I have a bit of a confession to make: I’m a homebody. And as much as I really do love taking trips and finding adventure, my happiest, most comfortable place is my cozy home. I’m always grateful to come back after time away, even if we’ve only been gone a few days.
The irony of my homebody tendencies is that my children love to travel. And not only do they love to travel, they are the best kind of travelers; easygoing, adventurous, fearless. Every time we take a trip, I remind myself to be more like them.
So we find our way as the kids get older. We are embarking on trips farther and farther away from our home and finding how fun it is to spend time exploring new places as a family. But nothing beats coming back, tired and maybe a little weary, to our own home. I never sleep so well as the first night back after time away.
This dinner is perfect for a cozy winter night at home. I love pork tenderloin because its relatively inexpensive, lean and easy to cook. It’s hard to mess it up. Although, funny story, years ago my book club that was also sort of a cooking club attempted a pork loin recipe except we forgot to read the instructions before we started. We seared the meat, then attempted to barbecue it when we realized it wasn’t cooking through. We ultimately roasted the giant pork loin in the oven to get it to temperature, only to have burned and overcooked it until it was the consistency of a brick. We burned the sauce that was supposed to go with it to a black sludge and in the end threw the whole mess away. We’ve all learned a few things since then, but still laugh to this day at that comical night.
But that won’t happen with this recipe because it couldn’t be easier. I stumbled across a similar recipe a few years ago that called for using brisket. I decided to use pork instead and over time made the recipe my own. The combination of sweet fruit, caramelized onions, a hint of cinnamon and rich sauce hits all the right notes.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
Pork Tenderloin with Apricots and Figs over Couscous
2 pork tenderloins (about 3 pounds)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bay leaf
12 dried apricots
6 dried figs
1 32-ounce can organic crushed tomatoes
kosher salt and black pepper
2 cups whole wheat couscous
2 cups water
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (or feta cheese)
Salt and pepper
In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Liberally coat the pork tenderloins in salt and pepper. Sear each side of the pork for 3-4 minutes until both sides have a golden-brown color. Remove meat from the pot and set aside on a plate.
Turn the heat to low and cook the onion, stirring often, scraping up any bits of meat from the bottom of the pot. When the onion has softened, add garlic, spices and tomato paste. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, apricots and figs. Add the pork tenderloins back to the pot. Cover the pot with the lid and cook at 325 degrees for about 45-60 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers the meat at 145 degrees. At the halfway point, flip the meat in the pot so the sauce covers both sides of the meat.
When the meat is finished cooking, remove the pot from the oven and allow the meat to rest. Put 2 cups couscous in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups boiling water over couscous. Let rest for 5 minutes. When the water is fully absorbed, use a fork to fluff the couscous.
To serve, spoon couscous on each plate. Top the couscous with crumbled goat cheese, parsley, salt and pepper. Slice pork tenderloins thinly. Layer slices of meat over the couscous and top with a heaping spoonful of the pan sauce, making sure to scoop up the apricots and figs.
Serves 6. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.