Thursday, July 19, 2012

Griller Flavors!

Grilled Pesto Pork Loin with Balsamic Onion Jam and Kale Potato Cakes
The grilling season is in full-swing and my sweetie and I have been taking full advantage of our awesome new grill (which may just be one of the greatest Craigslist scores of all time). With our friends Spencer and Hillary coming over for a little weeknight dinner, I wanted to make something that could be mostly prepared ahead of time and then finished when the guests arrive. Don't let the multiple steps intimidate you. This is actually a very fast and easy meal to put together. I really suggest trying the Kale Potato Cakes as a side for other means or the Onion Jam as a topping on any number of proteins. I served the dinner with a simple cucumber and tomato salad dressed with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Dessert was provided by Spencer. Apple pie. It was delicious. 

- 2 1-1/2 lb. pork loins
- 4 cloves garlic
- a small handful of chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, divided
- 8 large fresh basil leaves
- juice from one lemon
- 1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes packed in oil
- about 1/4 c. olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 3 large yellow onions, peeled, sliced in half lengthwise and then cut into strips
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. cooking sherry
- 3 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled
- 1 bunch of kale, leaves pulled from thick stems and roughly chopped
- 6 large green onions, trimmed and white and green parts finely minced
- 1 bunch fresh chives, minced
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1/2 c. flour
- vegetable oil for frying

In the bowl of a food processor combine peeled garlic cloves, fresh basil leaves, about half the Italian parsley, and lemon juice. Pulse until the garlic and herbs are nicely minced and combined, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add sun dried tomatoes with their oil and run the food processor. While the mixture is blending, slowly add more olive oil until the pesto begins to have a smooth, creamy texture. It might take between 2 Tbsp. and 1/4 c. to get it right. Season pesto with a few grinds of pepper and about 1 tsp. of salt. Set aside. Prepare pork loins by patting them dry with a paper towel then sprinkle all sides with salt and pepper. Place loins in a resealable plastic bag or glass container and cover all sides with pesto mixture. Cover tightly and allow to marinate at room temperature for about twenty minutes if you are intending to grill immediately. Otherwise, cover and marinate in refrigerator overnight.

When you are ready to grill, remove pork from refrigerator for about 20 minutes before cooking. Heat the grill while waiting for the meat to warm up a bit. Place on a hot grill and cook for about 15 minutes, turning frequently, to cook thoroughly on all sides. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat should register about 145˚F to have the meat at medium rare. Remove from heat, tent with foil, and allow loins to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving with Balsamic Onion Jam.

Good things come to those who wait. People rush the caramelizing process too much. It takes at least a good 45 minutes of low heat to get a good, sweet brown on the onions. Be patient. Cook the jam the night before. Just set the onions on a low stove and go about your business. They only need to be stirred occasionally.

Begin by melting butter in a large heavy pan (I like using my cast-iron skillet for this) over a medium heat. Add sliced onions and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Let them soften in the butter over medium for about 5 minutes until they begin to turn translucent. Then, turn the heat down to low, give them a good stir, and walk away.

Feel free to check back on the onions every 15-20 minutes for a good stir. They will begin to brown and then turn really soft at about 45 minutes. At that time, turn up the heat to medium-high. Add balsamic vinegar and cooking sherry to the pan. Stir mixture together and allow liquid to cook off and infuse into the onions. Once all the liquid has simmered away, about 5-8 minutes, remove onions from heat. Store in refrigerator if you're making them ahead of time. Allow to come to room temperature before topping pork loin with such a delicious concoction.

This is my newest adventure in kale. I LOVED it. I served them with "Sri-rancha" - basically Sriracha hot sauce mixed with ranch dressing, but sour cream or ketchup will do just fine.

Begin by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch kale leaves for about 1 minute until they are softened slightly and bright green. Drain the hot water and rinse leaves with cold water to stop cooking process. Squeeze out any excess water with your hands and place leaves into a large bowl.

Peel potatoes and then grate them into bowl with kale using the large side of a box grater. Add chopped chives, green onions, and remaining Italian parsley to the mixture. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Add beaten egg and flour to the mixture and combine thoroughly. It's really easiest to do with your hands to make sure that everything is properly distributed. Heat enough oil in a large, heavy skillet to cover the bottom of the pan over medium-high heat. When the oil is very hot, add the kale-potato mixture in 1/4 c. mounds.

Fry each cake on both sides for about 2 minute per side until they are hot and golden-brown. Remove from hot oil with a spatula and drain on a paper towel-lined cookie sheet. Blot out excess oil from top with a paper towel. Continue working in batches, adding more oil as needed until all the cakes are cooked. Serve immediately. Or, if you are preparing ahead store in an airtight container until you are ready to finish up. To serve, heat up in a 400˚ F oven for about 10-12 minutes. They will crisp up perfectly.

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