Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Lost-Themed Dinner: Nutty, Tropical Salad and Island Pork Tenderloin

So, tonight was the premiere of the final season of Lost.  While I've been watching the show regularly since the pilot, Mark had gotten way behind - when I met him, he'd only made it through the first season.  So, a few months back, he hunkered down and plowed through seasons 2-5 so that we could watch this season live together.  In honor of his sacrifice (snerk!), I thought I should put in a little creative effort tonight, and make it a tropical/island inspired night in the cave.  Result:

Click below for the recipes!

In planning dinner, I had just a couple of limitations: 1) Mark doesn't really like most seafood too much - he'll eat it, but generally prefers other protein; and 2) ...I'm allergic to mango.  For shame!  You read that right.  I'm a Filipina allergic to mango.  Despite my allergy, I settled on a tropical salad and modified it just slightly to fit my tastes (and fit what Whole Foods had available).  Now, if I had been making dinner for just myself, I think I probably would have gone with some sort of pan-seared fish, or maybe coconut-shrimp.  But I'm really glad I decided, in a nod to our mystery island's wild boar, to go with island pork loin.

List of ingredients for the dressing:                     
2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar                                     
2 tsp. lime juice                                                       
3 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro                             
1 tbsp. grated shallots                                           
1 tsp. grated ginger                                                   
1 pinch sugar
1/4 cup almond oil
1/4 cup peanut oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper

I made the dressing ahead of time, when I was home for lunch (I work about 3 blocks away from where I live.  Go ahead, take a moment to seethe with jealously).  Because I generally don't like chunks of raw shallot and ginger swimming around in my dressings, I took the time to first grate both ingredients with my trusty microplane grater. It's a little more work intensive, but I like the smoother, more cohesive result.

Then I whisked them together with the vinegar, lime juice, minced cilantro and sugar.  I added both the almond oil (the original calls for macadamia nut oil, but Whole Foods didn't have it, which shocked me) and the peanut oil in steady streams, whisking constantly until combined,  seasoned with salt and pepper, then stuck the finished product in the refrigerator until dinner.*

List of ingredients for the salad:
10 oz. arugula
8 oz. ham, thinly sliced
1 cup pineapple, cubed
3/4 small jicama, thinly sliced
2 small firm ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and cubed
1/2 cup macademia nuts

The salad itself is simple.  I tossed the arugula and ham with the dressing, making sure everything got sufficiently coated.  Then I added the pineapple (purchased already prepared from Whole Foods), jicama, and avocado.

I tossed the whole thing together gently, so as not to smash the avocado.  I topped each serving with some macademia nuts I had crushed and toasted lightly in a small pan on the stove.  

Easy!  On to the pork!

List of ingredients for the Island Pork loin:
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp cinamon
3 pound pork loin
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 tbsp. garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. sriracha

I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.  I combined the salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinamon in a Tupperware container and shook until I was satisfied that the spices were thoroughly mixed, then coated the meat with the mixture.

I then heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium high heat, added the pork and browned it all over evenly.

As the meat was browning, I combined the brown sugar, garlic and sriracha, in a small bowl.

When the pork was beautifully browned, I took it off the heat and patted the sugar mixture all over the meat.  It was little messy, but once the sugar started to melt from the heat of the pork, the mixture stuck better.

Then I placed the entire pan in the oven to cook for about 1 hour (140 degree internal temperature).  I took the pan out, removed the meat to my cutting board, tented it with foil and let the meat rest for an additional 15 minutes before cutting the pork on a diagonal into about 1/2 inch slices and topping with the juices from the pan.  The result was juicy, spicy, sweet pork with a subtle smoky undertone from the cumin, and a rich, gooey, delicious glaze.  I'm looking forward to using the leftovers for sandwiches for a couple of days (if Mark doesn't beat me to it).  In fact, the whole meal was a complete success, although Mark said that if we repeat this meal, he thinks maybe trying a different green in the salad (other than arugula) might be better.  But I was generally really happy with the result.  It put me in the perfect mood to see what my boys Sayid, Jin, and Sawyer are up to...

*Whenever I know I'm going to make my own salad dressing, I like to do it a few hours ahead of time, just so the flavors have time to meld together.  I think I get a much richer, much more flavorful result than if I throw the ingredients together right before I dress the salad.  

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