In the mood for new everyday recipes!

The only thing that the three recipes below have in common is that they have been in my “everyday recipes” rotation for at least 15 years!  Most of us have a rotation, don’t we?  A set of recipes or meal ideas that we rotate through weekly or monthly.
As we are in the midst of the busy holiday season, I find myself returning to some of my old standbys…meals that I don’t have to put any thought into, meals that I have made so many times I can whip them up in short order.  It’s comforting too.  My daughter took one look in the old Le Creuset pot full of Baked Chicken and Orzo and exclaimed, “Oh, I remember this!”.  She should remember it…I must have made it once a week for a good while there when she was younger.  (hint for parents: I used to chop the tomatoes into tiny pieces so as not to terrify the children)
Dishes leave my rotation, as they should, when I tire of making them (or I sense a “not that again” attitude from my eaters, who are, for the record, much too polite to actually say “not that again”)
But I eventually return to them because they are really good and they bring back memories… just as the simple Madeleine cake does for Marcel Proust in A La Recherche Du Temps Perdue.  Sorry.  French major.  Don’t get to use it very often.
Anyway, these recipes are among the “keepers” in my collection.  Enjoy!
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Spicy Vegetable Couscous

This is my idea of the perfect meatless meal (although not vegetarian, of course, with the chicken broth) It is a simplified version of the wonderful Moroccan dish that usually includes lamb, chicken and/or veal.  I found this years ago in a book published by Glamour Magazine with recipes from their Gourmet on the Run feature.  If you ever see it in a used book store be sure and pick it up as it is full of great, quick and easy recipes.
Vegetables:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 small or 1 medium turnip, diced
2 carrots, sliced diagonally
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2-3 small zucchini, sliced
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
Couscous:
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup couscous
fresh parsley or cilantro
sesame seeds
In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat oil.  Add onion and garlic and saute until tender but not brown.  Add turnip, carrots, tomatoes, salt, cumin, crushed red pepper and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender yet firm when tested with a fork.  Add zucchini and garbanzo beans; cook until zucchini is just tender.
Meanwhile, prepare the couscous.  Heat chicken broth and butter in a large saucepan with a lid.  When it starts to boil, add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes to steam.  When couscous is tender and has absorbed all of the broth, use a fork to fluff it and serve with the vegetables and broth garnished with parsley or cilantro and sesame seeds.  Serves 4-5
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Ben Moy’s Spicy Pork Tenderloin

I found this recipe from Ben Moy in the Chicago Tribune years ago.  It was published alongside an “Earthy Herb” chicken stir fry and these two dishes have been favorites ever since.  I’ll be sure and make the chicken version soon and share that as well.  I added “optional” to the Szechwan peppercorns because I made it without for years being unable to find them.  They are available at Williams Sonoma now and they add a unique flavor but the recipe is also good without them.
2 small pork tenderloins, trimmed and sliced on the bias against the grain into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 small red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cup into thin strips
1 small red onion, peeped and sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 teaspoon Szechwan red peppercorns, crushed (optional)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled, crushed and chopped
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
4 green onions, cleaned and sliced for garnish
In a bowl, combine the red pepper strips and red onion and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine pork, garlic, jalapeno, red peppercorns, sesame oil, soy, sherry, cornstarch and chopped ginger,  Let sit 10 to 15 minutes.
Heat a large skillet or wok, until very hot.  Add 1 tablespoon oil and stir fry the vegetables until the are just beginning to soften. Remove vegetables to a colander and keep them close at hand.
Rinse skillet, wipe out and return to heat.  Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with the salt.  Add pork and seasonings and spread single layer to let pork brown lightly on one side before you stir fry it a bit to cook through.  You should do this in two batches if your skillet is not large enough to cook the whole lot at once.  When pork is ready, return vegetables to the pan and toss until well mixed and heated through.  Correct seasonings as desired and garnish with the fresh green onion.  4-6 servings
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Baked Chicken and Orzo

This is one of only 3 casseroles that have a place in my recipe binder.  Now, I love casseroles, I grew up on them in small town Mississippi.  But they just never went over very well with my eaters.  And if I did make a “casserole”, I was always careful to rename it.  For example, a chicken noodle casserole might become Roasted Chicken with Linguini.  This Baked Chicken with Orzo was a hit, I believe, because of the extra large pieces of chicken breast that become melt-in-your-mouth tender while baking in the silky buttered tomato sauce.  Recipe from Casseroles, Classic to Contempory, by Nina Graybill and Maxine Rapoport.
6 chicken breast halves, skinned and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons olive oil
28-ounce can plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juice
6 basil leaves, torn into small pieces, or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
4 tablespoons butter (original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter…go for it if you dare)
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces orzo
2 cups chicken broth, heated to boiling
Brown the chicken pieces in the oil  While chicken is browning, simmer the tomatoes, butter, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper in an uncovered saucepan for about 20 minutes until somewhat thickened.
Place chicken in a 3-quart ovenproof casserole with a lid.  When tomato sauce has cooked down a bit, pour over chicken and place covered casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Add orzo and boiling broth to the casserole and mix gently.  Cover and return to oven for 30 more minutes.  The recipe notes that you can add more hot broth if the dish seems dry before the orzo is tender but I have never had to do that. Serves 6
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In the mood for Quick Pasta!

I’d like to dedicate this post to my friend Stewart, as we have spent many long walks dreaming of taking a week or two and attending a cooking school in Italy.  I am hoping that 2011 just might be the year that we make it happen.
These three pasta dishes are relatively quick to throw together, especially if you have the components prepped in advance.  And they all taste best if you serve them right away.  Two tips for all pasta dishes: Always reserve a cup or so of the cooking water before you drain the pasta.  It is the perfect liquid for loosening the sauce and rewarming pasta.  And, when a pasta dish calls for zest, as two of the recipes below do, try to use one of the Micoplane brand zesters.  They create a fine, snowy zest that just melts into the pasta.
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Linguine alla Carbonara di Salsiccia

(Sausage Carbonara)
     I was nervous to try Carbonara because it involves tossing eggs with hot pasta to create a luxurious, creamy sauce (or, I feared, a mess of hot pasta and scrambled eggs!) But it came together like a dream and while this is certainly a rich, special occasion dish, I am thrilled to add it to my collection.
     There are a couple of differences between my photos of this dish and the Jamie Oliver recipe that I am going to post below.  First of all, I was out of linguine so I had to use spaghetti and secondly, I didn’t have any pancetta so I made it without.  Next time I plan to use the pancetta and leave out the sausage because this decadent, creamy, lemony pasta really doesn’t need much more in my opinion (and the dish would come together even quicker).  But the little meatballs are fun for sausage lovers.
4 good quality sweet Italian sausages
olive oil
4 slices of thick cut pancetta, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound dried linguine
4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
a sprig of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
With a sharp knife, slit the sausage skins lengthwise an pop all the meat out.  Using wet hands, roll little balls of sausage meat about the size of large marbles and place them to one side.
Heat a large frying pan and add a good splash of olive oil.  Gently fry the sausage meatballs until golden brown all over, then add the pancetta and continue cooking fro a couple of minutes until it’s golden.  While this is cooking, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the linguine, and cook according to the package instructions.
In a large bowl, whip up the egg yolks, cream, half the Parmesan, the lemon zest, and the parsley.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water, and immediately toss it quickly with the egg mixture back in the pasta pot.  Add the hot sausage meatballs and toss everything together,  The egg will cook delicately from the heat of the linguine, just enough for it to thicken and not scramble.  The sauce should be smooth and silky.  If the pasta becomes a little sticky, add a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water to loosen it slightly,  Sprinkle over the rest of the Parmesan, season if necessary, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and serve.  Eat immediately!
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Penne with Ricotta and Spinach

 
This quick, one pot pasta dish is from Cook What You Love, by Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  I love it for a vegetarian entree but it would also make a great side dish for chicken or salmon.
1 pound penne pasta
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 ounces baby spinach leaves
1 cup ricotta cheese (I use whole milk ricotta)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the penne and cook until tender but still firm.  Drain and return to the pot.  (don’t forget to save a cup of the cooking water, just in case)
With the heat on very low, add the olive oil, salt, pepper, spinach, ricotta, basil, parsley, and 1 cup of the Parmesan to the penne and mix well.  Heat gently, stirring occasionally.  As soon as the spinach is wilted, about 2 minutes, remove the pot from the heat.  Serve immediately, topped with the remaining Parmesan.
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Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola

(Spaghetti with Shrimp and Arugula)
This recipe is from Jamie’s Italy, by Jamie Oliver.  I’ve made it many, many times and it is one of our favorites.  The only advice I have is to only use a wine that you would be happy to drink.  It does makes a difference.  (I found that out the hard way)
1 pound dried spaghetti
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
1 pound large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined (I like to butterfly them)
1 small wineglass of white wine
2 heaping tablespoons sun-dried tomato paste (I like the one sold in a tube, for convenience)
1/2 tablespoon butter (my addition)
zest and juice of one lemon
2 handfuls of fresh arugula, roughly chopped
Cook your spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water according to the package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat 3 good glugs of extra virgin olive oil in a large frying pan and toss in the garlic and chili flakes.  As the garlic begins to color, add the shrimp and saute them for a minute.  Add the white wine and the tomato puree and the butter and simmer for a couple of minutes.   When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, reserving a little of the cooking water,  Toss the spaghetti with the sauce, squeeze in the lemon juice, and add half the chopped arugula, using a little of the reserved cooking water if you want to loosen the sauce a bit, and correct the seasoning.  Divide between four plates and sprinkle with the grated lemon zest and the rest of the arugula leaves.
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In the mood for Pork Tenderloin!

Don’t pack up your grill just because Labor Day Weekend has passed!  I think that the next few months are the best for cooking and eating out of doors.  The crisp evening air of September and October make grilling a pleasure, instead of a hot, sticky chore. The first two pork tenderloin recipes are right at the top of my list when I want to grill.  But if you are already in the mood for some warm Fall flavors, scroll down and check out the pork tenderloin salad with roasted butternut squash.

Speaking of pork, this past weekend I had a wonderful lunch with some of my dearest friends at The Purple Pig, in Chicago, IL.  “Cheese, Swine & Wine”!  Of course, the swine was divine.  But we also loved the Roasted Corn with Mushrooms and Walnuts, the Salt Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese and Pistachio Vinaigrette, and the Whipped Feta “Smear” with Cucumbers.  Their website posts recipes so I will most definitely be trying some of them out here at home.

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Grilled Garlic Lime Pork Tenderloin with Jalapeno Onion Marmalade

I have served this dish at so many dinner parties that I had to retire it from my entertaining repertoire.  But   I will still have to make it for the family as it is such a favorite.  The recipe is straight out of Gourmet Magazine, September 1995.  By the way, don’t you miss Gourmet Magazine??
Serves 6-8
For the marinade:
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup olive oil
cayenne to taste
4 pork tenderloins, about 3/4 pound each, trimmed
For the marmalade:
1 1/4 pounds red onions, chopped fine (about 4 cups)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons honey or sugar
3-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
To make the marinade:
In a blender or small food processor, blend marinade ingredients with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large sealable plastic bag, combine pork with marinade.
Seal bag, pressing out air, and put in a shallow baking dish
Marinate pork, chilled, turning occasionally, at least 1 day and up to 2 days.
Prepare grill.
Let pork stand at room temperature about 30 minutes before grilling.
Remove pork from marinade, letting excess drip off, and grill on an oiled rack turning every 5 minutes until a meat thermometer registers 150-160.  (15-20 minutes)
Transfer to a cutting board and let rest 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serve with onion marmalade.
To make the Jalapeno Onion Marmalade:
In a large heavy skillet, cook onions in oil with salt and pepper to taste over moderate heat, stirring until softened.
Add jalapenos and cook, stirring one minute,  Add honey or sugar and cook, stirring one minute,  Add vinegar and simmer , stirring until almost all liquid is evaporated.  Add water and simmer, stirring until mixture is slightly thickened and onions are very tender, (the recipe says about 10 minutes but I find that it takes quite a bit longer to get them very tender, about 25 minutes, and I tend to need to add a bit more water as the marmalade cooks down.)  Season with salt and pepper.  Marmalade may be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered,  Reheat before serving.
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Pork Tenderloin Crusted with Green Onion, Jalapeno, and Ginger

This is a Bobby Flay recipe from his book, Grilling for Life.

6 green onions, light and dark parts, halved crosswise
2 jalapeno chilies, stemmed and halved
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed

Combine the green onions, jalapenos, and ginger in a food processor and process until coarsely ground.  Scrape the mixture into a bowl and sir in all of the remaining ingredients except the pork.

Place the pork tenderloins in a baking dish, add half of the marinade, and turn to coat the pork.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes ad up to 4 hours.  Cover and reserve the remaining marinade at room temperature.

Heat the grill to high.

Remove the pork from the marinade,  Grill until crusty and charred on both side and cooked to medium well.  Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Cut the pork into slices and drizzle with the reserved marinade before serving.

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Mixed Greens with Pork Tenderloin, Roasted Butternut Squash and Port Reduction

This spicy main course salad is from Mixt Salads, by Andrew Swallow.  It has several steps but it is a whole meal on one plate so it’s not too time consuming when you think of it that way. I’ve made a couple of very minor changes to the original.  Chef Swallow calls this salad, “Porky”.   Serves 4-6
Spice Rub:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon mustard seed
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon red chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cayenne
1 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups Port wine
Dressing:
3/4 cup champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
8 strips thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste
3 pounds pork tenderloin
3/4 pound mixed greens, (I used red leaf lettuce)
4 ounces shelled pistachios, chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Combine all spice rub ingredients in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
For the dressing:  Combine the vinegar, shallot, mustard and sugar in a blender and blend until smooth.  Slowly add both oils and blend until emulsified,  Season with salt and pepper.
Saute the bacon pieces over medium heat until crispy.  Drain and set aside.
In a bowl, toss the butternut squash pieces with the tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes , or until tender.  Keep warm for serving.
Increase the oven temp. to 400 degrees.  Spread the spice rub on a plate, dredge the pork in the spice rub, coating all sides and place on a baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature registers 150 degrees.  Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.  When the pork has cooled, slice into 1/4 inch thick slices.
For each serving, toss 3 ounces greens, 2 ounces warm squash, 1 1/2 ounces bacon with 1 1/2 tablespoon of the dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place in the middle of the plate.  Top the salad with 4 ounces of pork tenderloin.  Drizzle 1 tablespoon of the port reduction over the top and sprinkle with 1 ounce chopped pistachios.
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In the mood for Lettuce Wraps!

Like many people, our first exposure to lettuce wraps came from PF Changs and soon we were making our own version of their appetizer as seen below.  That was years ago and we still love to make a whole meal of these chicken lettuce wraps.  But why stop there?  There are endless possibilities when it comes to the lettuce wrap concept.  Here are three of our favorites.  While iceberg lettuce is the traditional vessel for the filling, bibb lettuce and even romaine can be a nice change of pace.

 

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Chicken Lettuce Wraps

I like the texture of hand minced chicken much better than that of ground chicken.  It’s very quick and easy to do if you have a good sharp knife.  It is important not to overcook chicken breast meat or it will be dry and tough.  My method of letting the minced chicken sit undisturbed in a single layer until almost cooked through will keep it moist and tender.  This is necessary because our home cook tops just don’t get hot enough stir fry effectively.
4 large boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
salt
1 can bamboo shoots, diced
1 can water chestnuts, diced
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
3/4 cup celery, diced
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
salt and pepper to taste
lettuce leaves for wrapping
Sauce:
1/4 cup Hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Trim chicken of all visible fat and, using a large knife, slice lengthwise and then crosswise to get 1/4 inch minced pieces.  Season with 1 tablespoon soy sauce, a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and set aside.  Heat 2 tablespoons oil in wok or large skillet until very hot.  Sprinkle the oil with a pinch of salt and add 1/2 of the minced chicken and quickly spread it out to cook evenly.  Let cook undisturbed for about 2-3 minutes or until the the chicken is golden brown on the bottom.  Then toss the minced chicken around a for a few seconds (at which point the chicken will be almost cooked through)  then remove to a platter while you repeat with the remaining chicken.  After the last of the chicken has been cooked and set aside, stir fry the bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, scallions and celery for 2 minutes, adding a bit more oil only if necessary.  Return chicken to the pan. Add the oyster sauce, soy sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cornstarch mixture and cook, tossing constantly, until chicken is cooked through and all ingredients are nicely glazed.  Remove from heat and drizzle with sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Taste and season with salt and black pepper if necessary.   Mix sauce ingredients together in small serving bowl.  Arrange serving platter with lettuce leaves, minced chicken and sauce.
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Ginger Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

 

1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and chopped coarsely
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
6 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only, saving some of the dark green tops for the sauce below)
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds
black pepper and salt to taste
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped green scallions
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Fresh lettuce leaves for wrapping
Stir together first five ingredients.  Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat.  Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon salt over the oil then spread shrimp mixture evenly in the pan and let sit undisturbed for about 45 seconds.   Then, using two spoons or spatulas, toss and stir fry the mixture until the shrimp is just cooked through, another minute or two.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and season with pepper and extra salt if necessary.   Stir together soy sauce, water, ginger, brown sugar, sesame oil, scallions and lemon juice for sauce and serve with lettuce leaves for wrapping.
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Char Sui Pork Lettuce Rolls

 

 Char Sui is the name for the roast pork dish found in most Chinese restaurants.  This recipe is adapted from Barbecue Bible, by Ainsley Harriet.  This will serve 4 as a main course or 6-8 as an appetizer.
2 pork tenderloins
2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 large garlic clove crushed
2 tablespoons Hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 teaspoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons honey
to serve:
1/2 cucumber
6 scallions
1 large iceberg or bibb lettuce, broken into leaves
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Chinese plum sauce
Trim any fat and membranes of the outside of the pork tenderloin.
Finely grate the ginger and squeeze out the juice into a shallow non-metallic dish.  Stir in the rest of the marinade ingredients.
Add the pork tenderloins and turn the over in the mixture until they are really well coated.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon.  Cut into thin strips about 3 inches long.  Halve the scallions and cut lengthwise into very thin shreds.  Arrange on a serving plate in separate piles along with the lettuce leaves and a small bowl of the plum sauce mixed with the Dijon mustard.
Barbecue the pork over medium hot heat for about15- 20 minutes turning now and then and basting with the leftover marinade.
Transfer the pork to a board, carve it into very thin slices, and lay it on the serving plate.  Instruct everyone to take a lettuce leaf and place a row of cucumber strips, shredded scallion and sliced pork down the center.  Then spoon a little of the plum sauce mixture over them and roll up the lettuce leaf into a parcel to eat!
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