Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

This is crazy! Where did those summer months go?? I remember as a kid, once we arrived at the Labor Day week-end all those ‘lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer were gone’. Back to school for another year.

One of my fondest memories from childhood summers was my mom’s ‘lunchtime’ family picnics. In the early 1950’s my father was able to purchase another piece of land about four miles (about 6.5 km) from our home place. Between the two farms it became the equivalent of a ‘section’. Before this time, the cattle had to be moved to a community pasture in the foothills where they would have enough grass to graze on over the summer. At that time to transport them, you had no choice but to herd them down the road allowance, to get to their ‘summer’ home, for approximately 20-30 miles (roughly 30-50 km) on foot. To say the least, it was a long grueling event for both the cattle and family members.

The ‘other farm’ as we referred to it, had originally been a slaughter house for the town meat market. It consisted of one large building, corals and a few other buildings. There was a slough on the land which dad had converted to a ‘dug out’ where the cattle could go and drink freely. The land was used for grain crops where in turn the cattle could be pastured on in the summer.

In the summer when dad would be working on the land, instead of my mom just packing a lunch for him that he could take in the morning, she would fix a wonderful ‘picnic lunch’. At about 11:30, mom (with our help) would pack up lunch, complete with plates, silverware, a tablecloth etc., and we would head for the ‘other farm’. There was just the right amount of space between two grain buildings to set up a make-shift table and stools. We would put the table cloth down and spread out our little picnic ‘feast’. Dad would be so surprised and we would all enjoy our lunch immensely. Mom always knew how to make the most simple things fun for us.

Okay, so now that I’ve taken you on a little side trip down memory lane, here are some nice ribs for your Labor Day picnic.

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Slow Roasted Baby Back Ribs
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Cuisine American, German
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, water, garlic, green onions, sesame oil & seasonings, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Place ribs in a large resealable plastic freezer bag. Pour marinade over the ribs, squeeze out all the air & refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  3. When ready to cook the ribs, preheat oven to 250-275 F. On the bottom of a large roasting tray place a wire rack. Over the rack, place a large sheet of foil paper. Lay marinated ribs ON foil, do not cover with foil. Instead 'crinkle' the foil close to the ribs leaving them open to SLOW roast. Pour any marinade left in the bag over them. Roast in this very slow oven for about 3 hours. You will find at this temperature your kitchen does not get hot, the ribs look after themselves & they are incredibly tender.

Gingered Braised Beef

Ginger Beef appears to have its origins in a Northern Chinese dish called Geung Ngao Yuk. It is traditionally drier and less sweet than the popular restaurant version that we are familiar with here in Canada. Ginger beef epitomizes the evolution of Chinese-Western cuisine and while its status as an iconic Canadian dish may be under the radar, its the perfect springboard to jump off into the murky waters of Canadian Chinese food and its origins.

In 1975, a newly arrived family in Canada, from Hong Kong, decided to open a Chinese restaurant outside of Calgary, Alberta’s Chinatown. Two sisters, Louise Tsang and Lily Wong found an old cafe with a sign that said ‘Silver Inn’. The building was worn out but the sign was still in excellent condition. They started serving both Canadian and Chinese dishes which was the norm for many restaurant owners of Chinese decent during this period. But they found in order to suit the tastes of the North American palate, they initially  had to serve a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches. With the help of Lily’s husband, George Wong (who was also the restaurants’ chef), they began to adapt certain recipes. Because George Wong had experience cooking in England, he was used to the typical Western palate. Ginger beef was born, also known on their menu as ‘No. 65 – deep fried shredded beef in chili sauce’. Ironically, the dish has very little ginger in it and its actually the sweet chilies that are mistaken for ginger.

Although ginger beef is indigenous to Alberta, I think its safe to say, it can be found on pretty much any Chinese take-out menu in Canada. You would be hard pressed though to find anything resembling it in China, I’m sure. It is neither Chinese nor Canadian and yet it is both.

Today’s blog recipe moves away from the traditional deep fried beef to a marinated version using (of all things) ginger ale. Not only is ginger ale a great meat tenderizer but you get a bold ginger flavor without grating fresh ginger. Just a little side note… the term marinade, originally came from the use of seawater to preserve meat. The roots of the word are derived from the Latin word for sea (mare). This marinade works well with pork as well as beef. 


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Gingered Braised Beef

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia

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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia

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Instructions
  1. In a large resealable bag, combine all marinade ingredients with ribs. Marinate, refrigerated, for at least 2-3 hours.

  2. Preheat oven to 250 F. Line a baking dish with foil paper & place ribs in a single layer. Pour enough marinade over the ribs to come almost to the top of them but not covering the ribs. Place in oven & bake at this slow heat for about 2 hours. You end up with some real flavorful TENDER ribs & the marinade tastes so good over steamed rice.

Papaya-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Basmati Rice

Something that was quite apparent to Brion and I when we visited Cuba last year, was that pork and chicken were their favorite meats. It is said that Cuban food reflects the Cuban spirit. A hearty appetite for sweetness and the richness of life, respect for tradition and spiced with a spark of adventure. Although papaya is native to the tropical areas of Mexico as well as Central and South America, it is now cultivated in most countries having a tropical climate. The fruit goes by several names such as pawpaw, papaye (French), fruta bomba or lechosa (Spanish).

It is unclear as to how rice became central to Cuban cuisine, but for a Cuban, a meal without rice is simply not complete. Basmati rice is a unique strain of rice often associated with Asian and Indian cuisine as it originated in India. Characterized by its light nutty flavor and floral aroma, Basmati makes a good choice to pair with fish or chicken dishes. When cooked it retains its individual, non-sticky grains which allow sauces to coat well. Both brown and white varieties are available but brown will give a much deeper flavor.

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Papaya-Stuffed Chicken Breast with Basmati Rice
Instructions
Chicken & Rice
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Using the tip of a sharp boning knife, cut a pocket in each chicken breast through a 2-inch slit in the side. Place papaya slices into each chicken breast & sprinkle with cinnamon. Dip each breast into melted butter then into cracker crumbs.
  3. Heat 1 Tbsp of butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Place chicken breasts in skillet & brown about 5 minutes on each side. Place browned breasts on baking sheet.
  4. Bake for about 20 minutes, then flip over & continue to bake until chicken is no longer pink in center about 20 minutes more. Meanwhile, bring rice & water to a boil in a saucepan. Cover; simmer until rice is tender & liquid is absorbed, about 20-25 minutes.
Pineapple Sauce
  1. In skillet that was used to brown chicken, melt 1 Tbsp butter scraping up any brown bits. Stir in orange juice, pineapple, brown sugar & all spices. Reduce to medium & simmer until reduced, about 30 minutes. Reduce heat to low & continue to simmer until sauce is thickened. Serve the chicken breasts over rice with pineapple sauce spooned over top.

Apple Taquitos with Salted Caramel Sauce

The last of the four blogs on our Merida holiday is a place Brion has had on his ‘bucket list’ for quite a while. Located midway between Merida and Cancun, Chichen Itza is the northern most of the major archaeological sites in the Yucatan. Consistent with the Maya culture at large, written information about the site is rather scarce. The Maya used their exemplary knowledge of mathematics along with celestial observations to construct monuments to observe and commemorate movements of the Moon, Sun and Venus.

The instantly recognizable structure of Chichen Itza is the Temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo. This imposing step pyramid has 365 steps – one representing each day of the year. Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, with the top platform being the 365th. An amazing natural phenomenon takes place on the spring and autumn equinoxes each year. The sun’s rays falling on the pyramid create a shadow in the shape of a serpent. As the sun begins to set, this shadowy snake descends the steps to eventually join a stone serpent head at the base of the great staircase up the pyramid’s side.

The observatory, called El Caracol (or snail in Spanish) is another sophisticated structure of Chichen Itza. It has an interior staircase that spirals upward like a snail’s shell. The Maya’s were known to be advanced enough to predict solar eclipses.

Chichen Itza’s massive ball court measured 168 meters long and 70 meters wide. During games played here, players tried to hit a rather heavy rubber ball through stone scoring hoops set high on the court walls. Visiting these sites definitely gives you a lot to think about.

At the end of this part of the tour we were taken to a place called a ‘cenote’.  The northern part of the Yucatan is arid and the interior has no above ground rivers. The only sources of water are the natural sinkholes called cenotes. Some of these are small, while others are quite large. The one we stopped at was called X-CAJUM. You could swim in it if you wished. Due to it’s height, people needed to go down several meters underground to do that. It’s blue water is 35 m (115 ft) deep and full of fauna. Interesting!

For my recipe today, I’ve made a Mexican dessert. The word taquito is essentially a diminutive of the word taco, with the suffix ‘ito’ meaning small. Translated means ‘small taco’. The difference between a taco and a taquito is basically in the size. A taquito can also be a small tortilla and filling that’s rolled with the ends left open and fried. This version has an alternate name, ‘flauta’, meaning small flute.

The taco is such a beloved culinary treasure because it is so portable. It can be stuffed with just about anything and can be eaten at any time in the day. There are breakfast tacos and savory tacos but Mexican cuisine is not all about being spicy. There is an amazing dessert side that is simple and delicious.

 No doubt this is a very American/ Canadian recipe, but still a tasty version.

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Apple Taquitos with Salted Caramel Sauce
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Salted Caramel Sauce
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Salted Caramel Sauce
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Instructions
  1. In a saucepan, bring sugar, cornstarch, salt butter & milk to a gentle boil & cook until thickened about 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat & add extract.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 13 X 9-inch baking dish; set aside.
  3. In a small dish, combine sugar, cinnamon & nutmeg; set aside. Chop apple pie filling into small pieces. Spread tortillas with a thin layer of caramel sauce. Cover caramel with diced apple filling.
  4. Roll tortillas & place in prepared dish. Brush with butter & sprinkle with sugar mixture. Bake for 15 minutes until golden & bubbling at ends. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.

Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns

As I mentioned in a previous blog, persimmons are definitely underrated. If you haven’t used them before, now is a good time to give them a try. Where we are, here in Canada, you start seeing them in the grocery stores around October. A bit pricey at first but they get better as the winter rolls along. There are unlimited ways to use them posted on the internet.

The persimmon is Japan’s national fruit. The most commonly found varieties are the ‘Hachiya’, round with a slightly elongated, pointed base and the ‘Fuyu’, smaller and more tomato shaped. When ripe, both have a red-orange skin and flesh, creamy texture and a tangy-sweet, vanilla like flavor.

Today, I’m using a Fuyu persimmon to make some nice little sticky buns. This recipe makes a small amount and tastes amazing.

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Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, European
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Course dessert
Cuisine American, Asia, European
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Instructions
  1. Butter 5 or 6 custard cups. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter; add brown sugar. Stir until sugar is melted & begins to bubble. Divide sugar mixture between custard cups. Place a pecan half (upside down) in center of each cup. Place sliced persimmon quarters in a circular fashion on top of sugar & pecan. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat remaining 4 Tbsp butter & granulated sugar until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla, egg & milk until fully blended.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt. Add to wet ingredients, mixing ONLY until blended. Carefully fold in chopped pecans.
  4. Divide batter between custard cups & bake for 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in custard cups. Invert on serving platter & serve.

Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes with Pepita Oatmeal Topping

Love it or hate it, pumpkin  spice season is well underway. Every year our obsession with the ‘flavor of fall’ continues to grow with weirder, more unique, pumpkin themed products invading the bakeries, grocery stores, coffee shops, you name it—

It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.

Some time ago, Brion had picked up a bottle of Pumpkin Cream Liqueur. It has a wonderful taste on its own but of course it only seems fitting that I would want to bake with it.

I believe one of the secrets of having incredible flavors in both savory and baked goods is with the use of alcohol. You can’t help but notice, over the last number of years how the humble little cupcake has been elevated to a whole new level. Many of these specialty cupcake stores that have popped up are featuring alcohol-inspired, adult-friendly options.

Now, today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’ to see what I can come up with.

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Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
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Cupcakes
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
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Cupcakes
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients & set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together egg, liqueur, milk & pumpkin puree. Stir into flour mixture JUST until moistened. Place a small scoop of batter in each cup. Divide topping. Using half of topping, divide evenly between cupcakes, creating the 'filling' for the cupcakes. Divide remaining batter between cups; top with remaining topping. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes
  • Technically, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are the same thing. But pepitas (which mean “little seeds of squash” in Spanish) don’t have a shell and are found in only select pumpkin varieties.

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Even if it is a little hard to admit summer has ended and fall is officially here, Oktoberfest seems like a great little celebration to ease into the coming winter months.

Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago in Munich, Germany, when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12,1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done, every year since.

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.

While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc..

To acknowledge this holiday we are having a corned beef, cabbage & potato pizza with a rye bread crust. It seems a good mix of German-Canadian food to me ?!

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Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
Instructions
Rye Pizza Crust
  1. In a bowl, combine flours & salt. Pour 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds. Stir brown sugar into water until dissolved; add yeast & stir. Let mixture stand about 10 minutes, until bubbly. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture. Pour remaining 1 cup of water into microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir olive oil into warm water; pour over flour mixture. Knead flour mixture, adding more all-purpose flour if dough is sticky, until dough is smooth & holds together. Form dough into a ball & place in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled in size.
Fillings
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss thinly sliced potato with 2 Tbsp olive oil in a plastic bag. Combine paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper; add to potato slices & toss again. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet about 10-15 minutes. In a skillet, add sauerkraut with juice & diced onion. Simmer for a few minutes until onion is tender. Drain well; set aside to cool slightly.
Assembly
  1. Punch down dough. Sprinkle a 14-inch pizza pan with cornmeal & press dough out to fit pan. Top crust with monterey jack cheese, corned beef & onion/sauerkraut mixture. Lay roasted potato slices to cover pizza then sprinkle with mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses. Bake pizza for 12-15 minutes or until golden & crispy. Once pizza is done baking, drizzle with Russian dressing & slice.

Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY! 

It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes a part of our lives. It is an that important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’.

Father’s Day,  for Brion and I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.

A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

My father’s day blog recipe features some pork chops with a nice apple-apricot stuffing. Hope you get a chance to try it sometime.

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Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Cut a deep, horizontal pocket in each chop.
  2. In a skillet, saute onion & celery in oil until tender crisp. Add bread crumbs, oatmeal, diced apricots, apple, raisins, brown sugar, ginger & 2 Tbsp apricot preserve; mix well. Divide stuffing between pork chops. Place in an ungreased baking dish & cover.
  3. Bake for about 45 minutes; uncover & spread remaining 2 Tbsp preserves on top of chops. Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes more or until chops are tender.

Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra

Okra, that seasonal summer vegetable that many love to hate. But, cooked properly it is definitely worth eating. While the origin of okra is often disputed, it grows well in a wide variety of warm climates. It is adaptable to both humid & dry conditions and is largely unaffected by pests and disease.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhocks. An upright plant with hibiscus-like flowers gives okra an ornamental value as well.

Probably the most unusual feature that this vegetable has is the gummy, gelatinous substance released from its pods when cooked. The thickening agent makes it a popular ingredient in gumbos and soups. But, there’s much more to okra than soups and stews. Roasting at a high temperature will turn it into crispy, flavorful okra fries.

Since it pairs well with most any meat or seafood, I decided to make some braised beef short ribs with stir-fried okra and Jasmine rice.

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Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra
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Cuisine American, European
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Short Rib Marinade
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, European
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Short Rib Marinade
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Instructions
Short Ribs
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a Dutch oven, place all short rib ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover & place in oven for at least 1 1/2 hours or until meat is VERY tender. Stir periodically, adding more water if needed. If preferred, skim off excess oil before serving.
Okra
  1. In a large saucepan, add oil; when oil is hot add okra & stir-fry for about 8-10 minutes. Okra should be tender but NOT mushy.

Persimmon Pork Tenderloin

Persimmons are definitely an underrated fall and winter fruit deserving of the same hype as pumpkins and squash. Mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Persimmons work well in both sweet and savory applications.

The two most commonly available varieties are Fuyu and Hachiyas. Fuyus are squat and round where as Hachiyas are acorn shaped and have a pointed bottom. When buying persimmons, look for unblemished skin with the green leaves and top still attached. The texture should be like a tomato —firm but with a bit of give without being too soft. Persimmons are usually sold unripe, so leave them on the counter for a day or two until the skin deepens to a rich sunset orange. Aside from eating them fresh, persimmons can also be cooked. They make good jams, puree, tarts and cakes as well as used in baking, being poached or caramelized.

If your following my blog, you are well aware of my love for stuffing pork tenderloin. It’s a meal that never disappoints. Today I am using persimmon and Gorgonzola cheese for stuffing and topping it off with caramelized onions and persimmon wedges. The taste is just wonderful!

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Persimmon Pork Tenderloin
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Course Main Dish
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. & adjust rack to center. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, 1 tsp of thyme, garlic & 1 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside. Slice about 1/2-inch off stem end of each persimmon & about 1/4-inch off bottoms then peel them. Cut one of them into slices, as thinly as possible. Set aside. Cut the second one into approximately 1/2-inch wedges & set aside.
  2. 'Butterfly' tenderloin & gently pound meat, to make it all the same thickness. Spread both sides with oil mixture. On a large piece of plastic wrap, lay the bacon slices on it, layering them by about 1/8-inch along their edges, lengthwise. It should be about the length of the tenderloin.
  3. Cover the butterflied tenderloin with persimmon slices, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola evenly over the slices. Staring with the end closest to you, roll up the pork, as tightly as possible. Once the pork is tightly rolled, with the seam side down, use the plastic wrap to help you wrap the bacon around the outside of it.
  4. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & roast for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 F. & a hint of pink remains.
  5. While meat is roasting, caramelize sliced onion. In a saucepan, heat oil & add onion. Sprinkle with salt; cook & stir about 10 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Add persimmon wedges. Gently stir until heated through.
  6. Remove meat from oven. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice tenderloin about 1-inch thickness; place on serving dish & top with caramelized onions & persimmons.