Glazed Pork Loin pairs well with Leek au Gratin for a special autumn meal. Karen Schneider / For The Forecaster

For the first time in quite a while, I invited a few friends over for Sunday dinner. It was a fine fall day and I wanted to prepare a special meal, yet keep it simple.

Karen Schneider cooks and writes in the village of Cundy’s Harbor. You can reach her at [email protected]

This time of year has so much abundance – I especially like to incorporate pears, cranberries and leeks into my meals. On this day, I got the entrée and side dish as ready as I could ahead of time, tossed a red leaf lettuce and cucumber salad together, then set the table. When my guests arrived, we went for a long walk in the brisk air, crunching through bronzed leaves and admiring the view of the cove. The road was festooned in afternoon sunlight and was in all its autumnal glory.

When we returned, I seared the pork tenderloin then put it in the oven with the cheese-covered leeks. The Cranberry Warmer that had been waiting on the backburner to be reheated was served. When the entrée was ready, the salad was brought out along with a bowl of homemade applesauce. We had a crisp New York Riesling with our meal.

After tidying up, we adjourned to the living room with walnuts, fresh figs, chocolate and tea. It was decided right then and there that we needed to get together much more often!

Glazed Pork Loin with Pears

1 pork tenderloin (1 1/2 pounds), trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
4 Bosc pears, cored, each cut into 8 wedges
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season tenderloin well with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof sauté pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, warm olive oil until shimmering. Sear the pork, turning occasionally, until well-browned, 6-8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate. Add onion and pears to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Return the pork to the pan and drizzle with honey and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with thyme. Transfer pork to the oven and roast until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife, 15-20 minutes. Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Divide the pork, pears and onion wedges among four individual plates, drizzle with the glaze from the pan. Yield: 4 servings

Leek au Gratin

8 young leeks, white and pale green portions only
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 teaspoon parsley
1/2 teaspoon thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Butter four individual 4-by-6-inch gratin dishes or a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add leeks, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and poach the leeks until they are just tender when pierced with a knife, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a colander and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut into 1-inch slices and place in the baking dish(es) and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, stir together ricotta, Gruyere and mustard. Spread cheese mixture on top of leeks and sprinkle with panko, parsley and thyme. Bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Yield: 4 servings

Cranberry Warmer

1 large orange
21 ounces cranberry juice (not cocktail juice)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
4 cinnamon sticks
20 fresh cranberries (for garnish)

Using a vegetable peeler, make four 3-inch strips of peel from the orange. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine peels, cranberry juice, lemon juice and honey. Bring to a simmer and stir. Add a cinnamon stick and five cranberries to each of four mugs. Pour warmed juice into mugs, adding a piece of simmered orange peel to each one. Yield: 4 servings

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