ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Monday, January 25, 2010

Tonight's dinner was a mix of some traditional Italian dishes that my Northern Nonna made when I was growing up. Pork tenderloin is frequently on our dinner table in various forms and marinating the pork in a juniper berry/wine mix definitely takes it up a notch. The potato gratin was always a favorite of mine and is a perfect creamy accompaniment to the tenderloin. This is an easy meal to put together and most everything can be done in advance. I layered the potatoes this morning and the pork marinated in the fridge till I was ready for it.

Onion, shallot, juniper berries, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, olive oil, and wine make a simple, but flavorful marinade. Now if you have a picky, Irish husband who won't eat anything but PLAIN meat and potatoes and thinks that the foods you adore are strange and alien, you'll find yourself picking out the juniper berries before putting the platter on the table in front of said husband. But they do add a wonderful, fruity flavor and you'll be glad they're there. And never use the word fruity to describe his dinner. To this husband, fruit means apples and apples do not belong anywhere near his dinner plate. Have I mentioned I cook several meals every night?
Have you noticed those black binders in the background? Those are 2 of my newly organized recipe binders-30 years worth of family dinners, get-togethers with friends, catered events, and just day to day cooking. It has taken me the last 7 weeks and I still have many hours ahead of me. I'm amazed at how much cooking I've actually done and how many of our family memories revolve around it. I told you all about it in our Creamy Chicken Vegetable Soup post. I tried to link it here, but Blogger is not co-operating, so I apologize

Pork tenderloin is also an excellent choice if you're looking for a low fat and delicious source of protein. Isn't it GORGEOUS??

Here's our marinade. It doesn't seem like much, but there's flavor in there. I used thyme tonight, but any of your favorite herbs would work to compliment the junipers. The important thing is to use fresh herbs which will infuse the marinade with wonderful flavor. I know these things.
My Nonna told me. 

LOTS and LOTS of onions. See those little round dots? Those of you with picky husbands will know what to do with them later-but for now, let them work their magic.

While the meat is marinating, start the gratinata. Potatoes are boiled in their skins and set aside to cool. A thick besciamella (white sauce) is mixed with freshly grated parmesan cheese and layered with the potato slices along with ham, ground walnuts, and fontina or mozzarella cheese. Topped with buttered breadcrumbs and baked for the last half hour alongside the pork. 

Pork Tenderloin w/Juniper Berry Marinade

Pork Tenderloin about 2-3 lbs.
1 shallot, minced
1/2-1 onion, finely chopped
about 20-25 juniper berries
a few bay leaves (I think I used 3)
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup white wine
thinly sliced pancetta ( I used bacon this time as I was too lazy to drive to Whole Foods. If you use bacon, trim of almost all the visible fat. You do NOT want the meat floating in grease)

Put the meat in a casserole dish (not too big-you want the marinade to surround the meat). Cover with the shallot and onions. Mix the oil, wine, berries, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Pour over the tenderloin and allow to marinate for 2-3 hours in the fridge, covered tightly with plastic wrap. Remove the meat from the casserole and drain the vegetables from the marinade. Pat some of the onion mixture around the meat and wrap the slices of pancetta or bacon around the loin. Tie with twine if necessary and roast for app. 1 hour at 400 degrees (time depends on size of tenderloin. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness) While the meat cooks, combine remaining veggies from the marinade with a couple of tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and allow to caramelize over medium-low heat. Serve alongside the tenderloin.

The walnuts give this dish a toasty richness that melds beautifully with the ham and cheesy besciamella.

Gratinata di Patate e Nocciole (Potato Gratin with Walnuts)

2-3 lbs. potatoes
1 recipe thick Besciamella
1/2 cup freshly grated 
parmesan cheese
1 TBLSP butter
1/4 lb. ham, thinly sliced and julienned
1-1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, ground coarsely
6 ounces thinly sliced fontina or mozzarella (you may use shredded mozzarella)
1-1 1/2 cups shelled walnuts, ground
1-2 TBLSP Italian flavored dry bread crumbs

Boil the potatoes in their skin till just tender (20-25 minutes) and set aside to cool. Peel and slice into 1/2 inch slices. Grease a casserole dish (I used a 9 inch square). Place one layer of potatoes in casserole, season with a little salt and pepper,  and cover with a layer of sauce. Sprinkle with the ground nuts. Add another layer of potatoes, then sliced cheese and more sauce. End with potatoes and more sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and dot with butter. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. 

Have a wonderful week! We greatly appreciate your visit-Molti Grazie!!
Pattie and Allie


  1. It looks and sounds SCRUMPTIOUS! If my own Ray ever decides to ease up on his snoring, I might just make this meal to reward him...sans the juniper berries upon serving, though!

  2. Hi patti , I can see why you have to have items on your counters, You sound like an amazing cook. My friend Barb at Grits and Glamour and you have that in common. Thank you for coming by and visiting my blog, now I have another new blog to come and look at recipes, YUM!!! Kathysue

  3. WOW!! That looks just like it came out of a magazine. Beautiful!!! And after scrolling down, I think I'll make butternut squash and brown rice for dinner tonight. Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. ya know i might actually like pork tenderloin if i made it like this! everything looks so yummy!!!

  5. Looks good!

    To candy flowers, it is simple -- egg white in a cup, you brush over the flower and then put in sugar until it is thoroughly coated. Place on pan to dry. I always have some of my candied pansies in the pantry!


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