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 epicurious.com—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!)
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
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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.