We had just closed the chapter on the 2009 fall sports season. Nana and Papa had already headed back up the I-5 corridor after kindly attending yet another sporting event. I had in the car with me, my chickens plus one cousin. They were unusually quiet and with the sun beaming in at just the right angle, I was feeling sleepy. Well, alright, more than sleepy. As in having to slap myself on the cheeks and roll down the window to keep from falling asleep at the wheel kind of sleepy. (But, shhh, don’t tell my sister. Her child was perfectly safe.)
We pulled into the driveway and I instructed the troops to enter the house very, very quietly seeing as the youngest cousin of all was sure to still be napping. As predicted, the house was silent and my sister was curled up reading a book. Ahhh…if only it could last. Soon, it was as if we had opened the gate to the hen house and all of the chickens were running around frenzied in the yard. The littlest cousin was up at this point, adding his squawking to the mix and all was as it should be. And then…I did something. Something that can only be done in the presence of one’s sister.
I curled myself up on the couch in the middle of the chicken fest. Me and the cat. And, I went to sleep. Right there. Out. Hard. No thoughts of being any kind of hostess to my guests…blood relatives or not. Only thoughts of sleep. And sleep I did. I was later told that I unbelievably slept through the 18-month old composing his 1st symphony on the piano, teen nick shows playing loudly in the living room, all sorts of car, train and lightsaber sound effects being blasted away at full volume and any number of plastic ride-on cars and grocery carts being zoomed past me.
When I, the sleeping princess, finally awoke, I couldn’t believe the time. Had I really slept that long? For crying out loud, it was time to make dinner. In my groggy state, I went to the cupboard to pull out the supplies for my pre-planned meal only to discover that I had failed to purchase the main ingredient. Now, what? I had a house full of hungry beings and time was tick, tick, tickin’ away. I couldn’t do pizza….again. I decided to get creative. Sometimes a good thing…sometimes not. I had whipped up a delicious tomato and shallot pasta sauce a few weeks ago (Have you figured out that I have a thing for tomatoes and shallots?) and since I still had some tomatoes from the little garden that could I thought I’d try that again. But then, I started to stray from the tried and true. I decided to peel the tomatoes. Why? I’ve never bothered to do that before. And then, I added a chopped up red pepper. Why? I know full well that if you add red pepper to a sauce without another strong ingredient to balance it out such as sausage…well, it’s just too strong for our likin’. I looked at my paltry sauce and started to panic that there wasn’t enough so I grabbed a jar of Dave’s Gourmet Pasta Sauce from Costco. And, poured half in. Why? In the meantime, I sauteed up some shitake mushrooms hanging out in the back of the produce drawer, cut up some apples and declared dinner served. I also made sure to slap down a wedge of parmesan cheese. Parmesan cheese generously grated over anything makes it taste better.
We put the chickens at their own table and my sister and I sat down at the dining room table with my slapstick meal and a glass of wine. I don’t recall that my sweetie was with us. I think he may have been hiding. She and I took a deep breath, clinked out glasses and then, talked about friendships, about writing, about life. We discussed the merits of Seinfeld’s “Good Naked vs Bad Naked” theory since she had earlier walked in on the baby who appeared to be “diggin’ for grubs” while wearing his birthday suit. We talked about religion, about world peace, about working in and out of the home. She shared with me a trick for getting rid of fruit flies. “Set a little ramekin of red wine on the counter with a few drop of dish soap in there. Come morning, your problem will be greatly improved.” We talked about raising children, teaching children, feeding children. We shared recipes. Thoughts on nutrition. Recent successes in the kitchen. We were able to relax and just be with each other. To realize that it doesn’t always have to be about the food (or the hostessing). More often than not, it’s the company that matters most.
The following evening, my sister and her little band of boys had long since disappeared up the I-5 corridor. I was at my computer checking my calendar and email. What did the following week have in store for me? At the top of the list of unread emails was one, already, from my sister. A recipe for Pork Loin and Cannellini Beans. I smiled. Grateful to have that recipe since I was out of dinner ideas and grateful to have shared my weekend with her.
Slow Cooker Pork Loin and Cannellini Beans
Now, that you know, dear friend, that I am “morning-challenged”, slow-cooker recipes aren’t usually my thing. They require someone who is up and at ‘em, fully conscious, organized in the wee hours and well, that’s just not me but since this recipe required only 5-6 hours of cooking as opposed to the requisite 8, I was able to pull it off. I happened to serve it over brown rice but quinoa would be equally as good. My sister says that on night two, she wraps the leftovers up into tortillas and serves pork burritos for dinner.
2 tsp Herbes de Provence or 1 tsp ea dried sage and rosemary
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2.5 lbs pork tenderloin
4 tbls extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 c. white wine
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) cannellini beans
1 can (14.5 oz) fire roasted diced tomatoes
1/4 c chopped sage
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 c. parsley leaves
2 tbls toasted pine nuts (optional)
Rub dried herbs, half the garlic, salt and the pepper over the pork.
Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; brown pork all over, about 8 min. Place in slow cooker.
Cook onion in skillet over med heat 3 minutes. Increase heat to med-high. Add wine; boil 7 minutes. Drain and rinse beans; stir into skillet with tomatoes. Simmer 12 minutes.
In food processor, finely chop remaining garlic, 2 tbls oil, fresh sage, rosemary, parsley and pine nuts. Stir half into tomato mixture, then pour over pork. Cover; cook on LOW for 5 to 6 hours or until pork is tender.
Remove pork. Turn slow cooker to HIGH; stir in remaining herb mixture to heat. Serve with pork.
Yield: Plenty for 5 people with leftovers to enjoy the next evening or to place in a ziploc and freeze to enjoy in the weeks to come.
All original text and photos copyright: Carrie Minns 2009