It’s the end of the year, so I thought I’d provide a recipe that’s a little more festive-looking: a delicious pork tenderloin prepared on the stovetop and in the oven served with juicy balsamic roasted figs and a generous sprinkle of thyme. Sounds scrumptious and fancy right? Well let me just say it right now, it’s easy as pie and requires very little effort, it could even easily be prepared as a weeknight meal. But it’s impressive and so tasty that you can also put it on a New Year’s Eve menu if you’re looking for a recipe that’s effortless and will surprise your guests. This time of year always makes me pause a little to reflect on past events and future endeavors. So before I get to the recipe, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts with you (and a small announcement of where I’m headed in 2014).
First of all, I have to say 2013 was a year like no other in terms of learning, (re)discovering oneself and new experiences. About one year ago, I was travelling 30+ hours from Singapore, where my parents live and where we spent the Holidays, back to Sao Paulo, with one of the worst stomach aches of my life, while Freddy in the seat next to me was trying to fight off a bad case of food poisoning from our New Year’s Eve dinner, to no avail. I remember being in the Dubai airport at roughly four in the morning during our 5 hour layover there, in my humiliating bloated, backed up state, all the while munching on stale oat crackers “for fiber” and thinking to myself I’d had enough of these chronic episodes where my digestion would come to a complete stop and leave me desperate, cranky, aching and in some cases in a ball on my bed for days. It had been going on for years and I always thought “thats’s the way I am” and there was nothing I could do about it. But having done some research, I decided to try and lay off the gluten for a while as soon as we got back from our Holidays to see if I noticed any improvements. Soon after that, I decided to try going completely Paleo altogether, and I haven’t gone back since. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself. Not only have my digestive problems cleared up for the most part, but my acne has also gone away, my sleep is better, my weight has stabilized and I have loads of energy throughout the day. Looking one year back, the road hasn’t been steady nor easy. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t fall off the wagon more than once for a piece of cake, a mini quiche or an entire dessert table binge. But I’m really happy I went through with it and to celebrate my first year since that big change come January 1st!
In 2013, I also started this blog and it’s been a very exciting project. People ask me if it doesn’t take up too much time, and I answer them that actually yes it does, but it’s like anything you feel passionate about I suppose. It might be running, practicing the piano or taking a language course for others. For me, food blogging has opened up many new perspectives, interests and friendships. I love every part of it, it gives my love for cooking a whole other dimension and I hope I can take it even further in 2014.
Finally, let me reassure you, 2013 was not only about food and nutrition (thank god!). I had one of the most fascinating experiences of my life doing research this year in Brazil on the social impacts of inclusive business models in small farm production and food supply chains, which gave me a great opportunity to do hands on field research in five different locations of Brazil as well as participate in parallel research projects and case studies. I finished my Master’s this year (for those of you interested, my Master’s thesis on the same topic has been published here), which was an exciting yet scary step as I began job hunting and dealt with multiple highs and lows, rejections and disappointments.
But, it all worked out for the best and I’m taking this opportunity to let everybody know that I am moving to Peru in a few weeks to join a management strategy firm that focuses on social innovation and economic development in developing markets. Yes, I’m packing my bags yet again and I’m very excited to be starting this new adventure! I love the Andes region and will spend the first few months of my assignment in a small highland city called Cajamarca before probably making my way permanently down to Lima. Of course I will blog about the deliciousness that is Peruvian gastronomy!
With 2014 on the way, my main goal is to focus primarily on this new job. But I also hope to make more time for a physical activity: hiking and yoga are the two at the top of my list. I also have some travelling projects in the works for 2014. Naturally, discovering more of Peru: although I’ve already been there twice, I’ve only seen a few landmarks and really hope to do some adventure tourism in the Amazon and the Andes while I’m there. I’m also planning to go back to Ecuador for a visit in 2014 now that I’ll be so close by. A trip to Denmark for a conference for which I participated in a case-study is also in the works if I can get a few days off from work (crossing fingers). And last but definitely not least, I’m planning to go to Canada to visit my brother who is graduating this Spring! It’s quite a hefty program but since I love to move around, I think I’ll be able to handle it!
Happy New Year everyone, may 2014 be full of opportunities, exciting projects and fulfillment on all levels!
Recipe: Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Roasted Figs
1 Pork Tenderloin
1 tbsp olive oil + more for the tenderloin
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp Thyme
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
2. Wash and pat dry the pork tenderloin. Peal the garlic cloves and cut in half (or in three if they are large). With a small, sharp knife, make incisions in different parts of the tenderloin, about 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) deep, and insert a piece of garlic clove in the hole. Rub the tenderloin with salt, pepper and some olive oil. Leave to marinate for a few minutes.
3. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard, whisking vigorously until slightly thick. Wash the figs, cut in half and place on a baking dish. Coat each half with some of the balsamic sauce (keep about 1/4 for the pork tenderloin) and sprinkle half of the thyme on them. Place the figs in the oven and set timer to 10 minutes.
4. Heat a frying pan that’s large enough to contain the tenderloin on the stovetop on high heat. Place the tenderloin in the hot pan and sear on all sides, turning it over with tongs, for about 8 minutes. Transfer the tenderloin to the baking dish in the oven with a spatula or tongs (don’t pierce it) and coat with the remaining balsamic sauce and remaining thyme. Roast in the oven for 12 minutes.
5. Remove the dish from the oven. Place the tenderloin on a cutting board and cover with a loose sheet of aluminium for at least 10 minutes to allow for the juices to redistribute in the meat. Slice the tenderloin in small medallions, removing the garlic cloves as you go, and serve with the roasted figs and your desired side of vegetables.