I declare spring officially under way. I don’t care what the calendar says or if signs of winter linger. A jonquil bud I plucked from the garden is blooming on my kitchen window sill, so I planted a row of radishes and traded my jeans for capris. Now I’m ready to change my soups and stews for fresh-tasting food brightened with fresh herbs.
One meal that deftly spans the seasons is my chevre-stuffed pork loin with Cara Cara orange sauce. It looks and tastes like a million but it’s easy to make and takes just 45 minutes to roast. Two skinny pork tenderloins are butterflied and pounded to an even thickness. Goat cheese, raisins, pine nuts and fresh rosemary are sprinkled on one piece of meat, topped with the other, rolled up and tied. After roasting, the meat is sliced to reveal the pretty insides, and topped with an orange sauce that is merely ingredients shaken up in a jar.
You can use any type of orange for the sauce. I used
Cara Cara because of the gorgeous color and because they are starting to show up in local supermarkets now. The Cara Cara is a hybrid navel orange first spotted in Venezuela in the 1970s. It has a dark-pink interior that is low in acid, which makes it taste super-sweet. The oranges are exceptionally juicy and the flavor has floral hints. For cooks, though, the big draw is the color. They look beautiful in citrus tarts and salads.
They also look beautiful garnishing this roast. Buy two so you can juice one and slice the other to arrange on a platter with the pork. Your meal will look as pretty as spring.
CHEVRE-STUFFED PORK TENDERLOINS WITH ORANGE DRIZZLE
• 1/3 cups golden raisins
• 1/3 cups port wine
• 2 pork tenderloins, well-trimmed of fat
• Sea salt, fresh-ground pepper
• 4 oz. French-style goat cheese
• 1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
• 1/3 cup pine nuts
• 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
• 1/3 cup Cara Cara orange juice (or other fresh-squeezed orange juice)
• 2 tbsp. lime juice
• 1 tbsp. honey
• 1/4 cup minced cilantro
Bring port wine and raisins to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for at least 30 minutes.
Make a slit lengthwise down the center of each tenderloin, cutting halfway through each piece of meat from end to end. Press flat with your hands. Place plastic wrap over the meat and pound with a blunt meat pounder to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch. Do not pound thin enough to create holes.
Remove plastic wrap and season meat with salt and pepper. Scatter crumbled goat cheese, rosemary, pine nuts and raisins over the larger piece of meat. Place the other piece of meat over the filling. Gather the edges of the larger bottom piece up around the edges of the top piece, overlapping them to seal. Tie the roast at 2-inch intervals with kitchen twine or thread, tucking in the ends to prevent the filling from leaking out.
Rub the roast all over with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. In a jar, combine remaining olive oil with the orange juice, lime juice, honey and cilantro. Shake and set aside. Place roast on a rack in a roasting pan (or on a broiler pan). Roast in a preheated, 400-degree oven for about 45 minutes, until the internal temperature of the meat is 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Let rest 10 minutes before cutting into 1-inch-thick slices.
Fan slices on a platter or individual dinner plates and drizzle with room-temperature orange sauce. Makes 6 servings.
Geez, I’m tired of making red-sauced pasta for Tony, whose favorite meal is a big plate of spaghetti with meat sauce. Last week it occurred to me that now that he is retired, I can have Akron’s master spaghetti-makers do the work for me. The city is loaded with great little places that embrace tomato sauce with as much gusto as Tony. These are not places I frequent, so I was surprised at how much I liked – no, loved – the food at the first stop on our Italian restaurant tour. I took him to Dontino’s in North Hill, opened in 1930 and still packing ‘em in.
No wonder. I knew the sheets of pasta for the lasagna are made by hand, and after tasting the cavatelli I figure it must be, too. The tender little rolled cylinders of dough were topped with a gorgeously seasoned tomato sauce, which was further topped with a hearty portion of meat sauce, heavy on the meat. It was the finest pasta meal I’ve had in a long time. Tony loved his spaghetti with meat sauce, too, although the spaghetti, of course, wasn’t homemade.
The salads are nothing special and the service is more family restaurant than fine dining, but the pasta is great and the prices are right.
Dontino’s is at 555 E. Cuyahoga Falls Ave. in Akron, phone 330-928-9530. The website is http://www.dontinos.com.
From Linda B.:
In your recent newsletter you mentioned your quest for good pho. Have you ever visited Southern Gardens Tea Room at 497 Portage Lakes Drive in Coventry Township? I haven’t had their pho, but several friends who are pho lovers say it is one of the best.
Dear Linda: You’re the second person to bring this restaurant to my attention this month. I hear the pho is some of the most authentic around. I’m glad to get the word out about the restaurant, because no one would guess from the name alone it serves Vietnamese cuisine. It used to be a tea room but morphed into an Asian restaurant. It is at 497 Portage Lakes Drive in the Portage Lakes area south of Akron, phone 330-644-8363. The website is http://www.southerngardenstearoom.com.
From Sonja C.:
Thank you for letting us know about Thai Pho! My husband and I had lunch there today, and it was great! The food was fresh and delicious, the server was friendly and very good, and best of all they were able to adjust any item on the menu to accommodate my soy and wheat sensitivities! Until today, whenever we go out there are very limited selections available. What a treat to be able to order anything! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Dear Sonja: I’m glad to hear this. Nice to know that the owners are so accommodating.