This past week I introduced a new recipe to the mix in the Momleficent household. My two little southern born sweeties associate pork with pit barbecue and pit barbecue alone. They are pretty funny about it too. Not only does it have to be chopped (dry for Tiny and tomato based sauces for Teeny), it has to be accompanied by beans and fries. Sometimes they allow toast or an appetizer, but do NOT come at my toddler with cole slaw, anything that resembles a chutney or relish, a baked potato, or even too many pickles unless you want to be schooled by a three year old. These two are barbecue connoisseurs. They ought to be as much as we have labored over, cooked and eaten barbeque in their short little lives.
It was time to broaden their horizons this past week. I decided that we were going to have a lesson in the other preparations of pork. Yes, we do eat bacon (does anyone sane not eat bacon?) and some sausage, we primarily consume our pork in the form of barbecue. While this type of food is an art form in its own right, it isn’t the only way to eat pork, contrary to my clan’s opinions. This past week we had a lovely roasted pork steak pinwheel, watermelon and spinach salad, and broccoli quinoa salad.
The pork steaks can be think cut loin chops, but I like to use cubed pork steaks. Each steak is quite easy to prepare. Season both sides with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a touch of garlic butter for an extra special layer of flavor. Once seasoned, sprinkle with grated mozzarella cheese. You could use any mildly flavored white cheese for this dish and get the same result, but coupled with the red pepper pesto that I topped the finished product with, I like mozzarella. On top of your mozzarella, add a scant handful of fresh baby spinach leaves. I like the fresh leaves rather than frozen, but either is. Tuck the long side of one end over and begin to roll into a pinwheel. Place in a pan with seam side down. If the seam will not stay closed on its own, secure with wooden skewers or tooth picks during cooking. Once out of the oven, the skewers can come out and the meat will retain its shape on its own. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear. Don’t overcook or it will become a dry, chewy mess! Once out of the oven, allow to rest for 15 minutes before you being to handle the pinwheels. You can move on to making your green salad or quinoa while you are waiting.
Making this quinoa salad is so easy! If you don’t have a rice cooker, go get one! They are quite handy to have around. Generally they are pretty cheap, and I have a small inexpensive one from my local box store. Just add quinoa to vegetable or chicken stock, throw in a little garlic and some fresh herbs if you have them – dried Italian seasoning if you don’t. Let it rock on without doing too much to it. I would suggest giving it a good stir after about five minutes, then let it cook. Once done, fluff with a fork and you are good to go. The grains (cous cous, quinoa, etc.) are really no different than rice to cook – especially when the rice cooker will just do it for you. The salad is so easy. My favorite mix is red onion, green and red bell pepper, sliced black olives, and feta cheese. I used some broccoli and green peas this time as well for a new spin on the old broccoli salad. You can add any vegies you want. I like mine fresh and crunchy as it gives a nice contrast to the soft quinoa, and the feta gives a great little tang. If you want zucchini or other vegies that are best cooked, throw those in at the beginning of the cycle and they will soften with the grain. I use about ¼ cup of each vegi and one small can of black olives to mix the salad. Top with the cheese of your choice and you are set. I usually use feta when I make a quinoa salad, but this time, in keeping with the “feel” of the old school broccoli salad (you know the one – there were usually at least 5 bowls of it at any given Sunday social growing up) I used a cheddar. To make the broccoli a bit more attractive to my crew, I chop it VERY fine – more of a broccoli shrub than a broccoli tree if you will. Finish with about 1 cup of frozen green peas. Make a simple dressing with plain greek yogurt and ranch powder. Top with very crispy bacon and see if your kids don’t finally eat their broccoli!
The watermelon salad is my go to summer salad. I like to use a bed of either spinach, arugula, or sometimes mix it up an use both. The arugula has this amazing peppery flavor that goes so nicely with sweet watermelon. Papa Bear prefers spinach, so we are a house divided. For a family of four, add a 4 cups of greens, 2 cups of diced watermelon chunks, ½ cup feta and slivered, toasted almond slices (if you want) to a large glass bowl. Layer the ingredients in the order listed for the best effect. I don’t generally toss as it breaks up the melon and feta and I don’t love the soupy slush remaining. Just before serving add a few dashes of red wine vinegar and ¼ cup of almonds. This entire meal, from prep to cook time only takes about 30 minutes if you work your salads while your pork is in the oven.
To plate, take each pork roll from the pan and slice into ½ inch rounds. Layer (like fallen dominoes) on your plate, contouring the edge. Using a teaspoon, gently top pork with roasted red pepper pesto. Place your quinoa and melon salads side by side to fill out the plate. The portions even help guide you a bit on this meal to create a healthy, amazing meal in no time. The refreshing crunch of arugula, sweet bite of the melon and zip of wine vinegar blend so well with this salad that I can’t get enough of it in the summer. It is the perfect pick me up to balance out the long hot days ahead.