It was Friday night and Spring Break had begun! My son was home from work, my daughter had a week off and two friends over–the type of friends who are part of our family. My wife’s side-kick was over, and everyone was hungry. How would I pull parsnips, onions, and greens into a meal? OK, I also had a pork tenderloin!
During the early Spring, locally grown veggies are kind of lean. The real growing season has not quite begun and those root vegetables that wintered over are beginning to run out.
This week’s CSA delivery did include a few nice items. Fresh carrots, onions, spring greens are beginning to arrive, kale, chard, spring mix lettuce, etc. We also are getting mushrooms from Pennsylvania, portobellos and some really beautiful oyster mushrooms.
We received what was possibly the last parsnips until next year. Parsnips have a unique flavor that is both rich and somewhat minty. They cook to the texture of potatoes and as part of an ensemble cast, they really add depth to a recipe.
I set out to make a one-dish meal but decided to serve the pork separately. This meant the pasta dish would offer a meatless, vegetarian side. If done right we would only need to add wine…and we did!
The Pasta Toss: I began by slicing the portobello mushrooms and tossing them with a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and soy sauce. This quick marinade gives them a flavor that really works well with mushrooms. You can do this anytime just as a side dish or topping for salad. The portobellos can then be pan seared or grilled. This night they would be pan seared.
Next I cut onions, parsnips, and a clove of garlic into a fine dice. heated some olive oil in a skillet and cooked these on med-low. Every now and then I would shake the pan and turn them, but they really need to spend time on one side to brown. You don’t want them to steam, so it’s important to resist tossing them around a lot.
As the onions began to soften I added the mushroom strips, seasoning everything with salt, pepper, and a few pinches of red pepper flakes.
The pasta had already been cooked. We had made stuffed shells and there were a lot of unstuffed shells left over. I sliced them cross-wise and this made these beautiful curly cues. For the final step I tossed the pasta in the skillet. This put a slight brown on them and seasoned them with the flavors of the pan
As the pan came off the stove, I added a few handfuls of fresh spinach leaves. Not only does this improve the nutritional value, but it adds beautiful color as well. I squeezed a half lemon over it all and tossed it. The final garnish was crumbled feta cheese and chopped fresh thyme.
The Pork: The pork tenderloin was easy and relatively little effort. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and ground thyme. I heated vegetable oil in a skillet and seared the two strips of tenderloin on all sides. They were thick enough to take on a good crust on the outside without overcooking the center. From there I removed to a hot oven to finish. The tenderloins were removed from the oven when they reached 145°. With a loose foil cover they would come up another 5 degrees during the rest before carving.
I carved the strips in thick slices and this too was garnished with crumbled feta and fresh herbs.
We sat at our kitchen table on a Friday night, 7 of us and laughed, talked, toasted, and an impromptu meal became this great evening with the dinner table being center stage.
One of my favorite parts of the meal is when after all the food is gone and everyone is done eating, we continue to sit at the table talking. There’s actually a word for this, sobremesa. Sometimes I think the success of the meal can be measured by the length of the sobremesa. This was a long and happy one!