A friend was not feeling well through the first part of December - no time is a good time to be sick, but it seems that the holidays are a particularly cruel time to be confined to the bed.
Although I wanted to snap my fingers (or even drive over and actually do it myself) and have her tree put up, presents bought and wrapped and all Christmas baking done, the only offer she would accept was to allow me to cook her and her family dinner.
Along with the salad, pork tenderloin and cranberry orange bars, I also included a cheese and relish appetizer and a bottle of wine for her and her husband for when she was feeling better.
I have made all of these dishes since, and they have been enjoyed immensely every time. Each course comes together quickly and is elegant and tasty - perfect for any occasion.
LEAFY GREENS, APPLES AND ALMONDS WITH TARRAGON DRESSING
4 cups torn romaine and red leaf lettuce, or leafy greens of your choice
2 apples, cored and diced
1/3 cup coarsely chopped smoke flavored almonds
Tarragon Dressing (recipe follows)
In a large bowl, combine greens and apples. Toss lightly, sprinkle with almonds.
Prepare tarragon dressing. Serve salad at once, passing dressing separately at the table.
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of half a lemon
In a medium bowl, mix vinegar, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper, and shallot. Using a whisk, slowly and gradually beat in oil until dressing thickens. Add lemon juice.
Recipe adapted from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, January 2008
BACON WRAPPED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH CARAMELIZED LEEKS AND ROASTED VEGETABLES
1/2 pound potatoes, scrubbed and cut into chunks
1 cup carrots, sliced
2 generous handfuls brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 cloves garlic, minced, divided use
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and ground black pepper
4 leeks. trimmed
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup beer
5 slices thick cut bacon
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 pound)
Heat oven to 350F.
In a baking dish, combine potatoes, carrots, brussels sprouts and about 1 clove of the minced garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast 30 to 45 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, cut each leek into half lengthwise, then cut into thin half circles. Place sliced leeks in a bowl of cold water and let stand for 5 minutes, to allow any dirt or grit to sink to the bottom of the bowl.
Heat butter in a small skillet until foamy. Using a slotted spoon, remove leeks from water, squeezing out excess water. Add leeks to butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes, Stir in remaining garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Stir in beer, increase heat to medium-high and simmer 5 minutes. Season with ground black pepper, set aside.
Wrap pork tenderloin in bacon (it may take more than the recipe states to cover your tenderloin). Spoon leek mixture into a small roasting dish. Arrange bacon wrapped tenderloin over leek mixture and roast until internal temperature reaches at least 145 degrees, about 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before slicing. Serve pork with roasted vegetables.
Recipe adapted from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, July 2012
CRANBERRY ORANGE BARS
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour
Heat oven to 350F.
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the orange peel, cranberries and powdered sugar. Then stir in the flour to make a stiff dough. Spread and pat the dough into an ungreased 8-inch baking pan. Bake until the bars are golden and firm at the edges, about 20 minutes. Cool the pan on a rack for 2 minutes, then use a sharp knife to cut into 16 squares. Let the bars cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before removing them with a small spatula.
Recipe adapted from The Northwest Arkansas Times, December 1999