I’m going to try not to dwell on how far behind I am. Recapping all this summer’s successful recipes is apparently going to be an impossible task, so let’s skip ahead to fall—but first, I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you about the year’s top salad, as far as our household is concerned. Coincidentally, it’s the second recipe in a row I’ve posted from the New York Times, which I normally don’t follow foodwise, but considering it’s given me double slam dunks, I may need to remedy that.
This salad shares some DNA with our fave peanut-lime chicken rice noodle salad, including, unfortunately, being something of a pain in the ass to put together. I’m not going to lie: Assembling the marinade is pretty time-consuming. I’ve made recipes with longer lists of ingredients and more steps, but somehow this one contains just the right combination of chopping and mincing and juicing and zesting to add up to a massive time suck. I recommend doing it the night before, so the pork can marinate for 24 hours, but make sure you’ve got something quick and easy planned for dinner that evening, because this marinade is a full-time kitchen job in itself.
The good news is that everything else about this recipe is A+. In a genius move, some of that laborious marinade will be reserved (separate from the raw pork, of course) to serve as your dressing as well. The resulting salad is flavorful, refreshingly crunchy, chock-full of a rainbow of vegetables, and enjoyable year-round (perfect for bridging the awkward, sweltering gap that lies between summer and actual fall in SoCal, and which I complain about annually). It’s a champion leftover generator in both quantity and quality—with sturdy cabbage as the base, you can store it all mixed together in grab-and-go servings (I hate dragging a million different little containers to work for meals that can’t be assembled until just before eating). It has pork, which I’m getting more and more fond of (a nice break from the 74 chicken recipes I’ve accumulated over the years), and yields the most perfectly cooked tenderloin I’ve ever managed to make, with little to no effort. Also, cashews and toasted coconut will never fail to delight me.
A few other notes:
- The original recipe was titled “Spicy Thai Pork Tenderloin Salad,” but I didn’t detect much heat either time I made this. I used just one jalapeno, so next time I might try two, or the Thai bird peppers instead.
- I couldn’t fit 8 cups of sliced cabbage in my largest mixing bowl, so I had to scale back to 6, which turns out to be plenty for six generous main-dish servings.
- I also cut back on the herbs. I’m usually the one doubling the cilantro in recipes, but 4 cups of herbs to 8 cups (or 6 in my case) of cabbage seemed a bit excessive, especially when that included a full 1½ cups of mint, which can be so overpowering.
1½ pounds boneless pork tenderloin
⅔ cup thinly sliced shallots (about 4 shallots)
⅔ cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
5 tablespoons light brown sugar
6 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons soy sauce
5 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil (I just used olive oil)
Juice and zest of 4 limes
3-inch piece peeled ginger root, minced
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 to 2 Thai bird, serrano or jalapeño chile peppers, seeded and minced
6-8 cups Napa or regular cabbage, thinly sliced
5 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 small Kirby or Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro leaves
¾ cup mint leaves
1 cup basil leaves
1¼ cups roasted cashews or peanuts, toasted and chopped
¼ cup unsweetened coconut chips or large flakes, toasted
- Pat pork dry with paper towel. In a bowl, combine shallot, cilantro, 2 tablespoons sugar, garlic, soy sauce, oil, lime zest and juice, ginger, fish sauce, salt and chile. Pour a quarter of the mixture into a blender, add remaining sugar and purée until a smooth, loose paste forms. 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.
- Save the remaining, unblended mixture to use as dressing (store, covered, in the refrigerator).
- When ready to cook the pork, preheat the broiler and arrange the oven rack at least 4 inches from the heat. Place the pork on a wire rack and place the rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil pork, turning occasionally, until well browned and meat reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees, 4 to 10 minutes per side depending upon the heat of your broiler. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overcook. (You can grill the pork instead if you prefer.) Let meat rest while you prepare the salad.
- 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, and drizzle with a little more of the remaining dressing, to taste.
Time: 2 hours, plus 2 to 24 hours of marinating
Leftover potential: Great. The mixed and dressed salad will stay relatively intact in the refrigerator for at least three to four days.