Bittersweet Chalkolate

Blog about cooking, teaching, and everything else that is my life.

April. Cooking challenge. Day 14, 15, 16.

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Just when you thought “Thank God, no more this daily nonsense thing”, I am coming back with a vengeance. I have three.. THREE!!!! recipes for you tonight. Your next big dinner with in-laws is covered. I tested it out on mine today and it was a huge success. Phew.

So for the starters we are having Puff Pastry Wrapped Asparagus and Roasted Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Salad.   The first dish looks like it has come straight out of the food magazine. It looks that good and it is that delicious. Especially the sauce. I was very proud of myself when I pulled it out of the oven. The salad is really good too. I have always loved cauliflower and roasting it takes it to another level. Pairing it with roasted sweet potato, lettuce and sweet dressing brings it 10 levels up.

Puff pastry asparagus

Ingredients for Asparagus dish.

  • 1 box ready-to-bake puff pastry (2 sheets)
  • Flour for work surface
  • ¾ c. grated Parmesan
  • 24 Asparagus spears
  • 1 tbsp. Flaky sea salt
  • ¾ c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ tsp. dried thyme

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cut puff-pastry sheets into thirds along the folds to create six 5- by 10-inch rectangles. On a lightly floured work surface, roll one rectangle to 6 1/2- by 10 inches. Using a sharp knife, trim edges (about 1/4 inch per side), then cut into four 2 1/4- by 6-inch strips. Sprinkle each strip with 1/2 tablespoon Parmesan and center an asparagus spear atop strip. Wrap strips to enclose asparagus; dampen edges of pastry with water and seal to close. Place pastry-wrapped asparagus seam side down on prepared baking pans. Repeat with remaining pastry, Parmesan, and asparagus, spacing appetizers about 2 inches apart.
  3. Lightly brush tops of pastry-wrapped asparagus with water and sprinkle each with a pinch of sea salt. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small skillet over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and thyme to a gentle boil and cook until liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, 12 to 15 minutes. Strain, reserving sauce and discarding herbs. Serve asparagus warm with balsamic dipping sauce.

Note

There were only four of us so I yet again halved the recipe but I kept the same amounts for the sauce. Guys, the dipping sauce is so good Maya was dipping her fingers in it and licking them. That says a lot, right? I didn’t have fresh Parmesan so the grated one was the only other option. With that sauce you might as well not use any Parmesan at all, nobody will notice. This appetizer tastes good and has restaurant quality to it. 

Califlower sweet potato salad

Ingredients for the salad. 

  • 1 1/2 lb. small sweet potatoes, cut lengthwise into 1/2″ wedges
  • 1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 7 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 8 c. torn mixed lettuces
  • 2/3 c. pomegranate seeds

Directions

  1. Toss together sweet potatoes, cauliflower, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast at 425 degrees F, tossing once, until golden, 25 to 30 minutes; cool.
  2. Whisk together remaining olive oil, sherry vinegar, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add lettuces, pomegranate seeds, and roasted vegetables; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Note

I didn’t have sherry vinegar so I googled it and substituted with 2 tbsp of red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and 1 tbsp of sugar. I didn’t have pomegranate seeds either. To be honest with you, I am not a huge fan of them so I probably wouldn’t have used them anyway. Overall, very good salad.  

The star of the dinner was Slow Cooker Pork Loin in Apple Cider, Mustard and Thyme. You know how much I enjoy my slow cooker. Easter dinner is not an exception. One of the main reasons why I like it so much is that the meat is cooked in a very healthy way – no frying, deep frying, nothing that adds million of calories AND kills all the nutrition. The meat comes out very tender, juicy and very flavourful after being cooked for hours in the marinade or sauce. It is a very hard to achieve task while using the oven or stove top. This recipe is a winning dish. Pinky promise.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Dash salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds pork loin
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • 2 or 3 sprigs thyme

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan on medium heat, add the olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Sprinkle the pork with salt and pepper and then brown on all sides, turning it with tongs as necessary.
  2. Remove the pork from the pan and place in the base of the slow cooker bowl. Add onion and garlic to frying pan, and sautee until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add onion and garlic to the slow cooker bowl.
  3. Meanwhile mix the apple cider, mustard, lemon juice and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Once you have put the onions and garlic in with the pork, pour a bit of the apple cider mixture into the frying pan and deglaze it. Pour all of the cider mixture over the pork in the slow cooker bowl and lay sprigs on thyme on top of the pork.
  4. Cook over on the low setting for 7 to 8 hours, or on the high setting for 4 hours.

Note

Only two things. No red pepper flakes, and I used dried thyme instead of fresh one. Yum.

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