Pork gets a lot of attention in the fall, when apples are in season, because the two pair so well together. Sage, cinnamon or thyme often accent the flavor profile. Throw in some fingerlings or sweet potatoes and you have the ideal autumn dish.
But pork plays well with other ingredients all year long. It works beautifully with citrus, for example. It also lends itself to salads and to Asian spices.
As winter turns to spring, pork is an excellent choice for a company dinner or a quick-cooking weeknight entree. Below are three suggestions for this versatile meat, including a modern version of that old favorite, pork and beans.
Roast pork loin with blood orange mostarda
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Mostarda (mohss-TAHR-dah) is Portuguese for mustard, but many define mostarda as a Northern Italian dish of fruit cooked in a sweet syrup and mustard powder and seed. Mostarda is traditionally served with boiled or roasted meats. You can think of it like a chutney.
For the pork:
1 center-cut boneless pork loin (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 blood oranges
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon ground coriander
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 red onions, quartered
For the mostarda:
Juice of 4 blood oranges (about 1 1 / 2 cups)
1 cup dry white wine
1 / 2 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 sprig rosemary
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Make the pork: Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350 degrees F. Tie the pork with kitchen twine at 1-inch intervals so it keeps its shape. Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, the zest and juice of 1 blood orange, the garlic, rosemary, coriander, 1 1/4 4 teaspoons salt and a few grinds of pepper in a small bowl. Rub all over the pork. Set a rack in a large roasting pan; put the pork on the rack and let stand at room temperature, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, quarter the remaining 3 blood oranges (do not peel). Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet along with the red onions. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Roast the pork on the lower oven rack until golden brown and a thermometer inserted into the center registers 145 degrees F, about 1 hour 10 minutes. About halfway through, roast the oranges and onions on the upper oven rack until softened and just starting to char, 25 to 30 minutes; set aside until ready to serve. Remove the pork from the oven and let rest 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the mostarda: Combine the blood orange juice, wine, 1 cup water, the raisins, sugar, honey, mustard seeds, rosemary and 1 tablespoon mustard in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until thick and syrupy, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the rosemary sprig and stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon mustard and the vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to serve. (The mostarda can be made up to 4 hours ahead; reheat before serving.)
Untie the pork and slice; transfer to a platter along with the roasted oranges and onions. Serve with the mostarda.
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Molasses-glazed pork and beans
Recipe developed for The Kansas City Star by professional home economists Kathy Moore and Roxane Wyss.
1 tablespoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
One 1 1/2-pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of fat
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 bay leaves
One 14.5-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with liquid
3 tablespoons unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
One 15.8 ounce-can reduced sodium Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Stir together mustard and pepper. Rub 1 teaspoon of seasoning mixture evenly over the pork roast. Set remaining seasoning mix aside.
Heat oil in a cast iron or oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add roast and cook until browned, turning to brown evenly. Remove roast from skillet and set aside.
Add onion and carrot to skillet. Cook, stirring frequently, 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Turn off heat. Move vegetables to the outer edges of the skillet and place roast in the center. Add bay leaves and pour tomatoes over vegetables; stir vegetables to combine.
Roast in oven, uncovered, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, stir together molasses, maple syrup and vinegar in a small bowl. Pour beans around meat and stir to combine with vegetables. Drizzle molasses mixture evenly over meat and vegetables.
Roast uncovered 10 to 15 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in the center of the meat registers 150 degrees for medium doneness. Remove from oven and allow to stand 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Slice meat and serve with bean-vegetable mixture.
Per serving: 308 calories (21 percent from fat), 7 g total fat (2 g sat.), 51 mg cholesterol, 34 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 76 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber.
Thai pork and cucumber
This recipe from the Kansas City Star is a combination stir-fry and salad.
Note: Thai chilies, also known as bird’s eye chilies, may measure just 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, but they can pack a fiery punch that is not lessened with cooking. Pepperscale.com rates Thai peppers as six to 40 times hotter than a jalapeño. It’s a good rule of thumb to use gloves when working with chilies to avoid skin irritations.
To seed a cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop down the center.
1 cucumber, not peeled, halved lengthwise, seeded and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 medium red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 to 1 red or green hot Thai chili pepper or serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into very thin strips, about 2- by 1/8-inch
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups thinly sliced romaine or bok choy
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
Place cucumber and red bell pepper strips in a small bowl.
Combine lime juice, minced chili, soy sauce and pepper in a small bowl. Spoon 2 tablespoons of lime mixture over cucumbers. Toss and set aside.
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add meat and cook, stirring frequently, until meat is browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook 30 seconds. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the lime juice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, about 30 seconds or until meat is fully cooked.
Place romaine or bok choy in a deep serving platter. Spoon cucumber mixture, with any collected liquid, over greens. Top with cooked pork.
Whisk remaining 1 teaspoon oil into remaining lime juice mixture. Drizzle lime juice mixture over meat and cucumbers. Garnish with cilantro.
Per serving: 191 calories (30 percent from fat), 6 grams total fat (2 grams sat.), 74 milligrams cholesterol, 8 grams carb., 26 grams protein, 215 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.