A well rounded meal that is low in fat, high in iron and packed full of antioxidants, which tastes good, too. Are you for real?
Yes, and it's quick and easy to boot.
Pete McGahey, former executive chef at Beverly Hospital, and David Gauvin, Executive Chef at Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester and the longtime chef and a board member of the Epicurean Club of Boston, are concerned with creating healthy, balanced meals that are simple and delicious. Here they take a lean cut of pork and serve it with sauteed spinach and Swiss chard — both very high in iron and antioxidants, such as beta-carotene and vitamin C — and a blueberry and balsamic sauce, also high in vitamin C.
So what are antioxidants? The National Cancer Institute explains that "antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals. Free radical damage may lead to cancer. Antioxidants interact with and stabilize free radicals and may prevent some of the damage free radicals might otherwise cause."
It is important to note the use of the word "may" — we do not know for sure whether antioxidants can prevent the development of cancer and the National Cancer Institute is careful to point this out. Nonetheless, the message is still that they are beneficial to us and, since they are mostly found in fruit and vegetables, a healthy diet ought to include them.
McGahey first trims any extra fat off the tenderloin and then slices the middle section at a 45-degree angle about an inch and a half thick. "What advantage does that give you, cutting it at a 45-degree angle?" asks Gauvin. McGahey replies that "If you cut it flat you're not going to get the width you need to get a really good sear on it" and it helps to give a nice, clean cut.
McGahey sears the pork in a frying pan over a medium heat. He has a great tip for people worrying about their fat intake — rather than putting olive oil in the pan he puts a light coat on the pork instead. He sears the meat for two to three minutes on each side, but advises that if you prefer your pork a little less done, two to three minutes in total would be enough.
Meanwhile, Gauvin prepares the Swiss chard, "a nice, leafy green in the spinach family." He removes the stem, chops up the leaves and puts them with some spinach. "We're going to sauté© very quickly that right at the end, just as the pork is ready and the sauce is ready" he explains. "You won't want to cook them very much at all, because the more you cook them, the more of the nutrients are going to break down."
When the pork is ready, McGahey removes it from the pan and lets it rest for a few minutes while he prepares the sauce. To do so, he adds the blueberries to the pan the pork was cooked in and deglazes it with balsamic vinegar, "so all the juices that came out of the pork get mixed in with the balsamic and the blueberries" explains Gauvin.
The chefs plate up and have a taste. Both are pleased with how well the pork works with the blueberry and balsamic sauce — "you get the sharpness of the balsamic vinegar in there and a little bit of sweetness to carry it right through the pork" says McGahey.
"A great dish overall" concludes Gauvin, healthy, balanced and "very easy to make."
Pork Medallions with Blueberry Sauces and Greens
1 pork tenderloin
4 stalks of Swiss chard
2 cups spinach
1/2 cup blueberries
11/2 ounces balsamic vinegar
1 ounce extra virgin olive oil
1. Clean white skin and fat off of the pork tenderloin. Slice off 11/2-inch thick pieces of the pork tenderloin at a 45-degree angle.
2. Lightly coat the pork medallions and place in a saute pan, medium to high heat, for about 3 minutes on each side. Remove from pan, and let sit on a plate.
3. Remove stem from Swiss chard by holding the head between your fingers and strip off the leaves. Cut up spinach into hand-size pieces.
4. Add blueberries to the pan juices in the pork saute pan and deglaze with the balsamic vinegar. Simmer on low heat until reduced by half.
5. In a hot saute pan, add oil and then Swiss chard and spinach. Saute until well wilted, about 1 minute.
When spinach and Swiss chard are ready, plate; add pork medallions, cover with blueberry reduction and serve with rice pilaf.
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Recipe courtesy of Chefs Pete McGahey and David Gauvin, Unidine, Beverly Hospital and Addison Gilbert Hospital, 2012.