Rocco DiSpirito/FOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
I'm not trying to rush summer out the door or anything, but all this hot weather has had me thinking fall and one of the classic combinations of the season apples and pork.
The pairing of roasted pork and apples is nothing new, but delivering it in 20 minutes and at under 250 calories per serving is.
While you can use any type of apple for this recipe, I've chosen Gala. They're juicy, crisp, hugely flavorful and just coming in to season. Plus, they cook up tender and sweet. But this dish is so easy, don't hesitate to play around with the apple varieties to find one that suits you.
Whichever variety you use, you'll cook them in the microwave in a bowl of brewed hibiscus tea. Seem odd to cook with tea? It's just like adding another spice to your dish, but with just a whisper of flavor. A floral tea like hibiscus is perfect for apples. The more I cook with tea, the more I realize how versatile it is. Once you've learned to cook with tea, the world is your oyster. (Come to think of it, maybe a good tea broth would improve the taste of those slimy creatures.)
Like most meat, pork tenderloin can become dry and tough if overcooked. I think people are so afraid of eating undercooked meat they tend to compensate by cooking the life (along with the flavor and tenderness) right out of it. So follow my timing directions, then stop! Really!
Now about the cauliflower... I realize it isn't the most popular veggie. I suspect that's because most people aren't sure what to do with it beyond drenching it in high-fat cheese sauces. But I have a better way. In this recipe I cook it in the same pan as the pork so that it soaks up all the flavor of the meat.
This meal is truly delicious, and won't end up on your hips. Traditional recipes pack 607 calories with more than 25 grams of fat. My version has just 241 calories and 6 grams of fat.
MEDALLIONS OF PORK TENDERLOIN, ROASTED CAULIFLOWER AND CHUNKY APPLESAUCE
Start to finish: 20 minutes.
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch medallions
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small head cauliflower, cut into 2-inch florets
2 Gala apples, cored and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 bags hibiscus tea
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon coconut nectar or light agave nectar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked
In a large pot, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add 2 tablespoons salt. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Pour the olive oil into a large saute pan and place over high heat. Season the pork medallions on both sides with salt and pepper. Once the oil is smoking, add the medallions to the pan in an even layer. Cook the medallions about 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are browned. Flip and brown the other side.
Transfer the pork to a plate, cover with foil and set aside. Reserve the saute pan, uncleaned.
In a microwave-safe bowl combine the apples, tea bags, 1 tablespoon of water and the coconut nectar. Cover with plastic wrap, then microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until the apples are tender and falling apart when mashed with a fork. Mix in the lemon juice, then cover and set aside.
Add the cauliflower to the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the cauliflower water and place on a cutting board. Cut the florets in half from the stem to the top of the floret. Arrange the florets, cut sides down, in a single layer in the reserved saute pan. Set over medium-high heat and cook until the florets just begin to brown, about 1 minute.
Turn each floret, then nestle the pork back into the pan. Add the thyme, then place the pan in the oven to finish cooking the pork, about 4 minutes.
Meanwhile, remove the plastic and tea bags from the apples and mash with a fork. Spoon one dollop on each of 4 serving plates. Place 1 pork medallion on each plate, then add cauliflower. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the pan and scrape up any browned bits. Spoon the pan sauce over the top of each medallion.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 241 calories; 6 g fat (1 g saturated); 73 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 27 g protein; 5 g fiber; 390 mg sodium.
Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.
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