It’s back to school season and the lazy days of summer have come and gone. Time to figure out your kid’s new schedules with school, activities and sports and how to fit dinner into that busy mix. Enter the make-ahead meal. The trick is to cook a large portion of meat and vegetables and then to reuse it over the next few days in creative meals that don’t scream “leftovers”. And it’s easier to accomplish than you’d think.
The main recipe here is pork tenderloin and grilled vegetables which make a delicious meal on their own. I’ve kept the seasoning simple with a dried herb coating and easy to find fresh veggies, grilled and tossed with store bought pesto. It’s relatively easy to cook 3 pork tenderloins and a big grill basket of vegetables one time and so feed your family for 3 nights.
Serve the pork and veggies one night, then turn them into pork tacos with roasted vegetables. The third night finds the meat and vegetables nested among fresh greens with a simple vinaigrette. Cook one night and eat for three. Sounds like a plan.
It’s that easy: The trick to cooking pork tenderloins is easy…just don’t overcook it. That means cooking to an internal temperature of about 140ºF. As it rests, the temperature will climb to 145°F or higher off heat. The meat will be rosy and juicy. If you cook it to 160ºF the temperature will climb to 170°F and the meat will be gray and dry.
Silverskin is usually trimmed away from pork tenderloins before cooking. It’s a tough sinewy part of the loin and it’s easy to cut away with a sharp knife or ask the butcher to do it for you.
My favorite, all-time herb blend, Herbes de Provence is a blend of herbs that grow in the south of France and includes thyme, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, summer sage and fennel seed. It can be found at many grocery stores or online an adds extra flavor to just about everything.
Day One: Grilled Herbed Pork Tenderloin with Grilled Vegetables
Start to finish: 45 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes
- 3 pork tenderloins, silver skin removed (ask your butcher to do it)
- About 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence or Italian herb mix or a combination of dried thyme, oregano, basil and marjoram, more or less to taste
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 zucchini, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 2 summer squash, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 green bell pepper, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup basil pesto, purchased or homemade
- Heat a grill to 425ºF.
- Sprinkle the tenderloins with some of the Herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Rub the herbs into the tenderloins and then drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil, patting it lightly to coat. If cold, let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes so that they cook more evenly.
- While the meat sits, combine the zucchini, squash, onion, red pepper and green pepper with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper and a generous sprinkle of Herbes de Provence, tossing them together in a large bowl.
- Heat a grill basket over the grill and when it’s hot, pour in the vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes with the lid down and then give them a toss with tongs. Add the tenderloins to the grill. Continue to toss the vegetables every now and then while you grill the meat.
- Grill the meat over medium-high heat, about 425°F on the first side for 5 minutes with the lid closed. Turn and cook the second side for another 5 minutes with the lid closed. If you have multiple burners in your grill, turn one of them off and move the pork to the lower temperature zone. If you don’t have multiple burners, lower the heat and move the meat to a cooler spot. Close the lid and cook for another 5 minutes or until an internal temp of 140ºF is reached. The vegetables should be done at about the same time as the pork. Check the vegetables for tenderness and leave them on the grill for another 5 minutes if they aren’t quite as cooked as you’d like. Transfer the meat to a cutting board and let rest for about 10 minutes before slicing (this allows the juices to resettle throughout the pork loin).
- While the meat rests, transfer the vegetables to a bowl and toss the vegetables with the pesto. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if it needs it.
- Slice one and one half of the tenderloins (you may need less) on the diagonal about 3/4-inch thick and serve on warm plates with about 1/3 of the vegetables. Reserve the remaining tenderloins and vegetables, wrapped and refrigerated.
Make-ahead: The tenderloins can be rubbed with the herbs and kept covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours.
Day Two: Pork Tacos with Avocado and Fresh Pico de Gallo
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Hands on time: 30 minutes
It’s super simple to make this taco dinner and your family will think it’s super delicious.
- 2 tomatoes, cored and cut into small dice
- 1 shallot, minced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup minced pickled jalapeño (depending on how spicy you like it)
- 1/4 cup minced cilantro
- Juice of 1 lime
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pork tenderloin from the master recipe, cut into thin strips
- 1/2 vegetables from previous recipe
- Twelve 8-inch flour tortillas
- 2 avocadoes, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
- 1 lime, quartered, for squeezing over the assembled tacos
- In a medium bowl, combine the tomato, shallot, garlic, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice. Toss together along with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Taste and season with more salt, pepper, jalapeño or lime juice if it needs it.
- Warm the pork and vegetables in the microwave for about 1 minute or until hot. Wrap the tortillas in a dish towel and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds or until they’re warm and pliable.
- In separate bowls, arrange the pork, vegetables, salsa, avocado, cheese, tortillas and lime on the table and let everyone make their own tacos just the way they like them.
Day Three: Fall Salad with Pork, Buttery Croutons and Basil Vinaigrette
Dinner salads are a fresh and easy to make dinner for family and friends. I like to use up bits and pieces of leftover produce from my crisper drawers, tossing them into salads instead of letting them go to waste. This ingredient list is a suggestion. You should use whatever you like or have on hand!
The croutons make this salad special, but if you’re short on time, go ahead and use store bought croutons. Either way this salad is delish.
- 4 slices Italian-style bread, diced into 1-inch cubes, about 2 cups
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons basil pesto (purchased or homemade)
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 pork tenderloin from the master recipe, thinly sliced
Remaining roasted vegetables from master recipe
- 6 oz mixed salad greens
- Chopped fresh herbs from you garden if you have them (basil, dill, thyme, mint, oregano, chives), optional
- 1 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes
- 1/3 cup crumbled goat’s milk feta cheese
- 1/4 cup chopped kalamata olives
- Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the butter. When it melts, add the bread cubes and a sprinkle of salt and brown them in the hot fat, turning them as they crisp, about 5 minutes total. They will soak up all the butter in the pan like sponges. You may need to reduce the heat if they over brown. Transfer the croutons to a plate and cool.
- Combine the vinegar, smashed garlic and a sprinkle of salt and pepper in a small bowl. Allow to mingle and flavor the vinegar for at least 10 minutes then remove the garlic and discard it. Whisk in the pesto and olive oil and taste. Add more salt and a grind or two of pepper if it needs it.
- Warm the pork and vegetables in the microwave oven for about 1 minute. You don’t want them hot but not cold either. Just a little warm.
- In a large bowl, combine the greens, herbs (if using), tomatoes, cheese, olives, pork, vegetables and about 1/3 cup of the vinaigrette. Toss to combine and taste for seasoning, adding more salt, pepper or vinaigrette if it needs it. Divide the salad among 4 plates or shallow bowls and top with the croutons and a drizzle of extra vinaigrette.