Food Friday: Island Pork Tenderloin Salad


At the risk of sounding like a complete tool or the ultimate parody of a food columnist, I can seriously say this: our good friends from California cooked this for us at their seaside home one summer evening and this savory delicious meal, seasoned with great company and a fantastic view, had us hooked from the start.

It is the perfect summer dish, for sure, but as it turns out, it is equally as good all winter long, especially when you are craving something lighter than that dependable fall-winter fare: roasted meat with potatoes and roasted vegetables.

The sunny flavors remind you that it won’t be winter forever, the fresh tastes of citrus and avocado seem just right in January and the meal-and-salad-in-one approach makes it remarkably easy and waistline-friendly to boot. And since they originally served it to us on their own private island, we especially love the double meaning of the name.

This recipe originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Gourmet, and can be found on—take a look at all the rave reviews and inventive modifications!

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

Serves 6 to 8 (but there will be NO leftovers!)

For pork
2 teaspoons salt (I use one teaspoon, and add to taste when eating if necessary)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder or ground chili (I used ancho chilis)
1 teaspoon cinnamon (If you have the option, use a robust cinnamon, like the strong and spicy Chinese Cassia available from Penzey’s. You can really taste the difference in a recipe like this.)
1-2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lb total)
2 tablespoons olive oil

For glaze
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco

True confessions: I really don’t like this vinaigrette, and neither do most of the people I know who have made it. It’s just a little bitter or something. I tend to use a vinaigrette made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard and a little orange oil instead. And it saves you from having to toast that curry powder, which leaves a distinct aroma in your kitchen. If you make your own and use mandarin oranges in the salad (see below) you can also add a little of the mandarin juice to the vinaigrette.

For vinaigrette
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder, toasted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For salad
5 oz baby spinach, trimmed (6 cups leaves)
4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (from 1 medium head) 3 navel oranges or 1 large can mandarin oranges, drained 1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips ( I used two)
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 ripe California avocados

Prepare pork:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub.

Heat oil in an ovenproof 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.

Make glaze and roast pork:
Stir together brown sugar, garlic and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140°F, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 155°F while standing.)

Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.

Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Or open can of mandarins and drain!)Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper and raisins in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Halve, pit and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Assemble salad:
Cut pork at a 45-degree angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork, oranges and avocados in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados and oranges. Pour any juices from skillet over pork. (I put the skillet glaze/drippings in a small pitcher, like a gravy.)

P.S. I’m kind of a one-trick pony when it comes to pork tenderloin because I love this recipe so much. What do YOU do with a pork tenderloin? Share the love, won’t you?

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Anna Sawin

Anna Sawin is a Connecticut-based portrait, wedding, and editorial photographer. She lives in the shoreline town of Stonington with her family and has discovered the perfect cupcake. Just ask, she is willing to share her secret.


  1. mikesgotnothin on January 11, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    ok, i’m catching up. next time we have lunch, can we have this?

  2. christinator on January 11, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    wow, this sounds divine. sometimes I hate my husband for summarily dismissing all salads. they are not acceptable dinner fare in our home.

  3. sdh on January 11, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    mmm, this sounds so good. too bad rush would never eat it!

  4. Stacy on January 12, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Oooh, yummy! I love Penzey’s too! And I have that cinnamon in my pantry right now, too. 🙂 I definitely need to make more salads *says my waistline*…so what do the kids eat? Do they like the pork, or do you just give them PB&J while you are eating this? I’m not above giving them a sandwich they pink puffy heart, if they will eat it while mommy and daddy have something good.

  5. Anna on January 12, 2008 at 9:16 am

    My kids will eat the raisins, oranges and avocado out of the salad, and the meat cut into teeny pieces, of course–so it works out for them, too!

  6. Stephanie on January 12, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    Yummy yummy! I rub pork tenderloin with a little salt and pepper and plenty of fresh rosemary. Simple but SO delicious!

  7. B. on January 14, 2008 at 10:56 am

    yummy indeed!

  8. AML on January 14, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    You have cooked this for me and I love, love, love it! I’ll have to ask Donna for her special recipe that involves reducing balsamic vinegar to make the glaze…it was the main dish at our wedding, we liked it so much.

  9. ChiaLynn on January 15, 2008 at 12:05 am

    I have to ask my husband to make this one again – kabobs made with pork (I don’t remember the cut, but tenderloin would certainly work), chicken and sausage marinated in lime, butter, ginger, garlic and black truffle oil. (If I were making them, I’d probably leave out the butter – it’s tasty, but I don’t really need the extra calories. And you could use just one type of meat…)

    (We make margaritas with “Simply Limeade” these days, rather than with a mix.)

  10. Anna on January 15, 2008 at 9:58 am

    Yum, folks, you are invited to my house for dinner ANYTIME. As long as you are doing the cooking, of course.

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Anna Sawin is a Connecticut-based portrait, wedding, and editorial photographer. She lives in the shoreline town of Stonington with her family and has discovered the perfect cupcake. Just ask, she is willing to share her secret.