Slow living

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We have been in France for just about seven months. Here in Cairanne, we are perfecting the art of “slow living.” Our days are rather sleepy – filled with walks, cooking, reading, some writing and exploring. As the new year approaches, I decided to add a few new things to this regimen. Tomorrow I start an online writing class that needs seven hours a week AND I decided to do 30 days 30 dinners here.  A little food, a little life. Trying to spice things up a bit.

Speaking of spice – last week we headed to Lyon to check out the Fete des Lumieres (festival of lights). My plan was really to eat all the Asian food and taste all the wine.

Piri-piri ramen in Lyon

On our way south from Lyon, we stayed one night in Tournon-Sur-Rhone. This is a small town in the middle of France’s syrah wine country. Although I have no good picture, the vineyards are all planted on extremely steep slopes and exceedingly difficult to tend to. They produce some of the world’s best syrah.

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At their Saturday market, I scored a head of beautiful Napa cabbage and was inspired to make this Spicy Thai Pork Salad. It comes from my favorite recipe collection – NYTimes cooking. I love this site because the recipes are usually spot-on but the comments and ratings are even more helpful. This recipe, in particular, is lovely because you can use any protein (pork, beef, chicken, tofu).

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Did you know in France you have to put a Euro in the shopping cart to get it to unlock? I won’t embarrass myself by telling you how long it took me to figure out.

It starts with a marinade that I think might be a little too complicated. Lots of grating of garlic and ginger. You will most assuredly wind up with bloody knuckles as I did. Next time I make this recipe, I will just blend it all in the food processor and skip the micro planing injuries.

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French people don’t eat much spicy food – so these chilis were quite a find

While this was marinating away, I made a provencal-esque lunch of sauteed zucchini, tomatoes and rice. Basically: saute an onion, a garlic clove, 2 zucchini and 2 tomatoes for about 30 minutes (covered). Add 1/2 cup of rice and some extra water. Cover and let cook for 25 more minutes. Top with parmesan.

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After plenty of marinating, broil that pork and toss the vegetables. The sweet/sour/spicy is right on. No doubt though, the crunchy peanuts on top are the best part. We paired it with a (too-dry) Riesling from Alsace.

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Stay tuned for Day 2. Veal shanks coming at ya.

Spicy Thai Pork Salad 

from New York Times, Melissa Clark (my favorite recipe creator).

FOR THE MARINADE AND DRESSING:

  • 1 ½ pounds boneless pork tenderloin (usually 2 tenderloins)
  • cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 shallots)
  • cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 5 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 6 garlic cloves, grated
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
  • Juice and zest of 4 limes
  • 3-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated
  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
  • 1 to 2 Thai bird, serrano or jalapeño chile peppers, seeded and minced

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 8 cups Napa or regular cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 5 whole scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 2 small Kirby or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ cups cilantro leaves
  • 1 ½ cups mint leaves
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 ¼ cups roasted cashewsor peanuts, toasted and chopped
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut chips or large flakes, toasted
PREPARATION

  1. Pat pork dry with paper towel. In a bowl, combine shallot, cilantro, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, garlic, soy sauce, peanut or grapeseed oil, lime zest and juice, ginger, fish sauce, salt and chile. Pour a quarter of the mixture into a blender, add remaining sugar and purée until a smooth, loose paste forms. (Save the unblended mixture to use as dressing.)
  2. Place tenderloin in a large bowl and spread the paste all over pork. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours, or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours; turn the tenderloin occasionally.
  3. Light the grill or heat the broiler and arrange a rack at least 4 inches from the heat. Grill or broil pork, turning occasionally, until well browned and meat reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees, 4 to 10 minutes per side depending upon the heat of your broiler or grill. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overcook. Let meat rest while you prepare the salad. (Or, cook the pork 1 or 2 hours ahead and serve it at room temperature.)
  4. In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients, reserving the herbs, cashews and coconut. Whisk the dressing and use just enough to dress the salad, tossing to combine. Let sit for a few minutes for the flavors to meld, then right before serving, add herbs and toss again.
  5. To serve, slice the pork. Arrange salad on a platter and top with sliced pork. Scatter cashews and coconut on top, drizzle with a little more of the remaining dressing, to taste.

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