Frank and Steven, Ina’s best friends, are having guests for dinner, but there’s a problem! They’re stuck in traffic from the city, so Ina’s going to come to their rescue and make dinner for them. Wow, with friends like that, who needs a caterer?
Ina wants people to feel at home when she invites them for dinner, so she likes to make something earthy. She’s doing the same thing for Frank and Steven’s dinner party.
She brings in bunches of herbs...from her Versailles-like herb garden, I'm guessing.
Ina starts with a marinade for the pork loin. She zests a lemon and adds ¾ cup fresh lemon juice, ½ cup olive oil and six(!) cloves of garlic (2 tablespoons minced finely) and lots of fresh herbs – 1½ tablespoons minced fresh rosemary and 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves.
Ina reminds us to measure the herbs already minced and not to measure the whole herb and THEN mince. Big difference, she says. And fresh is important here, because you need the oil in the fresh herbs to flavor the marinade. She adds 2 teaspoons of salt (I’d cut that a little) and 2 teaspoons of
The best way to marinate is in a plastic bag, Ina continues. Not glamorous, she says, but it does the trick. She’s using three 1 lb. loins of pork. (I like the Contessa’s highlights. Slightly reddish…very pretty.) She pours the marinade all around the meat and seals the bag and marinates the pork for 3 hours. Overnight is even better, she says.
She puts the bag on the shelf of the refrigerator. Uh, that could be dangerous. I would put it in a pie plate or gratin dish. And before I even touched the handle of the refrigerator, I would wash my hands completely.
Ina’s doing the flowers too. She is using roses and freesia. She says to keep turning the bouquet around to make it round. I don’t exactly get what she means. Then she cuts the stems fairly short and put them in a drinking glass. She adds fresh thyme “which softens the roses”. This is so beyond me.
I prefer just to use trinkets and family photos as centerpieces. If my guests don’t want to look at an antique shaving brush or pictures of my kids from preschool to graduation, then that’s THEIR problem.
For the first dish, Ina slices a round of sour dough bread into big cubes – about 6 cups - for a GREEK panzanella. What a good idea. She adds olive oil to a sauté pan and heat it until hot. She adds the bread and tosses it over a medium heat with salt for 5 to 10 minutes, until it’s nicely browned.
For the vegetables in the salad, Ina cuts red and yellow peppers straight down the sides, avoiding the stem. She cuts those pieces into squares and adds them to a big bowl. She slices half a red onion into half rounds and tomatoes into halves and adds those to the peppers. Then she cuts a hot house cuke in half lengthwise, removes the center with a spoon and cuts it into chunks.
Ina makes a vinaigrette for the salad. She minces 2 cloves of garlic and crushes 1 teaspoon of oregano in her hand. THAT’S WHAT I DO! Ina says dried is better here, because fresh oregano is too strong. She adds ½ teaspoon
We see Frank and Steven driving home. There doesn’t LOOK like much traffic. I think they just wanted Ina to make dinner.
Ina adds ½ cup Kalamata pitted olives to the salad and then the GORGEOUS bread cubes. 8 oz of feta cubes go on top and Ina tells us to always add that last. She pours over the vinaigrette and gives it a big toss. It should sit for 30 minutes, but can sit for up to 3 hours.
Ina starts a plum crunch for dessert. She cuts up 3 lbs. of fruit and mixes that with 1½ cups of brown sugar. (That’s a good triple the amount of sugar I usually add – Oh, but she is using more fruit…but not that much more.) Ina stirs in 1/4 cup flour, which will thicken the juices, and 6 tablespoons of cassis. Very interesting. It makes the plums taste plumier, Ina explains. If the plums are juicy, you can add more flour.
Ina puts the fruit into a 12” by 8” baking dish. For the topping, Ina mixes together 4½ cups flour (this is definitely a supersized crunch), ¾ cup sugar, ¾ cup brown sugar, ½ teaspoon salt (I’d skip that) one cup of oats, ½ cup chopped walnuts and 2 sticks of cut-up cold butter in the KitchenAid. She mixes it until it’s the size of small peas and crumbles it on top of the fruit, over the entire dish. Ina’s going to bake it at Frank’s house, so the house smells good.
She packs up all the food to go - THAT SALAD LOOKS AMAZING - and drives over to their house. They’re home already? Ina tells Frank and Steven everything that she has to do. Then she asks, “What are you going to do?” Steven says “Watch you.” I would too. THEY set the table (with HER flowers).
Ina pours a few tablespoons of olive oil into a large sauté pan. She adds the pork loin. She tells us not to add the marinade to the pan and that the pork should be as dry as possible, although she doesn’t actually dry it off.
Remember when Bobby got all freaked out on TNFNS, when someone used a marinade for a sauce? I do that – ALL THE TIME. I always boil up the marinade with some stock or wine or even orange juice.
Ina sears the pork for 2 minutes on each side. Then it goes into a 400°F oven for 10 minutes until it registers 137°F.
The guests arrive - it’s 2 gals - while Ina is in the kitchen. She tests the pork. It’s perfect. She lets it rest. The plum crunch goes into a 375°F oven. Ina plates the salad. She “loves that it’s served at room temperature, so it’s ready whenever dinner is.” I’m with her.
After the pork has rested for 10 minutes, she slices it on the bias. She’s happy that it’s slightly pink. The pork goes onto a platter with some fresh herbs. It looks good, but I would like a sauce for the pork. And how about a pilaf or something? Oh, Ina is staying for dinner? That’s nice. They all like everything.
Ina serves the plum crunch with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, that just happened to be in the fridge. Wink, wink. Steven says thanks so much. Ina says to call her for takeout anytime. Really? Let me put that on my speed dial.