Salad for dinner used to sound so boring. That was before a field of greens entered the equation and fresh herbs and crunchy veggies joined in the fun. Add to the mix some lean pork tenderloin, along with Asian flavors, a bit of heat, some toasted nuts and coconut and you’ve got a meal that tastes clean, refreshing and so satisfying.
We almost didn’t light the grill over the weekend because it was so hot, but when I discovered this recipe in the New York Times by one of my favorite food writers, Melissa Clark, I knew it had to be done.
We love pork tenderloin and I prepare it quite often with so many variations — often choosing an Asian marinade because all the flavors complement the pork so perfectly. But the idea of creating a crunchy salad using my fresh herbs straight from the garden, a bit of heat from jalapeno and then roasted peanuts and toasted coconut for toppings was absolutely irresistible.
You can use cashews instead of peanuts— I used what I had on hand — and be sure to use unsweetened coconut flakes. For you cilantro haters out there: Don’t be put off by the recipes, simply leave it out or add chopped Italian parsley. You can also sub out any vegetable you like for the salad. Zucchini and summer squash might be nice, radishes perhaps, and maybe even a bit of roasted beets. Regardless, fix it this way first then add your own touch. With the summer heat sure to stick around for awhile, we should have plenty of opportunity to create the cool dish many times over. I know I will.
Spicy Thai Pork Tenderloin Salad
Recipe from the New York Times
For the marinade and dressing:
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork tenderloin (usually 2 tenderloins)
2/3 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 shallots)
2/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, grated
5 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
Juice and zest of 4 limes
3-inch piece peeled ginger root, grated
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 to 2 Thai bird, serrano or jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and minced
For the salad:
8 cups Napa or regular cabbage, thinly sliced
5 whole scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 small Kirby or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups cilantro leaves
1 1/2 cups mint leaves
1 cup basil leaves
1 1/4 cups roasted cashews or peanuts, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut chips or large flakes, toasted
Pat pork dry with paper towel. In a bowl, combine shallots, cilantro, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, garlic, soy sauce, peanut or grapeseed oil, lime zest and juice, ginger, fish sauce, salt and chili. Pour a quarter of the mixture into a blender, add remaining sugar and purée until a smooth, loose paste forms. (Save the unblended mixture to use as dressing.)
Place tenderloin in a large bowl and spread the paste all over pork. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours, or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours; turn the tenderloin occasionally.
Light the grill or heat the broiler and arrange a rack at least 4 inches from the heat. Grill or broil pork, turning occasionally, until well browned and meat reaches an internal temperature of 135 degrees, 4 to 10 minutes per side depending upon the heat of your broiler or grill. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overcook. Let meat rest while you prepare the salad. (Or, cook the pork 1 or 2 hours ahead and serve it at room temperature.)
In a large bowl, combine the salad ingredients, reserving the herbs, cashews and coconut. Whisk the dressing and use just enough to dress the salad, tossing to combine. Let sit for a few minutes for the flavors to meld, then right before serving, add herbs and toss again.
To serve, slice the pork. Arrange salad on a platter and top with sliced pork. Scatter cashews and coconut on top, drizzle with a little more of the remaining dressing, to taste. Serves 6.
Per serving: 549 calories; 30 g fat (7 g saturated fat; 49 percent calories from fat); 41 g carbohydrates; 20 g sugar; 73 mg cholesterol; 1,498 mg sodium; 33 g protein; 8 g fiber.