There are times you make dinners to be healthy. There are other times you make dinners to taste amazing. Sometimes, you are able to achieve both! Preparing a balanced meal with lean protein, whole grains, and tons of veggies isn’t always easy from day-to-day, and ordering a delicious pizza certainly seems quicker. When in a time crunch, I find myself making just a protein or just a starch, and calling it a night… but a solo baked potato is far from food group equilibrium! With seasonal vegetables readily available, it’s easier than ever to work them into the menu. I decided I better get back on track.
I recently came across a bag of Harvest Grains in my local store, and I paused to ponder what I could do with the mix. This variety consists of Israeli Couscous, Orzo, baby garbanzo beans and red quinoa. I usually default to rice or potatoes as my starch, but this looked hearty not to mention healthy. I decided it would make a good base to a fall-inspired meal that is balanced and flavor-fortified.
Tender is the name of the game for this dinner. We’re going with a lean, balsamic marinated pork tenderloin, and tender vegetables like baby zucchini, butternut & yellow squashes. We’ll be tying it all together over the harvest grain mix, and top with a fresh cranberry-cabernet compote. I wanted to focus on the pork tenderloin marinade using a flavorful combo of blackberry balsamic and a fresh basil extra virgin olive oil, both from my local WeOlive. These two make for a surprising & incredible combo, and we’ll add additional flavors of garlic, white wine, honey & thyme. We season and marinate our pork loin, then let it chill out awhile before pan-searing and finishing in the oven. The veggie trio is also getting prepped in a flavorful marinade, then roasted till tender and sweet.
We have several steps to making this family style meal, but luckily they’re all pretty quick! You can make the cranberries while the pork loin marinates, and the harvest grains cook in just 10 min. Because we’re first slicing the pork loin into medallions, they will absorb more of the flavors & cook very quickly (but watch out not to overcook, because the loin is so lean, it can turn into pork hockey pucks if you’re not careful..and there’s nothing even cranberry sauce can do to help if that happens!)
Let the grains begin!
Balsamic Pork Tenderloin & Vegetables with Harvest Grains & Cranberries
A tender harvest meal of healthy & flavorful balsamic marinated pork tenderloin, roasted balsamic vegetables, all on a bed of wholesome harvest grains. We sweeten the occasion by topping it all with a slightly-sweet fresh cranberry-cabernet compote. Fall dinners are good!
What to get...
For the Marinated Pork Tenderloin:
- 1.5-2 lb lean pork tenderloin (my package came with two, smaller cuts), slice into ~1.5" medallions
- 1/4 cup Basil EVOO (WeOlive)
- 1/4 cup Blackberry Balsamic (WeOlive)
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1.5 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 T honey
- 2 dashes cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp coarse black pepper
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or finely chopped
- several fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 T butter (for searing the pork loin slices on stove)
For the Roasted Vegetables:
- 8 oz bag of mini zucchinis (sliced, about 1.5 cups worth)
- 1 cup sliced yellow squash
- 12 oz of fresh butternut squash cubed
- 1/8 cup blackberry balsamic (WeOlive)
- 1/8 cup regular balsamic
- 1T EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/8 cup white wine
For the Cranberry Cabernet Compote:
- 12oz bag of fresh cranberries
- 1/2 cup red wine (Cabernet)
- 3 T red wine (Cabernet) added at end of cooking compote)
- 2-3 T sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- pinch of salt
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
For the Harvest Grain Mix:
- 1.25 cups harvest grain mix (mix dried Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo, red quinoa)
- 1.75 cups chicken broth
- 1T butter
- Salt & Pepper
What to do...
Make Pork Tenderloin Marinade:
- In large bowl combine all pork loin marinade ingredients above (minus butter), into a large mixing bowl, whisk well.
- Slice pork loin into medallions about 1-2 inches thick.
- Add pork slices to marinade, coating well & cover with plastic wrap.
- Let pork marinate for about 45 minutes (can return to fridge, but remove 20 min before cooking).
Make Cranberry Compote:
- While pork loin marinates, rinse package of fresh cranberries in a colander.
- In medium pot on stove add 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup cabernet, cranberries, sugar, salt and sprigs of fresh thyme, and simmer on very low till cranberries start to crack, thicken, stirring often & avoiding bringing to a boil (~10 min).
- When most of cranberries have split, but texture is still chunky, taste sauce for sweetness and add more sugar as needed (this should not be too sweet).
- Add additional 3 T red wine into cranberries, discard fresh thyme sprigs & remove from heat, set aside.
Prep & Roast Veggies:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In small pot of boiling water, blanch the cubed, fresh butternut squash till only slightly tender when tested with a fork (few minutes), rinse with cool water, drain and set aside.
- In a medium bowl combine all ingredients for vegetable marinade above, add sliced zucchini, yellow squash and the cubed & blanched butternut squash, tossing well to coat.
- In small roasting dish or pan with raised edge, sprayed with oil, lay out veggie mix including all remaining sauce.
- Roast veggies till tender (10-20 min).
- Once tender with a fork, remove from oven and cover with foil, set aside.
Cook Pork Loin & Grains:
- Reduce oven temp to 300 degrees.
- In medium pot on stove cook grains according to package directions: heat broth and butter bringing to boil, add harvest grains & simmer on medium low till mix returns to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover pot with lid & cook additional 10 min till tender.
- When done, remove from heat, cover to keep warm.
- Preheat large, oven-safe skillet on stove & melt 1T of butter.
- Add pork medallions spaced evenly, with all remaining marinade juices.
- Sear on medium-high on first side for a minute.
- Flip all pork medallions, searing on second side for another minute.
- Transfer entire pan into 300 degree oven and bake till center slices are only barely pink, but avoiding over cooking, these cook fairly quickly (depending on thickness 10-15 minutes, test one with knife to check center for doneness).
- Remove from oven & let medallions sit a couple of minutes to retain juices, remove any remaining fresh thyme sprigs.
- Return pan of roasted veggies to 300 degree oven if they need to warm up, also return pot of grains to stove on low as needed.
Serve & Enjoy:
- Plate warm harvest grains mix, with roasted veggies on top, followed by pork loin medallions, adding some of the remaining pork sauce from pan on top.
- Top pork with cranberry-cabernet compote and a fresh thyme sprig!
This is healthy and delicious and our flavors are focused in the blackberry and fresh basil marinate for the pork and balsamic marinade for the veggies. We make a separate marinade for the veggies, even though it is similar, since we don't want to cross contaminate with any raw pork juices.
The slightly sweet and tangy cranberry compote with Cabernet, os the perfect companion to baked pork loin!
from the kitchen of www.dinnervine.com
I had enough for leftovers and they reheated well on the stove. One bag of fresh cranberries makes a good amount of sauce, which stores well in an airtight container in the fridge for over a week. I also love to use the remaining cranberries to make: grilled turkey breast, havarti & cranberry paninis….uh oh, that sounds good even now!
This meal is now a favorite; I loved every component. Hearty, healthy colorful & packed full of vibrant, Autumn bounty. Fall meals are back and they’re good!