A few friends have asked me how I choose what to cook during the week. I wish I could sound like a true gourmand and say, “Oh, I only buy what’s in season and work from there. Freshness is key.” But the truth is I’m not a gourmand, and I make my grocery list every Friday night (we shop on Saturday) by trolling the interwebs and magazines for recipes that jump off the page (virtual or otherwise) and say “eat me!” My favorite food websites are Food Network.com, Epicurious, and Smitten Kitchen (of course), with a smattering of Orangette and The Kitchn. The magazines I prefer are the ones that show up in my mailbox each month (thanks to many generous Christmas gifts), and include Cooking with Paula Deen, Bon Appetite, Food Network Magazine, and Southern Living.
So even I was surprised when my inspiration for cooking this had little to do with whether it sounded good, and everything to do with the fact that I had a pork tenderloin that needed to be cooked. The strange list of ingredients intrigued me, and I was pretty sure that it would either come out great or terrible. And who doesn’t want a little mystery and suspense in their life?
After giving Quinoa [KEEN-wah] with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans a go, and my completely unprofessional opinion is that it was interesting. Not bad, not great, but interesting. To be fair, I changed it up quite a bit. You see, the onion that I had chosen for the recipe went bad at an alarmingly fast rate, rendering it useless for this recipe. I had to leave it out. Also, I didn’t feel like buying Paula Deen’s Paprika Spice Blend, and instead opted to create my own with about 1 TBSP of paprika and about half a teaspoon of chili powder (I meant to add some cumin as well, but totally forgot). I didn’t have queso fresco cheese, so I substituted feta (which Paula assured me was okay).
One thing I can say about this recipe is that method of baking the crusted tenderloin with the potatoes at 400 degrees for 20 minutes is genius. The potatoes (which everyone knows take forever to soften up) were perfectly cooked and the pork was exceptionally moist and tender (amazing, considering how easy it is to dry a tenderloin out). I should probably note that I cook my pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, but you can go as high as 170 degrees. Also, keep in mind that as your pork rests after you take it out of the oven, it will continue to cook, so I would recommend taking it out a few degrees shy of your desired temp.
Quinoa with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans
Courtesy of Cooking with Paula Deen, volume 6, issue 1
4 cups chopped sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)
1 sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 (1 lb) trimmed pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon of Paula Deen Paprika Spice Blend
1 and 3/4 cups chicken broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup queso fresco (or feta) cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and 1/2 tablespoon oil. Spread potato mixture evenly on half of prepared baking sheet. Place tenderloin on other half of baking sheet. Rub remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and Paprika blend evenly on tenderloin. Bake for 20 minutes, or until tenderloin is cooked to desired degree of doneness and potatoes are tender. Remove and discard garlic cloves. Let tenderloin stand for 10 minutes before slicing.
In a medium saucepan, combine broth and quinoa of medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.
In a large bowl, combine potato mixture, cooked quinoa, black beans, queso fresco, cilantro, lime juice, and remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
Serve tenderloin over quinoa mixture.