Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Renaissance Cook Challenge: A Three-Course Meal Inspired by Three Dynamite Ladies

Last night I completed my own entry for the Renaissance Cook Challenge. I had originally planned to base each course of the meal on a cherished piece from my own wardrobe, but then thought hey, why not spread a little love and plug some dynamite style bloggers instead?

The appetizer course was based on this post by Jessica Schroeder of What I Wore. Jessica's style appeals to me because, well... she IS me. She's in her mid-twenties (check), loves vintage clothing (check), believes that personal style should not be wholly governed by trends (check- check), and believes that one need not be uber-wealthy to be uber-classy (check-check-double-check). She suggested I invent "something spicy" based on the outfit pictured. I was happy to oblige, as it's one of my favorite combos of hers.

Roasted Tomato Salsa
Inspired by Jessica Schroeder


1 large tomato, cut in half
2 thick slices of onion
Salt, black pepper, and dried cayenne pepper to taste
1 head garlic
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 c. cilantro leaves
Splash sherry vinegar


Heat the oven to 425.

Season the tomato halves and onion slices with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Peel the outer layer of skin from the garlic, leaving the cloves attached to the head. Arrange the tomato, onion, and garlic in a roasting pan and drizzle the olive oil over. Roast 30 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool. Transfer the tomato and onion to a food processor or paddle blender. Add the pulp from the garlic cloves, discarding the skin. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and vinegar.

Pulse on medium speed about 3-5 times, or until the salsa has reached its desired chunkiness. Scrape the salsa into a container with a lid, seal tightly, and chill. I made mine a day in advance so that the flavors would have plenty of time to get to know one another, but a couple hours' chilling time would suffice. Serves 6-8 as an appetizer.

My entree took its color cues from this "costume of the day" posted by Kelly Framel, aka The Glamourai. When she's not working her day job as a stylist, Kelly breathes new life into vintage jewelry, which you can find for sale at Shrimpton Couture and The Glamporium. She did not have any special requests as far as what dish I made in honor of her, so I picked an outfit I loved and carried on with the Southwest-ish culinary theme.

Pork Loin Spirals With Corn and Black Beans
Inspired by Kelly Framel


1 c. black beans, cooked
1 c. corn, fresh shucked or thawed frozen
1/4 c. olive oil, plus extra to baste
2 Tbsp. sherry vinegar, plus extra to de-glaze
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt, plus extra to season the meat
1/4 tsp. pepper, plus extra to season the meat
6 large garlic cloves, minced
Zest of 2 lemons, grated or minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 inches fresh ginger, grated
2 pork tenderloin fillets, weighing about 1 1/4 lbs each
1/2 c. Manchego cheese, diced small


Mix all ingredients except the pork loin and Manchego in a container with a lid. Store in the fridge to marinate for 8-48 hours, stirring periodically.

Around the same time you assemble the filling, cut into each pork loin lengthwise. Stop at least 1/4" short of cutting it in half. Make another incision from the center moving outward. Again, do not cut all the way through. Unfold. Each loin should now be about 4 times its original width.

Spread the meat on a hearty surface that can take a good pounding. Cover it in plastic wrap and bang it with a mallet until it's good and flat. Season with salt and pepper. Store in the fridge until ready to cook.

Heat the oven to 400.

Saute the marinated filling over medium heat until the garlic grows soft and flavors the other components. Deglaze with additional sherry vinegar if necessary. This will take about 5-7 minutes, but if you were a chickenless cook, you would taste as you go ;)

Spread the pork flat in an oiled baking pan. Allow the filling to cool a few minutes, then divide it evenly between the two fillets and spread it over, leaving a border of 3/4" to 1". Sprinkle on the cheese. Roll the loins up lengthwise and secure with 6 or more pieces of kitchen twine each. Baste each loin with a bit of olive oil. Roast about 1 hour. Remove the twine and cut into rounds from top to bottom. Serves 6-8.

Dessert was inspired by this frock posted by Fleur de Guerre of Diary of a Vintage Girl. She, like Kelly, gave me free reign to choose from her oodles of fabulous photos. I imagine this one wouldn't have been her first pick; she's a self-described "part-time pinup girl and full-time Forties enthusiast," and this look is more 50s. But I'm sure she'll approve of the azure after-dinner cocktails I served in her honor.

Blue Hawaiian Pina Coladas
Inspired by Fleur de Guerre

Ingredients (Alcoholic Version)

4 oz. rum
2 oz. blue curacao
6 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
1 c. fresh pineapple chunks
1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar or simple syrup
10 ice cubes

Ingredients (Kid-Friendly Version)

6 oz. whole milk
6 oz. unsweetened coconut milk
1 c. fresh pineapple chunks
2 Tbsp. sugar or simple syrup
A few drops blue food coloring
10 ice cubes


Place all ingredients in a blender and run on high until smooth. Serves 4 (or 2 double-tall as pictured).

Thanks to everyone who participated in this challenge! If you haven't participated yet and you live on my side of the globe, it's not too late. Your time isn't up until the day is over...

Beat the eggs. Whip the cream. Show no mercy.


Cooking Rookie said...

Very nice - both the pictures and the recipes :-)

BikeEatSleepRepeat said...

The attire,
the photos,
the food.

bunkycooks said...

Can I come for drinks and salsa??? ;)

Anonymous said...

How original and so perfectly made

penny aka jeroxie said...

Brilliant idea! You are so clever.

Shelly said...

I love the inspiration from fashion. Original and refreshing!

MP said...

What fun! I can't wait to see the others!

Trix said...

This is so cool! I love what you came up with from the clothes. Fleur de Guerre is totally my vibe; I have a closet full of vintage repro summer frocks. Yet another reason I hate winter!

foodieforager said...

This is a great post!

Jenn said...

awesome post! now i know who to turn to for ideas when i'm running low on kitchen creativity!
can't get over how well the inspirations and the plating presentations went together - congrats!

SashaInTheKitchen said...

totally totally awesome - both the ohotos of the women and the recipes. such a cool idea to ahve the food be inspired by the womem.