 10 minutes before carving and serving.

One of the most interesting things about taking a dietary diversion is the way it makes you to try new things and look at sources you might not otherwise consider. I picked up Yottam Ottolenghi's "Plenty" last year and received its follow-up, "Jerusalem," for Christmas, but I can't say I've turned to them that often, probably because many recipes are either quite labour-intensive or require ingredients you don't tend to find at your local supermarket. But this simple salad intrigued me and, after stumbling upon sumac at the local Bulk Barn (of all places) I thought I'd give it a go and, wow, is it good. just a really interesting mix of spicy and sweet flavours and different textures. And compared to a lot of other Ottolenghi creations, dead simple to make. This one is definitely going to be a dinner table regular long after I'm back to red meat and beer.

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds (from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi) 

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 1/2 oz/100g pitted Medjool dates, quartered lengthwise
2 tablespoons/30g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small pitas, roughly torn into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup/75g whole unsalted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons sumac
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
5 ounces/150g baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the vinegar, onion, and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain away any residual vinegar and discard.

Meanwhile, heat the butter and half of the olive oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. Add the pita and almonds and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring all of the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside to cool.

When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt. Taste for seasoning and serve immediately

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