Dinners that are special enough for the good china and silverware often take the whole day to prepare and too often are made rich-tasting with lots of unwanted fat.
But with the right ingredients and techniques it's easy to create an impressive and healthful meal.
Medallions of pork tenderloin with dried apples and plums is a perfect example. The dish can be prepared in about 25 minutes with only about 10 minutes of preparation and you can do the whole thing with only a cutting board, a knife and a lidded saute pan.
Pork tenderloin is an excellent choice for the healthy cook because it's low in fat, and when cut into medallions cooks quickly.
In this recipe, the seasoned pork is flash-seared in a hot pan. Canola oil is best for this method because it can be heated to high temperatures before it begins to smoke.
After the medallions are browned, the pan is deglazed with fat-free chicken broth, then dried apples, dried plums, Dijon mustard and balsamic vinegar are added.
The concentrated flavors of the dried fruits are the secret to the richness of this dish. Plus, as they cook down, all the pectin they contain melds with the other ingredients to make a velvety mahogany-toned sauce.
To complete this meal consider serving steamed French green beans with a drizzle of roasted hazelnut oil or extra-virgin olive oil and some whole-wheat couscous to soak up all the sumptuous sauce.
MEDALLIONS OF PORK TENDERLOIN WITH DRIED FRUIT
Start to finish: 25 minutes (10 minutes active)
1-pound pork tenderloin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons canola oil
141/2-ounce can fat-free chicken broth
3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried apples
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted dried plums
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Cut the tenderloin crosswise on the diagonal into 3/4-inch medallions. Season both sides of each with salt and pepper.
In a large nonstick skillet with a lid, heat the oil over high until nearly smoking. Add the medallions and cook until well browned on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
To the skillet, add the broth, apples, plums, mustard, vinegar and thyme. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the fruits have softened and the sauce has thickened, about 8 minutes.
Return the pork to the sauce and simmer until the pork is no longer pink at the center, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.
NUTRITION INFORMATION PER SERVING: 322 calories, 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated), 65 milligrams cholesterol, 27 grams carbohydrate, 28 grams protein, 3 grams fiber and 117 milligrams sodium