new territory.

My palate is ever-expanding to embrace new flavors, textures, and cultures of food.  I feel thankful for that!  I love trying foods I’ve never tasted before and basking in the delight of adding something new to my list of culinary loves.  Naturally, as I experiment with tasting new flavors, I am inspired in the kitchen.

I’ve been cooking for years now, and I am comfortable creating dishes that have Italian, Latin, Cajun, Cuban, Asian, or straight up American roots.  I understand the flavor combinations, and I strive to personalize recipes that honor the culture that inspired them.  But I realized that I really needed to spend some time studying and getting to know Indian food.  We don’t often eat at Indian restaurants- curry is not high up on Adam’s lists of favorites.  And I haven’t had many experiences related to Indian food that I can recall.  The rare times that we have a few extra bucks to spend at a new eatery in town, have not led us to Indian cafes.  I decided that enough was enough!  Time to open my arms and my heart and my mind to something new, intriguing, and bold.

Pouring over cook books and Indian-focused cooking shows opened my eyes.  I’ve seen many of these players before!

Cumin- I practically keep some in my pocket.  Coriander- the ground seed of Cilantro, which I almost always have on hand to flavor Mexican and Asian dishes.  Turmeric- aah, the culprit.  This is the one spice typically included in curries that Adam does not heart.  I am not opposed, but I will respectfully leave it out for my honey.  We gotta look out for one another!  Coconut milk- I fell in love with this ingredient in Thai Coconut Soup many moons ago.  Hot chili peppers and fresh ginger- of course.   Yogurt- we’ve become attached to the Fage 2% plain, Greek yogurt.  And citrus- my BFFs.  I know this food.  Although I am certainly not familiar with all Indian cooking ingredients, I felt excited and prepared to dive right in, even if just to begin scratching the surface of Indian Cuisine.

After a few successful off-camera experiments with this family of ingredients, I share with you…Indian Inspired Slow Cooked Pork Loin over Bulgar Wheat with Coconut Tomato Sauce.

My new favorite comfort food.  This bowl evoked the same feelings that I associate with a luscious serving of meatballs and spaghetti, or shrimp and grits.  Warmth, satisfaction, contentment.

I started by breaking the pork loin down into four big chunks that would fit easily in my pan and crock pot.

And then I made a spice mixture of coriander, cumin, salt, and pepper.  If I were you, I’d use a tablespoon of turmeric too!

Next, I pressed the spices onto the pork, and put it into a hot pan with a little EVOO.

The key here is allowing a nice crust to form all around your pork.  So, a minute or two on all sides seals in the flavor and provides a lovely texture contrast to the tender meat in the end.

Between my trips to the stove to turn the pork hunks, I prepared the flavorings for my pot.

Celery, garlic, young Georgia vidalia onions, fresh ginger, and a long hot pepper.  Knowing that these veggies will literally melt into the pork and sauce after eight hours of cooking, I cut them into small chunks.

And then I topped the veggies with fresh cilantro right on the stems.

This was the perfect base for cradling my pork and laying the foundation of flavor.

Next, I quickly put together a tasty sauce for the pot.

I turned the heat down to medium and grabbed my whisk.  I poured in half a cup of chicken broth and stirred up all the brown bits on the bottom of the pan.

Then, I added half a can of coconut milk, half the can of tomato paste, and the juice of a lemon, a lime, and an orange.

And I let it simmer for a couple minutes, just to let the flavors mingle and the sauce thicken a little.

Then, I poured the magic over the pork,

reminded myself that the inside of the pork was not edible yet, and closed the lid.   I set the crock pot to low.

This is a good time to leave your house if you’re making this meal.  Unless, you want to be teased and tormented by the smells coming from that crock pot for the next six to eight hours.  Oh.  My.

I let it go for 8 hours, because Adam was late getting in from work and we weren’t in a hurry.

This is what happened when I stuck a fork in it a few times.

It literally fell right apart.  And proceeded to soak up every last bit of sauce in the bottom of the pot.

Tender, juicy, well-seasoned, and boldly spiced.  Not spicy, but I could definitely feel the Indian influence.  My neighbor happened to walk in just at the right time, and he was singing the praises of the slow cooked pork.  Stamp of approval.  After I had taken my fourth “taste test” bite, I had to will my fork to stay down and encourage myself to get on with the rest of the dish!

I decided that I wanted to fill the base of my bowl with bulgar wheat rather than rice or potato.  Bulgar wheat is light, nutty, and good for you!  It is a form of natural whole wheat that has been parboiled and dried, leaving granules that remind me of grits, but a little bit bigger.  Bulgar wheat is low in fat, high in fiber and rich in B vitamins.  It soaks up sauces beautifully and can be found in the bulk section of the market.  Yay for the bulk section!  I wish I had a huge pantry and I could have jars filled with all of the interesting bulk aisle finds like amaranth, quinoa, oats, peas and beans of all kinds, flours, meals, I could go on and on.  They’d all have neat labels- properly facing forward.  Heehee.

So, I started the bulgar wheat with a little olive oil and garlic.

I have to figure out my camera’s focus options, STAT.

Then I added a cup of dry bulgar wheat

and let it toast for a minute with the garlic.

Then, I stirred in two cups of broth.

And I brought it up to a quick boil, turned it down and let it simmer until it absorbed all of the liquid.

Meanwhile, we created the sauce, the catalyst to transporting dinner to comfort food heaven.

Here you see many of the same ingredients that flavored the pork from the beginning.  I started with a pat of butter and sauteed the shallot, fresh ginger, garlic, and a hot chili pepper.  (I wanted a little more heat in the final dish.)

After they had softened,

it was time to add broth and lime juice to the mix.

Soon to follow was the remaining coconut milk and a heaping tablespoon of the tomato paste.

I let that simmer for a couple of minutes, and then I added a bit more cumin and coriander to seal the deal.

When the flavors had reached harmony and the sauce was just as thick as I wanted it to be, it was time to plate our feast.

Bulgar wheat first.  And then pork, sauce and fresh cilantro.

Oh yes.  I will never be the same.  The level of deliciousness that this dish presented, should almost be illegal.  Well, no- because I want to eat it again and again.  Each savory spoonful was laced with the essence of, what I am beginning to know as, the beautiful land of Indian flavors.  The balance of earthy, tangy, sweet, and hot was enough to make this girl smile with pride.  The textures supported one another, and each granule of bulgar wheat was a little sauce delivery guy.  Hoo-ray!

And, there’s more.  Beyond that one amazing bowl of goodness, was lunch for two.  And beyond that, we have tender, flavorful pork loin to star in future dishes.  Like the pork tacos I’ll be having for dinner this evening.

I’m so glad I got to share this delicious meal with you.  It really was too much for me to keep inside.  I hope that in your kitchen this week, you’ll venture out of your traditional cooking cultures and experiment with something new.  There’s something very rewarding in learning, practicing, and succeeding in a different genre than your norm.

Happy cooking and eating.


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