Garden update: sprouts & compost

The seeds planted a few weeks ago are happily sprouting under the light frames in our basement – in addition to the 2 flats of lettuce due to return to Growing Hope, I’ve planted a mass of herbs – not only for using in cooking, but to line the edges of my garden to give some protection against deer – and lots of Asian vegetables: Chinese chives, bunching onions, eggplant, okra, cucumbers, edible amaranth, Japanese spinach, and – for Katia – lots of tomatoes. Now I just need to actually get my garden plots figured out – with our deer problem, this whole project might be a dismal failure, but I’ve gotten lots of advice on how to at least try to stump them without putting up a 9-foot fence (which I’m sure our HOA would NOT be happy about!) And then there are the bunnies, a very large specimen of which is staring at me through my office window as I type…

On earth day, the kids and I assembled a composter, and both ritually tossed in their apple cores – let the composting begin! We’re lucky to have a patch of woods at the back of our property, so the “browns” needed for mixing into the “greens” from the kitchen scraps should be readily available. I figure we will use uup most of the fallen leaves by the time the next ones are ready to fall, truly a beautiful balancing act.

Five-spice Pork Tenderloin

I was happy to receive a sample of pomegranate juice in the mail from POM Wonderful (Thanks, Ryan!) and managed to keep some of it from being consumed directly from the bottle (our daughter is a huge fan!) Here is a fusion recipe I came up with that uses the juice both as a marinade and a sauce.

The other main flavoring is five spice powder, a spice mix found in Chinese cooking that it includes all 5 flavors found in Chinese cuisine: sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty. You can make your own by combining equal parts whole Sichuan (or other) peppercorn, cinnamon sticks, cloves, fennel seed, and star anise. After toasting the spices lightly, grind in a mortar or with a coffee or spice grinder. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to mess with that, five-spice is also available pre-mixed in Asian markets and in some conventional groceries – try the Asian section first, then the baking/spice aisle.

Pork tenderloin is a perfect cut of meat to use when you’re in a hurry—it absorbs the flavor or marinades and rubs easily, cooks quickly, is deliciously tender, and looks very elegant when sliced and arranged on a plate. Here I’ve marinated it overnight to really let the flavors sink in, but you could also marinate it as little as 2 hours. If you use sustainably raised pork from a reliable source, you need not worry about cooking it to medium, rather than to well-done.

Makes approximately 6 servings.

ingredients:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 4 oz POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
  • 2 oz dry white wine
  • 2 oz dark soy sauce
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 tsp five spice powder

method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except the pork in a bowl.
  2. Pour the marinade over the pork in a glass dish, and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 h.
  3. Preheat the oven to 450ºF (425ºF in a convection oven).
  4. Strain the marinade off the meat into a saucepan, then place the meat on a rack in a roasting pan.
  5. Roast 25-40 m (20 m will yield a medium roast, 40 m will be closer to well done), turning the pan once half way through the roasting process.
  6. While the meat is roasting, bring the marinade to a boil, then let it reduce to about 1/2 c—it will be slightly syrupy.
  7. Let the meat rest for 10 m before slicing on a slight diagonal and serving with the sauce.

variations:

  • The meat can be grilled or broiled, depending on your favorite cooking method.
  • Add pomegranate seeds (called anils) or diced pineapple to the sauce just before serving.

Food in the News & on the ‘Net

A bit more in-depth with Chef Dan Barber: “Can Organic Farming Feed the World?”

And since he mentions shopping at the farmers’ market, some great tips on shopping there on Greenopolis: “10 Tips to Shop Smart at Farmers Markets.” I particularly like the first one – make sure to ask whether the vendor is a local grower/producer (and not a reseller).

Spring reading – follow up on an earlier article about Hardwick, VT: The Town the Food Saved.

And the school lunch debate continues, thanks in part to Jamie Oliver: “Bill on School Lunch Is Scaled Back. Criticism of School Lunch Isn’t.”