Thursday, January 05, 2012

Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Fennel Wedges

Oh my goodness, this is a good one. I got two new cookbooks for Christmas that have completely rekindled my interest and excitement about cooking and being in the kitchen. This recipe is from neither of the new books — ha! The fennel seeds with the pork is a wonderful combination that smells like sausage while it's cooking, while being quite a bit healthier. And the fennel wedges become nicely caramelized and melt in your mouth. I served this over simple mashed potatoes. I left the skins on and mashed with some skim milk. You don't need to overly season or butter them because the sauce is very rich and flavorful. You could also serve with white or jasmine rice, egg noodles, couscous, or just about any grain.

Before I move on to the recipe, I want to direct your attention to the tabs at the top of the page here under the banner. I've added a recipe index there for your (and my) convenience. I've been wanting to do this forever and took some downtime over the holidays to cut and paste it all there. It still needs a bit of tweaking in terms of categorization, but it's a start. I welcome your suggestions and ideas on its format and hope that it proves useful to you! 

1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb pork tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 yellow onion, trimmed and peeled
2 large fennel bulbs, trimmed, reserving 1/4 cup of fronds
2 Tb extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed, then roughly chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 Tb unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Crush fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle (or wrap in a kitchen towel and crush with bottom of a heavy skillet). Add salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Pat pork dry, then sprinkle with crushed fennel seed mixture. Pat mixture gently to make sure the pork is well coated.

Cut onion in half and then into 1/2-inch wedges. Cut fennel bulbs lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges.

Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-proof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on all sides, about 6 to 8 minutes total, then transfer to a plate. Sauté garlic, onion and fennel wedges in skillet until fennel is golden brown, about 6 to 8 minutes. Add wine, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then stir in broth and butter. Put pork on top of fennel and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 to 150°F, about 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, transfer skillet to stovetop (handle will be hot) and boil, stirring occasionally, until much of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice and fennel fronds, chopped. Thinly slice pork and serve over fennel with sauce.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Happy New Year! Imagining what's ahead…

Hello all and happy new year! I've had a nice long visit with my family down in North Carolina over Christmas and after several days settling back in at home, I've gone into full nesting mode.

Since moving into our new house in July, we've had little time to do any major projects. We had a slow drawn out move getting into the place and then seemed to be immediately bombarded with distractions throughout the fall and holiday season. Many good things, for sure, but right now I can't get enough of just being in our space and having a little time to breathe and imagine the possibilities. I've been adding inspiration photos to my Pinterest boards like mad. This seems like a particularly good time of year to dream and scheme, and it's helping recharge my creative juices. I'm very excited for 2012 and look forward to its ups and downs and in and outs. Thanks so much for coming this far with me — I hope you'll join me on the ride into tis next phase! Now, on to the imaginings!

First: The bedroom. It is a long narrow space that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense. We found out from a local antique dealer who grew up on the lake that our house was built to house caddies for the neighboring golf course. (Yes, we live in the Caddyshack!) So I imagine it wasn't designed for lake views, but rather to sleep the greatest number of people at any one time.

I hesitated showing you the room's current state—ack!—but it gives you a sense of the challenge. A previous owner continued the log cabin-y feel in every nook and cranny possible, including the closet along the back wall of the bedroom. I think its log overkill, beside which it is very poorly constructed, holds little and is on the one wall where you could place the bed to have a view of the lake. (Be it a partially obstructed view because a tree grows through the deck right in front of that window!?!? Love that the tree stayed, but…)  There are no doors on the closet right now because they were beautiful old doors with great hardware and we used them to replace split louvered doors that had been installed on the bedrooms and bathroom. We still need one more to replace the split doors still on the back bedroom (below right).

I'm pretty sure the room, which is about 10 feet wide by 20 feet long, was two rooms at one time. You can see a seam running horizontally across the room in the above photos. And there are two doors in the center of the interior wall (above left), one of which has been filled in with a handy, though again, poorly constructed "built-in" bookcase facing into the living room.

photo by Bob Travaglione
After much figuring and reconfiguring, the latest solution we've struck on is building a loft. The idea seems to be sticking. My first searches brought up many kids rooms and dorm-style lofts, but I think it can be done in a very simple, yet adult way. With some more digging, I'm turning up lots of inspiration, like this image above from Plattsburgh, Missouri. Or the rustic one below.

via A Beautiful Mess
Pretty dreamy, right? Obviously we have lots of details to figure out, but I'm excited to plan and make it happen. I'm think a rolling/sliding barn door would make the perfect entry, too. We wouldn't lose precious floor space for an inward-swinging door, and it would allow us to add a nice splash of color in the living room. (I absolutely love the feel of the white log walls, but it means we have to be creative about ways to add color.)

via Nordic Rooms
left: via Nestegg  right: via Pine Tree Home blog
I love the clean lines and geometry of the photo on the left. And the right shows an interesting idea of having the door slide behind a bookcase when it's open.

A girl and boy can dream, right? You can find more inspiration on my "Home" board on Pinterest. Wait 'til you see what we have planned for the kitchen!