By SHANNON WATKINS
I ought to be ashamed to admit this, but I’ve been a legal adult for years and I still have a hard time making myself eat broccoli.
I mean to, I really do; I find it sort of OK if it’s freshly steamed and bright green and still hot, which is usually best accomplished by getting it plain from a Chinese takeout joint with the rest of my to-go order. I dress it up with sesame seeds and salt and a little olive oil and red pepper flakes. I eat it and actually think, “Hmm, this is kind of good.”
Then I finish it and tear into the General Tso’s chicken without a backward glance. I wait until I’ve finished the broccoli before I touch anything else, or that piquant, greasy taste lures me away from the green stuff no matter how much I needle myself about how healthy it is.
Improbably enough, I found a helping hand on the broccoli front in the guise of pork. There are very few dishes that can’t be made better by the addition of pork in some form, including dessert–Google “dark chocolate bacon cupcakes” if you don’t believe me–and broccoli is no exception.
The recipe for pork, slightly altered, comes from the blog Cheap Healthy Good (http://cheaphealthygood.blogspot.com/), which is chock full of appetizing recipes that are easy on the wallet and mostly lacking in the dreary sense of “Yes, it tastes like organic cardboard, but at least it’s nutritionally balanced.”
Their Chipotle Pork Tenders are better than anything you can get in a restaurant. Sweet, spicy and toothsome, they’re the perfect foil for my favorite sandwich, and you can get a week’s worth of lunches out of even one recipe. The canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are usually available on the Latin foods aisle at grocery stores.
As for the sandwich itself, it’s more of an idea and you can modify it to your tastes. Here’s what I do: get a bag of broccoli slaw, some green onions, some cilantro left over from the pork tenders recipe, and some whole wheat pita pockets.
Open up the pita pocket and stuff it with the slaw, no dressing, no sauce; you want the plain fresh snap of it undiluted when you bite into the sandwich. Cut up the green part of a green onion or two and top the slaw. Tear up as much cilantro as you like and top the onion and slaw with that. Then top everything with five or six chunks of pork. Wrap up tight for later or eat immediately.
Unfortunately it does have a tendency to fall apart when you bite into it, but that’s a minor consideration. The pork’s spicy flavor offsets the cool, crisp broccoli, balanced against the bright green burst of cilantro and the pungent bite of the onion.
All of which leads me to wonder, is growing up making yourself see the value of certain foods or just getting smarter at tricking yourself into eating them? You figure it out; I’m too busy chewing.
Chipotle Pork Tenders
1 lb pork tenderloin
¼ cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro (or just tear up as much as you like)
1 canned chipotle pepper with 2 tsp of the adobo sauce, minced
1½ tsp salt
½ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp black pepper
Toss everything but the tenderloin into a sealable container or gallon-sized freezer bag. Trim the tenderloin of fat and silverskin and cut into 3” x 1” pieces. Toss in the pork and shake or stir or squish until everything is mixed and the pork is evenly coated. Refrigerate anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight.
Line a cookie pan with foil and spray with nonstick cooking oil. Place pork tenders evenly spaced on pan; move oven rack to highest slot and turn on broiler to low. Slide tenders under broiler and let cook for about 5 minutes; turn over and cook for about 5 minutes more (time really depends on your oven so keep an eye out). Once done, cut into bite-sized pieces for sandwiches and store until ready to use.