Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Dinner Series

Ahh, the adjustment to married life continues.  Not that it's a big adjustment, mind you, but it does give me an excuse to cook up some dinners that take a little extra time, thought, and love.  This was a rare occurrence when I was living alone, but now that Hubs is here, it seems appropriate to lay the groundwork for a well-loved tradition: Sunday dinner.

Sundays were very important days in my house growing up.  Of course, the day would start bright and early with a Roman Catholic service.  Once we were old enough to not throw hissy fits in the store, this would be immediately followed by grocery shopping, since the large grocery store was across the street from our church.  I have some great memories of food shopping with the family, which eventually turned into waving hello from behind the deli counter as I rushed to work at the store immediately following mass.

Just had to include a shout-out to St. Paul's, even though my old elementary school next door is now a pharmacy...
It was a rare Sunday where we didn't make a special dinner (or "lupper", as my dad usually calls it, since we typically ate around 2-3 pm).  Nonna would often be invited over to dine with us as well.  Things like pot roasts with root vegetables, homemade egg-based pasta or gnocchi with meatballs and long-simmered sauce, beef stew, oven-roasted chicken pieces in some sort of delicious sauce, or barbecued ribs or pork loin in the summer would be the typical fare.  It wasn't just the food that was important, though... it was the sense of togetherness and family.

So, now that I've officially started our own little family, I'm finding that I'm gravitating towards a similar tradition in our one-bedroom apartment.  Our dear friend/neighbor Deb often fills the role of Nonna, coming over to share with us and visit.  The past few weeks, I've really enjoyed my Sunday creations... enter the Sunday Dinner Series on A Weekend, In Food!

Part I: Can't Beet This!

Blame my father for my terrible puns.  I'm just a product of my environment.
Manitoba.  Beets.  They're kind of a "thing" here.  I've seen them on all sorts of upscale restaurant menus: in hummus, on burgers, etc.  I honestly didn't really grow up eating them.  I do remember trying the pickled variety at one point, but they weren't a staple.  I saw some lovely local bunches at the market, and couldn't resist trying them.  I'd heard that they became very sweet when roasted, so I followed this recipe from to give it a shot. 

"Breadmaker bread", on the other hand, WAS a staple for Sunday dinners.  I can distinctly remember filling up the machine's "pail" with all the necessary ingredients and lugging it downstairs.  Magically, some hours later, bread emerged.  To a 12-year-old, this is pretty amazing.  My grandmother always marveled at how much we loved it, hot from the appliance, commenting, "you seem to like it so much that you don't even put butter on it!"  True enough.  The fresh flavour was all we needed.  I bought a breadmaker from a yard sale for a bank-breaking five dollars... and produced this lovely half-white, half-whole-wheat loaf to accompany our dinner.  I think the recipe produced a bit too much dough for my machine, though, as you can see by the "mushroom top" loaf that resulted.  I didn't have any bread flour, so I used 2 cups of all-purpose and 1 cup of whole wheat flour in this (again, recipe.  Good results overall, and very simple to pull off.

Now what to do for the main?  Pork tenderloin has become a pretty frequent Sunday dinner star.  Now, I love my father to the very depths of my heart.  Really.  But his PTs are frequently seasoned with his special "rub"... which I'm convinced consists of a generous dumping of every spice and herb in the rack.  Even those that might not...err... "play nicely" together on the palate.  I will admit, though, that it forms a good, functional crust on the meat when he grills it on the barbecue.  Being 'cue-less, and preferring time-honoured combinations like oregano, garlic, and olive oil on my pork, I followed this recipe to make both roasted potatoes and a Mediterranean-inspired oven roasted pork tenderloin, with delicious results.  Three-for-three for!  It's becoming a good friend for hearty, down-home flavour ideas.

Mmm, pork.  A little bit pink in the middle, just the way I like it... which is PERFECTLY SAFE by today's swine-rearing standards.
Wondering what I did with the roasted beets?  I tossed them with mixed greens and feta, then drizzled with an olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper vinaigrette.  Hello salad course!!
A delicious plate overall.
I'm really hoping that nice Sunday dinners become a tradition in our family, especially as it expands (NOT YET!) with children.  Even though our lives aren't super-hectic at the moment, it's still nice to set aside time to sit down and really enjoy a nice, well-prepared meal that takes a bit more effort than our standard weeknight stir-frys and pastas.  Stay tuned for further installations of the Sunday Dinner Series, and let me know how I'm doing!!

Part professional, part aspiring household/gastronomic goddess, I remain,

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