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Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Great Dinner for Any Night or Any Occasion

 A few months back, I was looking for something to do with white beans. I use white beans when I make my Mom & Dad's Bean Soup/Ham Bone Soup, yet I rarely use them otherwise. No particular reason for this, just that the Bean Soup recipe is the only one I had growing up that used white beans. 

white beans, bacon, thyme, onion, garlic
White Beans with Bacon & Thyme

Wandering around the internet in search of ideas, I came on one that sounded promising, called White Beans with Bacon and Herbs on "Jo Cooks." I printed it off, then started to plan what I would do differently. Not that there was anything wrong with how the recipe sounded, as is. Just that I always tinker. Even with my own recipes, I go back and just have to do something different. Maybe I don't have some ingredients and have to substitute. Maybe I just have a hankering for something different than the original flavor profile. Whatever it is, I just seem to have a need to change things.

For starters, I had started cooking a pound of beans from scratch earlier in the day. I tucked in a couple of bay leaves while the beans cooked. Once I found this recipe, I realized that it sounded splendid with the fresh herbs, but I didn't have any! I did, however, have some pesto in the fridge, from my latest batch, and opted to use some of that for flavors instead. I only buy thick-sliced bacon, so I lowered the amount of bacon to 4 slices. There were no onions in the original recipe, so I caramelized a chopped onion, then added in 4 fresh minced cloves of garlic to the mix. I needed more salt, since I was using fresh cooked beans. I always cook my beans or lentils with no salt at all so they cook a bit better. I add salt once they are already tender.  And that was my plan.

The beans came out so amazingly flavorful. Oh my! And I never once thought of taking photos.

pork, thyme, sage, garlic, rosemary, fennel
Pork Tenderloin with Italian Flavors

So a couple of weeks back, I wanted to repeat this recipe, since it was so very tasty. And then I wondered what to pair with them as a main course? If it was just me in the house, I would have had a salad alongside these scrumptious beans and called it a night. My husband, however, would not be so easily placated. I got out some pork tenderloin and started thinking about what to do with that. 

As it turned out, I created a mix of "Italian" flavors, rubbed the mixture all over the tenderloins and baked them. The mixture is somewhat akin to what I do for things like steaks or lamb chops; a green mixture of garlic, rosemary, olive oil, pepper, salt, and other things that may differ depending on the meat involved. Since this was pork, I used sage and fennel. My preference would have been fresh sage, but again, I had none on hand. Oh, how I do miss having my own herb garden! The whole thing came out so good we both spent the entire meal moaning in pleasure.

White Beans with Bacon and Thyme

Serves 10 or more

white beans, thyme, pesto, onion, garlic
White Beans with Bacon & Thyme

1 pound white dried beans, soaked overnight (OR - Pour boiling water over them and let set for one hour)

2 bay leaves

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4 slices thick-sliced bacon, cut in 1/4" bits

2 tablespoons reserved bacon fat from pan

1 large onion, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

4 fresh cloves garlic, minced finely

3 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (no stems)

1 - 3 tablespoons fresh basil pesto

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

If soaking beans overnight, in the morning, drain, then place beans in a large pot with tight fitting lid. Cover the beans with water by at least 1 inch above beans, add in the bay leaves, bring to boil, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and let cook for 2 to 3 hours, or until tender, but not mushy. 

ALTERNATELY: If, like me, you don't remember to soak overnight, in the morning place the beans in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Soak then 1 hour, drain, place beans in pot and cover with water by an inch, add the bay leaves and cook 2 to 3 hours, until tender but not mushy.

Once beans are nearly ready, remove lid and let the liquid cook down until there is only about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of liquid left. Leave on very low heat to keep warm.

In a skillet, fry the bacon to your desired doneness. Remove the bacon to paper toweling and reserve about 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan. Add in the onion with the salt and cook, stirring occasionally at first, then nearly constantly once they start to go golden. Continue cooking and stirring until they are deep golden brown and add in the garlic, cooking another 3 to 5 minutes, until the raw garlic smell is gone. Add in the thyme leaves, pesto and red wine vinegar and stir, then pour all this mixture into the beans and mix well. Cover and let flavors meld for at least 15 minutes before serving.

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For this next dish, use the pork tenderloins and not pork loin. Tenderloins are far thinner and will cook more quickly. Pork loins are a thicker cut and will be less tender.

Pork Tenderloin with Italian Flavors

Serves 4 to 6

pork tenderloins, garlic, fennel, rosemary
Pork Tenderloin with Italian Flavors

2 pork tenderloins, about 1.25 pounds each

4 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and minced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced finely

2 teaspoons dried sage leaves, crumbled (or use fresh sage and mince, measuring out at least 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, minced, or use 2 - 3 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, minced

1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

Trim the tenderloins of fat and silverskin. Set aside.

Mix all the remaining ingredients together and rub the mixture over the meat, coating all sides. Set the tenderloins in their coating into a zip top bag or into a container with lid and set aside for at least a half hour, though overnight in the fridge would be best.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and set the tenderloins on a rack in a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. Pour some water into the baking sheet, otherwise the drippings will cause a LOT of smoke. Roast the tenderloins for about 50 to 55 minutes, or to an internal temperature of at least 165. Remove from oven and tent with foil for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing - across the grain and on a diagonal.


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.


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