Two Years Ago: Pork with Thai Peanut Sauce
Color is Important
I grew up in an era where mothers regarded cooking as a necessity and their primary goal was to get food on the table that their family would eat. Much of that food was beige. Presentation and garnish were not concepts most moms thought about. But times have changed, and cooking is now a conscious choice rather than a necessity since there are so many prepared foods and casual restaurants that are available. There are many reasons to make the choice to cook - including good health, nutrition, dietary needs, or just plain fun - but as long as you made the effort to cook your food, why not make it look pretty?
Color plays a big part in making food pretty, which is why I chose multi-colored mini-peppers for this dish. I could have used one big red pepper which would have added some color, but the multi-colored peppers are even better.
I've posted recipes in the past that were relatively colorless (Italian Sausage and Wild Mushroom Risotto ) because they are just that good, but it's a lot more impressive when they have all kinds of vibrant colors ( Seafood Cobb Salad ). In particular, meat tends to be fairly brown so think about livening it up with a colorful sauce, relish, or accompanying vegetables. Even a fresh parsley garnish on top of soup or rice helps to add color. I once read about a chef who said he garnishes every meal he makes even if it's just for himself alone, because he felt it made that much difference to the overall eating experience.
Pinchos Morunos is Spanish in origin and is commonly found in tapas bars. This particular recipe version converts it into a main dish by adding onion and peppers, but the pork by itself on small skewers would be a classic addition to a tapas party served with just a drizzle of lemon olive oil. What makes it Spanish is the combination of spices on the pork, in particular the saffron. I love the distinctive taste of saffron. The pork is spiced but not very spicy in terms of heat, and it's what makes this dish special. The spice mix colors the pork as it marinates before grilling.
I decided to halve the small peppers so they would fit better on the skewers plus it made them easier to seed, but I decided to leave the stems on for presentation and color.
I think I've mentioned somewhere previously that it's a good idea to separate your meats and vegetables on different skewers because they have different cook times. If you alternate everything on each skewer your cook times become a compromise between ingredients, although for some reason that's the way skewers are most often shown. In this case the meat was going to cook faster than the vegetables but the peppers and onions needed about the same amount of time.
One last note - although the recipe calls for marinating the meat for a few hours, it's very flexible. I've grilled it without any marinating time at all, or you could let it marinate overnight so don't let that stop you from using this as a weeknight meal. Served with rice or couscous, it's a fast, delicious and very healthy meal.
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1” cubes
1 red onion, cut into 6 wedges
8 multi-colored mini-peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeded
8 (12”) wooden skewers
Combine the first 10 ingredients in a zip top bag and toss to distribute spices. Add the pork tenderloin cubes and toss to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
Soak skewers in a water for 30 minutes prior to grilling to prevent burning.
Prepare a grill for direct cooking over medium heat.
Separate each onion wedge into two pieces. Thread meat pieces on four skewers; alternate onion and pepper pieces on the other four.
Grill over medium heat for 5 minutes per side for the meat, and 6 minutes per side for the vegetables, flipping once.