Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mother of Invention

Necessity is the mother of invention they say.

If Necessity had all the loquats ripening in her back yard that I currently do, I think she'd be busy in her kitchen, adding loquats to every recipe she thinks will welcome their complex flavor. At least, that is what I have been up to lately.

Our two loquat trees are absolutely loaded with fruit this year. The branches are leaning down, heavy laden with lots (and LOTS) of loquats ranging from the still bright green to the obviously deeply golden ripe lobes that seem to mostly be way up high in the trees. I am perfectly willing to climb our tallest ladder and retrieve the fruit, but even standing on the next to top rung and reaching out as far as I can, most of the fruit is simply too far away to harvest.

That said, we still have more loquats than I know what to do with. I will make another couple of batches of jam, sure, and I am determined to whip up some sort of loquat salsa this week, but past that, I am at a stage where I evaluate every recipe carefully, wondering if there is not some way to introduce loquats into the mix.

The first recipe here, a pork tenderloin with a fruit sauce, is the single result I came up with (aside from jam or jelly) off the internet utilizing loquats. The recipe acknowledges that loquats are not all that common (outside my backyard, anyway), stating you can use all strawberries for the sauce. Or as I will do next time, use all loquats.

It was easy, delicious to the point where it did not serve 4, but rather two, as my husband happily finished off the leftovers in the kitchen as he cleaned up after dinner. First run at leftovers is a privilege I happily extend for help with the dishes. It is really the best way to go if you understand a few simple rules about eating. To begin with, calories consumed while standing up only count half. Calories consumed while standing up AND cleaning away the chaos of food preparation don't count at all.

Pork Tenderloin with Strawberry Loquat Sauce

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound), trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoons mild olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup loquats, seeded, peeled, and quartered
1/2 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup Madeira

Cut the pork tenderloin in half so that it fits in a medium size skillet and season the pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon of the butter in a medium size skillet over high heat. Add the pork tenderloin and brown it on all sides, about 2 minutes total. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the pork registers 150 degrees F. on an instant read thermometer, about 15 minutes. Transfer the pork tenderloin to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Pour off the fat in the pan. Add the loquats, strawberries, and sugar to the pan, and sauté until the fruits are just soft, 30 seconds. Stir in the Madeira wine with a wooden spoon, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add any meat juices collected on the plate to the pan. Simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon butter until it is completely melted. Remove from the heat. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Slice the pork tenderloin l/4-inch thick and place on a warmed serving platter. Spoon the fruit sauce over the meat, and serve at once.

Yield: 4 servings Source: Nicole Routhier's Fruit Cookbook
This second recipe is a conglomeration of a Whole Foods recipe shared by somebody in my CSA basket group, and some online research as I had previously looked around for tips on fennel preparation. I could not find blood oranges at my store and was determined to use what I had on hand that was organic, which meant a grapefruit. I still wanted the dramatic orange/red color combination that blood oranges give especially for the vinaigrette. I decided to add in some mandarin orange slices since I also had those already on hand, and I pureed a few strawberries left over from the pork recipe to give the juice that gorgeous red color. And while I was in the process of throwing in extra fruit anyway, I added some loquats.

I am hopeful the additional fruit won't throw the salad too far out of balance and I am thinking about leaving the olive garnish off since I put the extra citrus in. I'll try a bite with olive and without olive and make that determination when I serve.

It's all a matter of personal taste when you get right to it. A matter of taste and of supplies on hand. I think the salad looks good enough to eat, don't you?

Fennel and Fruit Salad

2 large bulbs fennel, cored and thinly sliced
2 blood oranges, cut into supremes (reserve juice)
1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
10 mint leaves, cut chiffonade style
6 loquats, peeled, seeded, cut into eighths

1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup oil cured black olives

Slowly whisk the oil into the orange juice and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place sliced fennel, orange sections, onion and mint leaves in a bowl. Toss with vinaigrette and let sit at room temperature for an hour. Stir occasionally.

Serve garnished with olives.

Followup note. At dinnertime I made the call to leave out the olives. I loved the salad, found it very fresh tasting and enjoyed the contrast of crisp fennel and soft citrus. My husband was not so impressed. The way this is shaping up, he simply may not be much of a fennel fan. Which simply means most of the fennel I will eat will be that I have ordered in restaurants. No big deal. I won't be planting fennel in my vegetable garden next year unless it turns out they have magical powers to turn loquats into jam overnight. Fennel is a bizarre beauty of a plant however, Maybe I'll put in a few just for looks.

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