I know that there soon will be a day when the eating, dinners out and wine will need to stop (or at least slow down…one can never give up great meals or wine entirely). It has been a gluttonous affair for a long time it seems from Thanksgiving and I am sure it will extend right to New Year’s with one more festive evening spent dining out to ring in the New Year. For some reason, it does seem that we have been out more than usual this holiday season. It might seem that way because we did nothing last year around the holidays. I had jaw surgery last December and my mouth was basically wired shut for nearly 9 months. That would be a good enough reason to not go anywhere and see anyone (think Hannibal Lecter). Therefore, I am thoroughly enjoying the tidings of the holidays this year.
Anyway, in the middle of all the festivities and baking, etc. I have been trying some new recipes for healthy dinners that would be great for those evenings spent at home. Many lower fat dishes use herbs and spices to gain the flavor that is lost when not using butter, fattier cuts of meat and starchy ingredients. Unfortunately, that is where much of the flavor comes from in many dishes. I have, however, been able to find some wonderful lower fat dishes over the years.
I found an interesting group of recipes in an article by Ellie Kriger in Fine Cooking magazine. She suggests that vegetables become more of the main dish and not just a side to a big fat piece of meat. Of course, if you are a traditional meat eater, you will be more used to vegetables as an accompaniment to a main dish as opposed to a vegetable dish being the primary focus of the meal. We probably should all should make the adjustment in our diets to eat less meat. We are supposed to have a 4 oz. portion of protein as a serving. Obviously, most Americans eat far more than that (how about an 8 oz. filet or half of a roasted chicken?). There truly are some wonderful dishes that use little or no meat at all.
I tried all three of the recipes in this article which were Sweet and Spicy Roasted Vegetables (which were to constitute most of your plate), Brown Rice with Walnuts and Golden Raisins and Coriander-Crusted Pork Tenderloin. Now since I have done all the taste testing on this low-fat menu, you will not need to!
My husband and I really enjoyed the vegetables. The roasting and subsequent carmelizing of the vegetables makes them sweet and tender and very flavorful. They are seasoned at the end with wonderful spices like cumin, coriander, ginger, cinnamon along with honey and fresh thyme. They were delicious.
Sweet and Spicy Roasted Vegetables
by Ellie Krieger
Fine Cooking, December 2009/January 2010
5 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/2 cups)
2 small red onions, each cut into 8 wedges (trim the root end but leave intact to hold layers together)
2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 11/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
1-1/2 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil (the recipe called for 2 Tbs., but I used more to coat the veggies to prevent scorching)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
Position a rack in the center of the oven, put a rimmed baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 450°F.
In a large bowl, toss the carrots, onions, bell peppers, and squash with 1 Tbs. of the oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables on the hot baking sheet in a single layer and roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes.
Heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil in an 8-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the spices and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the honey and thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper.
The rice on the other hand, was a big disappointment. It really did not have much flavor. The recipe called for 1 1/4 cups of water to cook 1/2 cup of brown rice. First of all, it was too much water. It just turned the rice mushy and it never cooked properly. It should have probably been cooked with chicken or vegetable broth rather than the water for additional flavor (and I knew better). Even the addition of walnuts, raisins and parsley did nothing for the rice. I would skip this recipe and make your favorite brown or wild rice to accompany the pork and vegetables.
Finally, the pork tenderloin was a winner. I had purchased a package that had 2 smaller tenderloins (about 3/4 lb. each) so I made about 1 1/2 times the rub and cooked the 2 tenderloins a few minutes less than what the recipe suggested. It was moist and very tender. It was also a chance to use our fancy new thermometer (Thermapen). They came right in at 155 degrees (perfect). The rub was very good. Be sure not to use more coriander than suggested as the flavor can overwhelm the meat. I also needed to add additional olive oil to the pan since the pork was so lean. The rub stuck to the pan a bit (I used a cast iron skillet). A better choice would be a non-stick skillet that can go in a 450 degree oven.
Also, be sure not to overcook the pork. It was so tender at this temperature. The tenderloin will still be a little pink at 155 degrees, but it will cook more while it rests. Cover with aluminum foil in the pan for 10-15 minutes before slicing. The temperature should then be approximately 160 degrees.
Coriander-Crusted Pork Tenderloin
by Ellie Krieger,
Fine Cooking, December 2009/January 2010
One 1- to 1-1/4-lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbs. coriander seeds, crushed
1 tsp. black peppercorns, crushed
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbs. olive oil
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 450°F.
Heat the oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the pork, turning it with tongs, until nicely browned on all sides, about 3 minutes per side. Put the skillet in the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer in the thick end of the pork registers 155°F, 18 to 20 minutes. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing thinly (I let it rest 10-15 minutes, as mentioned above).
You should give these recipes a try if you are looking for a lower fat meal that is healthy and very flavorful. I will definitely prepare these dishes again.