Rise early, and head to the farmers market so you’ll have the best pick of produce. Or, alternately, sleep in and head to the market when you’re awake and have had some coffee. Don’t like farmers markets? Fine. But know that you’ll need tomatoes for this dinner, and grocery tomatoes will not do.
Buy loads of tomatoes, big and small: red, orange, yellow, purple. The more color the better. You’ll also need onions, and the young ones (that will make you weep), still with their pretty green stalks if you can find them. Is your climate cool? Buy cilantro, if so. Is there a meat farmer? Buy a pork tenderloin. Other than the tomatoes, though, the grocery will be a fine source. Do not buy grocery tomatoes.
Ah, almost forgot: buy some cucumbers. Two or three should be enough. And mint, if you can find it. And jalapenos (no, not cayennes).
Do you have limes at home? If not, stop by the grocery (you were destined to make that stop). You’ll also need lemons. And tortillas. And whatever was on the farmers market list that wasn’t available by the time you got there (or at all): onion, pork tenderloin, cilantro, lime, lemon, mint, cucumber, jalapeno. That should do it.
Almost forgot: sparkling water. You’ll need that, too.
Do you have vodka? If not, then stop by the liquor store. (But not, of course, if you’re a non-drinker.) Try not to get distracted talking to your friends. If you did not find mint and do not have any growing in your yard, then opt for the Ketel One cucumber mint vodka.
Also, you’ll want some limoncello.
Come home and stick the booze in the freezer. Rinse the tomatoes. If you were clever, then you bought some cherry tomatoes as well as full-sized ones. Snack on the little tomatoes as you chop the big. Chop an onion (white and green), too, and the jalapeno (or two), and half of the cilantro. Put all in a bowl, including every last drop of juice (more on that, later). Add green chile from your freezer, if you’re the sort of person who keeps green chile on hand. Stir in salt and lime juice. Taste. Set the bowl in the refrigerator.
Now you’ll have to pick your project for the day. A book perhaps? Or maybe you’re the gardening type. Sewing? It’s not unheard of. Or you could patch and repair plaster in a 113-year-old house (this is what we did), but perhaps your situation doesn’t include that option.
In any event, you’ll need a stretch of hours in which you can ignore the bowl of summer goodness in your refrigerator, allowing the juices to collect and the flavors to get acquainted.
Every now and again, wander to the kitchen and spoon a bit of salsa on a chip (did you buy chips? I forgot to put them on your list…), and enjoy. Worried about all the liquid that salsa is producing? Don’t; you’ll need it later.
Continue with your project. You should probably have a little lunch, a sandwich perhaps, but nothing too elaborate. It’s possible you’ll take a nap. Worse things could happen.
When the sun starts to fade, wrap up whatever you’ve been doing with your day and head to the kitchen. Take inventory: salsa (remember, you made it in the morning; it’s already in the bowl in the refrigerator), onion, pork, cilantro, mint, lemons, cucumbers, vodka, limoncello, sparkling water, tortillas. (Were those on the early list? Can’t remember; but you’ll need them.) You’ll also need olive oil, salt, and cumin.
Missing something? Right: it’s time for the first trip to the grocery (and possibly the only trip, but only if you’re nothing like us).
If you have the boozy ingredients on hand, go ahead and give your cocktail a head start while you’re making the grocery run. Slice a cucumber lengthwise (no need to make it pretty), and put the slices in a 4-cup glass measuring cup (or glass bowl) along with a gracious plenty of mint (a cup of leaves, perhaps?), juice from a lemon (or two), a cup of limoncello, and some vodka. Ratios are negotiable; suit yourself. Mash it all up a bit with a wooden spoon and stick it in the refrigerator while you run your dastardly errand.
(No alcohol for you? Skip the vodka and limoncello and substitute some sugar or simple syrup.)
You’re back home? Already? Lucky duck! Time for a cocktail.
Retrieve the nectar you stuck in the fridge before going to the store. Pick your favorite cocktail glass, add some ice to it, pour that delicious boozy cucumber-mint-lemon mix through a strainer and into your glass. (Could you strain into a shaker, and shake with ice? Certainly, you could.) Top with sparkling water. Only you can know the right mix of booze and water (but do understand that you’re about to handle a sharp knife). Garnish, if you like, with a ribbon of lemon zest or a few paper-thin slices of cucumber.
Take a sip of your lovely cocktail, turn on some music, and get to work on dinner.
Use a sharp knife to slice the pork tenderloin very thinly. Season with salt.
Slice the onion (thinly, of course) into half rounds.
Over a high burner, heat a heavy skillet (I used my favorite cast iron enamel one, but anything big and heavy will do), and add some olive oil. Let things get hot enough that the onions will sizzle when you dump them in. Add the onions. Cook until they start to brown, moving them around with tongs or a spatula so nothing burns. Sprinkle some cumin on top, and stir that for a bit until it smells irresistible.
Add the pork to the skillet (heat still on high) in a single layer and let it get good and crusty before you move a single piece. Stir. Walk away for a few minutes before you come back to stir again. The goal is to have brown, crispy bits throughout.
Remember your morning work? Those ripe summer tomatoes should have rendered a good bit of juice for you. Use a ladle (or just a spoon), press it into the bowl, extract that juice (most, not all), and add it to the skillet. Stir and cook until the liquid is gone and the browned bits are a little sticky. Turn off the heat. Stir in the rest of the chopped cilantro that you saved from the morning. (Oh, you didn’t save it? No worries; keep ahead.)
Cover the skillet and let the meat rest. The liquid that collects from the steam will help you scrape up those luscious brown bits when it’s time to serve.
Have a little more of your cocktail. It should be doing its job by now, whetting your appetite.
(Did you put on music? You should have. If you didn’t already, then do it now.)
You’ll need plates, of course. Best to go ahead and get them out while you’re thinking of it.
The tortillas will be much improved by heating them directly on the burner of a gas stove. Don’t have a gas stove? Heat them in the microwave. (No, I don’t know how to do this. You’ll have to figure it out on your own.)
Did I remember to tell you that an avocado would be good? Might have neglected that. But, if you have an avocado, slice it up. Guacamole in your freezer would work, too. Just thaw it under running water for a bit. Don’t have that, either? Move on. Or go to the store. Your choice. (But you have had a cocktail, and by now you’re surely hungry.)
Arrange a few small tortillas, or one big tortilla, on a plate. Spoon some meat onto the tortilla(s) and top with a generous serving of salsa (see, it’s not so drippy now!). Avocado slices optional. Want cheese? That Mexican crumbly cheese would be best. But we didn’t have any, and we’d finished our grocery runs for the day, so we did without cheese. (And all was well.)
Fold those tacos, or wrap that burrito, and enjoy the taste of summer, right there in your kitchen.
What a good day you had.
Final note: There are likely steps and ingredients I’ve left out, but you’ll manage. If you were looking for a real recipe with real instructions, you wouldn’t have looked here in the first place, and we both know it.