We’re just SO DONE with Covid. This damn virus has macerated our lives into limp, malnourished, emaciated days that just go on and on. We reminisce about the rich and lush lives we used to enjoy. I’ve continued to cook, and create meals and new recipes, but without much joy. As someone who has always thrived on being with family and my beloved girlfriends, Covid slayed that beautiful connection. Combine that with the social unrest in our nation, the polarizing effects of partisan politics, the fires and hurricanes …
ARE YOU DEPRESSED YET?
Yep. Me too. I’ve been flat lining.
But every once in a while, something happens to jolt us out of our malaise. And that spark occurred this morning.
(Yes, there’s a new recipe coming in this post. But read on, and I’ll get to it.)
That’s my grandparent’s former house.
And that’s my cousin, Jenn.
My sweet cousin, at the doorstep of our beloved grandparent’s house on Middlesex Avenue in Buffalo. Jenn has been driving from Colorado for a trip east, looking to reconnect with family and friends that she hasn’t seen in years. She’s on a mission, and she’s spectacular. It’s probably been 20+ years since we’ve seen each other. We might not know the details, but the bond between Parker cousins is real and strong and fortified by a love of our two grandparents. Her stop here in Buffalo means the world to me!! As we stood together on that walkway, reminiscing about childhood memories of “Dickie” and “Gordie” and playing there as little girls, our hearts were full. But … then … there was suddenly the distinct, familiar sound of a Westminster clock, chiming the quarter hour, coming from inside the house. Jenn’s eyes grew wide, and she barely whispered: “Did you HEAR that?,” which, of course, I had. Our arms bristled with gooseflesh. You see, when our grandparents lived on Middlesex, they had a beautiful mahogany Westminster wall clock that Gordie wound every evening, religiously. Crank, crank, crank. The winding sound was just as musical as the chimes themselves. The pendulum swayed back and forth with reassuring rhythm. As children, one of our favorite pastimes was putting together the handmade puzzles that Dickie and her mother, Isabel, crafted out of old calendars, glued onto luan or 5-ply birch, and then cut with a scroll saw. We would work on those puzzles long into the afternoon, with the heavy sway of the pendulum pulsing slowly in the background. And then, every 15 minutes, those chimes. The chimes that reminded you that you were loved and safe and cherished. That clock chimed just for us, today. It was Dickie, telling us she knew we were there on her doorstep. And we knew that to be true. There are no coincidences in life. There are messages, reminding us to pay attention to the details, trust karma, and be open to the possibilities.
I’m paying attention, Dickie.
And so … we try to cook more purposefully, and be more present in our lives. I can’t promise that I’ll be posting here every week as I used to do, but I’ll be patient with my moods and I’ll make an attempt.
Autumn is upon us; we’re in that glorious moment between two seasons, where the mornings are crisp and cool, but by afternoon, the windows are flung open, and summer’s humidity is only a memory. We’re eating our body weight in tomatoes every day, but our palate is also begging for baked cinnamon apples, warm savory soups, and roasted squash. Fall is on our doorstep, and we’re answering the bell.
I’ve been reading about reductions lately; taking a single liquid or a combination of liquids, and simmering them until they reduce by a half or two thirds, in order to create a sauce. We discovered balsamic reduction years ago, got turned on to pomegranate reduction by a friend a few summers ago, (thanks, Alys!), but I wanted to experiment further. So I hunted down a good apple cider. Find one at your local farmer’s market that is made of a combination of different apples, for a richer taste. Then, I just simmered it down, dipping the liquid in the pot with a popsicle stick first, and drawing a pencil line on the stick where we started, and then marking it at the half-line, and where a third of that would be. It takes the guesswork out of it. (A wooden skewer also does the trick.)
When it was reduced, I dropped in a pat of unsalted butter, stirred it until it melted, and removed the pan from the heat. Let me tell you, this sauce transformed our meal to the next level. A simple weeknight meal became weekend-worthy. Maybe even dinner-party worthy! It took about 20 minutes to reduce the sauce.
I also roasted a 1.3 lb. pork tenderloin for 25 minutes at 350º, preparing it first with a dry rub of warm spices: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and white pepper. (Go easy on the clove. Clove works very hard to be an attention-seeking, obnoxious child.)
While the roast was cooking and the sauce was reducing, I sliced a tart Granny Smith apple ultra thin, put a couple tablespoons of the apple cider into a covered cast iron baking dish, and tossed that into the same oven for the same 25 minutes.
A little broiled broccoli on the side, and it was dinner! I massaged white miso and olive oil into the broccoli before roasting it, because the pork would be on the sweeter side, and the fermented miso cut the sweetness and balanced the meal. Sliced scallion on the broccoli added a spicy kiss. A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds added nuttiness.
Welcome, Autumn. Bring your crisp, cool mornings and warm, sunny afternoons. We’ll try harder to tune out the negativity and to embrace the connection between friends, family, and especially: cousins.
We’re on a doorstep; the cusp of the impending change of seasons, of national policy, of social awakening, and of the choices we make to enrich our own lives. Nobody’s going to do that for us. It’s our moment, right here and now.
And me? I’m off to the living room, to wind up our own Westminster clock. I love you, Jenn!
Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Reduction
- 2 C good quality apple cider
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 medium tart apple, such as a Granny Smith
- 1⅓ lb pork tenderloin
- ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
- ⅛ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp white pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350º.
- Slice the apple very thin. Place in a covered casserole dish and spoon 2 tablespoons of cider over the apples. Cover the dish and place in the oven.
- Combine the four spices, and coat the pork tenderloin evenly. Put the pork in a shallow pan, uncovered, and slide it in next to the apples, on the same shelf in the oven, for 25 minutes, or until internal temperature of the pork reaches at least 145º.
- Pour the apple cider into a heavy bottomed saucepan and bring to a low simmer for 20-25 minutes, reducing the liquid by 2/3.
- Pull out the pork first, tent it loosely with foil, and let it rest for 5-10 minutes.
- While the pork is resting, bring the cider reduction back up to a low simmer. Spoon the cooked apples into the saucepan of reduced cider, and stir gently.
- Slice the pork, and add the apple/sauce mixture on top.