Cook once, dine twice

Planning ahead makes entertaining easy

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While the winter in Taos has been a lot like spring this year, now spring is actually here.

I love the smell of the budding trees and the sight of the first green shoots popping from the loamy soil. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to spend more time outdoors walking, hiking and biking. And honestly, I also enjoy being a little lazy and sitting in a chair basking in the sun.

As I spend more time outdoors, however, I have less time to cook. But I still love having friends over for dinner.

My husband and I find nothing more relaxing than an evening of good food and good company. And, despite being short on time, a little planning ahead can make entertaining easy. One of my secrets, when I am busy, is to cook something once that I can serve for two completely different meals.

Lots of options are available when you want to cook once but dine twice. One of my favorites is pork tenderloin.

Not only is it versatile and delicious, but it cooks quickly. Most of the time, the shrink-wrapped package from the meat counter already contains two tenderloins. That’s perfect for these two meals. (If you have more than four people, double the recipe and cook four tenderloins.)

The first night, you’ll enjoy the tenderloin as a sliced roast, traditional and elegant. You can roast baby potatoes at the same time as the meat, and while the tenderloin is resting on the board, simply add asparagus to the potatoes and roast the spears as well. A simple but always satisfying dinner.

Then, a night or two later, you can easily transform the extra, already cooked, pork tenderloin into a casual night of street tacos. Simply warm up the remaining whole tenderloin in a 325-degree oven in a foil covered pan. (Or if you’ve already sliced up the pork, warm it up in a skillet, and douse it with a bit of store-bought tomatillo salsa to moisten.)

Serve the juicy pork on tiny flour tortillas, the hallmark of street tacos, and let your guests do the rest. Give them a choice of toppings, such as chopped tomatoes, diced avocados, scallions, sour cream, shredded cheese, and cilantro.

For something really special and authentic, slice up some radishes and chop some fresh pineapple: street taco staples. These tacos are sure to please every palate.

A homemade black bean and corn salsa serves as a hearty salad on the side. And if you have vegetarians among your guests, they can put the black bean and corn salsa inside the tortilla instead of the pork.

Try these recipes next time you have friends over. You and your guests will eat well, you will spend minimal time cooking, and you won’t have to give up your daily outdoor fun to do it.

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PORK TENDERLOIN with SPICE PASTE

This recipe can easily be doubled if you’re feeding more than 4 people.

2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds)

1-1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon crushed fresh garlic

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the tenderloins on a rack in a roasting pan and set aside.

Make a paste of the remaining ingredients. Evenly spread the paste over the tenderloins, covering them completely.

Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees when inserted into the thickest section. Remove tenderloins to a cutting board and let rest for a few minutes.

Slice one tenderloin and serve with roasted baby potatoes and asparagus.

Reserve second pork tenderloin for the street tacos.

ROASTED BABY POTATOES with ASPARAGUS

The baby potatoes can roast at the same time and in the same oven as the tenderloins. When you take out the tenderloins, add the asparagus to the pan with the potatoes, and continue cooking for another 15 minutes.

1-1/2 pounds baby potatoes (can be fingerlings, red, purple, gold or a mixture)

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse salt

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of woody ends and washed

Shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and garlic. Arrange in one layer in a small baking pan. Roast for 45 minutes.

Add asparagus to the pan and toss to combine with oil in pan. Roast for another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle asparagus with parmesan cheese.

Serve.

PORK STREET TACOS

1 cooked pork tenderloin

A dozen or more flour street taco tortillas

Chopped tomatoes

Baby lettuce or arugula

Diced scallions

Sliced avocado

Chopped cilantro

Diced fresh jalapeño

Sour cream

Pico de Gallo

Shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Diced pineapple (optional)

Radishes (optional)

(1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons store-bought tomatillo salsa, if pork is already sliced up)

Gently reheat the remaining tenderloin in a preheated 325 degree oven. Place in a pan and cover with foil, and heat up for about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven, and slice.

If you’ve already sliced the pork:

Heat a skillet over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and heat until sizzling. Add the pork slices and sauté for a few minutes until glistening. Add the salsa, stir to combine with the pork. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Allow each guest to make their own tacos. Each taco should have one or two pieces of pork, plus the desired condiments.

Methods for warming the tortillas:

Hold over an open flame with a tongs until warm and puffy.

Stack the tortillas and cover with foil. Place in 325 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.

Wrap 3 tortillas sprinkled with a few drops of water in a paper towel. Microwave on high for 20-30 seconds. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

BLACK BEAN & CORN SALSA/SALAD

This salsa makes a great salad. Just open a few cans, chop some fresh ingredients, and you’ve quickly put together a tasty side dish.

1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15-oz. can sweet corn, drained and rinsed

1 4-oz. can diced mild green chiles, drained

1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced

1/2 diced red bell pepper

2 or 3 diced tomatoes

2 scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

Juice from 1 lime

1/4 teaspoon cumin

salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a medium bowl. Allow to sit 15 minutes at room temperature.

Make about 6 cups. Can also be used as a salsa.

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