Friday, August 21, 2009

Buon appetite!

When dining with new people, I like to ask this: If you had to survive on the cuisine of one country, which country's food would you choose? It's a thoughtful question. Of course, we would hope to always be in a place where we have a free choice among the countless delightful and delicious foods of the whole world. But, for the sake of conversation, what would it be? French? Well, the French certainly know how to eat and how to enjoy food. We can go on about that in a future Blog. Chinese? Well sure. China is a very big place, and it is really not just one cuisine but many, with specialties of the many regions and ethnic groups that occupy that vast space.
For today though, how about Italian? I love scenes of Italian extended families hauling out the tables and chairs beneath the olive trees and bringing out loads of delicious food, pastas, breads, salads, meats... and the wine!
Yesterday, I found a hice pork tenderloin, boneless, hiding in my freezer compartment. And in this heat of high summer, I said, well, sure, why not Italian. So we have an inspiration. This is a dinner featuring the pork tenderloin, beaten into submission with garlic, oregano, parmesan, basil, parsley, thyme, and such, marinated with some red wine, then blotted dry and dredged in panko (Japanese bread crumbs) mixed with more of the same herbs and more parmesan and fried in olive oil. First browned on both sides, then simmered slowly to make sure the pork is thoroughly cooked but still juicy.
The color comes from red, yellow and green bell peppers, cut into strips with two onions and a bud of elephant garlic and some smaller buds of more normal-sized garlic. The garlic is browned separately, drained and set aside to keep crunchy. A half-dozen mushrooms are sliced, sprinkled with pepper and oregano, and sauteed in olive oil, then splashed with red wine. The heat is reduced to allow the wine to cook away, then the mushrooms are also set aside to be added later. I heated a big frypan and added olive oil, then quickly added the peppers and onions, stirring them quickly and thoroughly while adding more red wine. Then the mushrooms. I covered the pan and reduced the heat, allowing the veggies to cook down a bit and absorb the wine.
Meanwhile, in a nearby saucepan, I had water boiling, into which I dropped a fat zuccini donated by my sister. I had sliced it thin so the slices would blanche quickly when they hit the water. I drained the water, added a tablespoon of butter and a couple of hearty shakes of grated parmesan, covered the pan again and shook the pan to cover the zuccini slices with butter and parmesan.
Separately, in yet another pan, water was at a rolling boil. I added a cup of gorgonzola-stuffed ravioli (the technique for that will have to come in another Blog later.) and turned down the heat by half and covered the pot. When the water started bubbling again, I stirred it and gave it about eight minutes, to have the pasta puffy but still al dente!
Serving, you see, includes an herb salad with cucumber and Italian tomato (also out of the garden), and some toasted garlic bread chips, plus what's left of the wine used during cooking. Just before serving, I sprinkled the fried garlic over the peppers. It's not bad. I may be criticized by Italian purists, but I am glad to have contributions of other recipes and advice on how to make it better next time. I am thinking maybe sausage and peppers with a nice tomato sauce...