Roasted Pork Loin with Figs

This is one of my favorite recipes for a dinner party. You put it in the oven just before guests arrive, and you have an hour to entertain and serve appetizers. The pork becomes extremely tender and juicy, and the sauce poured over is sweet, with a hint of balsamic vinegar. A serious crowd pleaser!

Serves 6-8 people

2 tablespoons each fresh thyme and rosemary, minced
5 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt)
Ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bone-in pork loin roast, about 5 lbs
10-12 ounces of dried figs, halved
1 cup sweet vermouth, slightly warmed
1 cup chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons veal demi-glace
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 stick of butter, softened

In a small bowl, combine thyme, rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and oil. Rub into pork thoroughly, and cover it with plastic wrap; refrigerate over night. Next day remove pork from refrigerator, place in a large roasting pan, and allow it to get to room temperature. Meanwhile, soak figs in the warmed vermouth for 1 hour. Strain and reserve liquid.

Preheat oven to 475*F.
Roast pork for 20 minutes at this temperature, then reduce heat to 400*F for about 45 minutes, or until internal temperature of meat is 140*F. Add figs last half hour of cooking time. Transfer pork to a board,  loosely tented with foil, and let it rest for 20 minutes. Remove figs and set aside.

While it's resting, set roasting pan over medium high heat and add the reserved vermouth. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly and reduce heat to medium. Add stock, demi-glace, vinegar and figs. Simmer about 5 minutes. Whisk in butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Slice roast between the bones and place on a platter. Pour 1/2 the sauce over it and serve the rest on the side.

I have used dried apricots instead of figs and it's equally delicious. Along side the pork, I serve roasted potatoes, with brussel sprouts and onions.

Seared Cod with Lemon Caper Sauce

This is a quick, easy recipe, that has big flavor. I came up with this just by looking in my pantry/frig, and seeing what I had on hand. Some of my best recipes have started this way.

Makes 2 servings

2  8 ounce cod fillets (may substitute with any white flake fish)
Salt and pepper
Flour for dusting
3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, smashed with the side of a chef's knife
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons capers, drained (if using salted capers- rinse)
1/4 cup white wine

Salt and pepper each fillet and dust lightly with flour. Heat oil in a saute pan on medium high heat, and add garlic and thyme. Stir, so as to infuse the oil with their flavor, for about 30 seconds. Add cod, skin side down, undisturbed for 3 minutes until crisp. Turn over and cook for 1 minute more. Remove, and place in a slightly warmed oven.
Add the lemon juice and capers to saute pan and deglaze with white wine, scraping up any bits left in the pan from the fish. Reduce, add salt and pepper if needed, and pour over fish.

I serve this with garlicky mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.

Cheesy Artichoke Dip

Preheat oven 350* F

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 jalapeno minced (optional)
2 scallions (sliced thinly)
1 14 ounce can of artichoke hearts (drained and coarsely chopped)
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and mayo until well blended. Add the remainder of the ingredients, with the exception of the artichokes hearts. Beat well until it is completely blended. Add chopped artichoke hearts and pour into a small, greased casserole. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling around edges. Use crackers or chips for dipping.
* To make a lighter version, use lite cream cheese, lite mayo and part skim mozzarella, veritably no difference in final outcome.
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