Fig Molasses Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is one of my favorite cuts of meat to grill. When cooked so that it is still slightly pink in the center it can be incredibly juicy and flavorful. It’s a great alternative to chicken because it’s lean and cooks quickly, but is a much more tender cut of pork compared to a chop or cutlet.
Here I use a wet marinade which can be easily applied to any type of grilled meat or vegetables. If you can find fig molasses, it has a wonderful floral, fruity quality to it but regular molasses is a fine substitute. Combining it with balsamic vinegar gives it that sweet and sour dynamic that you would find in most barbeque sauces along with a robust depth of flavor. The sugars allow the pork to evenly caramelize on the grill enabling a crust to form around the tender center of meat. Sprinkling the pork with fusion rub just before charring gives it a light dusting of sweet, hot, smoky spice.
This duo of balsamic marinade and fusion spice is my go-to method for barbequing because it’s a no muss no fuss process. Both are simple to make in advance, and require no advanced marinating time. In fact, the pork tenderloin is brushed with the marinade only minutes before going on the grill, otherwise the balsamic vinegar will begin to toughen the texture of the meat. The rub can be made in bulk and kept on hand for at least a month.
2 lbs pork tenderloin, trimmed and portioned into 4 pieces
½ C fig molasses
½ C balsamic vinegar
1 C water
2 Tbsp fusion spice rub*
Salt and pepper to taste
[1 Tbsp ground coriander, 1 Tbsp smoked paprika, 1 Tbsp ground black pepper, 1 Tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp sumac, 1 tsp ground cumin, ½ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp cayenne] Combine ground spices together.
Combine molasses and vinegar in a small saucepan over low heat just to dissolve the molasses. Remove from heat, add water and allow to cool. Preheat grill to high, brush pork tenderloins with marinade to evenly saturate, then drizzle meat lightly with olive oil. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired. Grill pork over high heat, allowing 6 minutes of cooking on each side before flipping. Once sides are evenly caramelized, lower heat on grill, cover and continue cooking until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 7 minutes before slicing or serving.
Grilled Vegetable Barley Salad with Smoked Mozzarella and Tomato Basil Vinaigrette
Whole grains can be the perfect base for a salad because they are sturdy enough to stand up to a vinaigrette and have a toothsome quality that creates wonderful texture. When looking for a good accompaniment to grilled pork tenderloin, I thought of ways I could consolidate most of the cooking to the grill, not only to ease my prep time, but also so that the flavors would meld well together. Charred zucchini, eggplant, onions and corn create a colorful ribbon of tastes folded into the cooked barley and cook up quickly while the tenderloin slowly caramelizes. I also tossed in some baby heirloom tomatoes for their brightness and juicy pops of sweetness. Cubes of creamy, smoked mozzarella compliment both the tomatoes and the grilled vegetables and add a separate layer of richness to the mix. The whole thing gets tied together with a cold tomato basil vinaigrette that is both light and complex, due to some aged sherry vinegar and smoky Spanish paprika. It is the type of salad that is incredibly addictive on its own, and stands up well in the fridge for several days with no worse for the wear.
Grilled Vegetable Barley Salad
Extra virgin olive oil
1.5 C pearl barley, cooked until tender then strained and cooled
2 zucchini, cut into quarters, lengthwise
2 baby eggplant, cut into quarters, lengthwise
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 red onion, peeled and sliced into thick, round pieces
1 ball of smoked mozzarella, cut into small cubes
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe tomato basil vinaigrette*
Preheat your grill on high for about 10 minutes. Place the zucchini, eggplant and onions on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar to lightly coat. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Grease the corn cobs with 1 Tbsp of olive oil then season with salt and pepper and wrap individually in tin foil so that they are fully covered. Cook the vegetables on the grill for about 20 minutes, or until they are full cooked with good char marks on all sides. The corn will not char since it is covered, but should fully cook within the foil package. Remove the vegetables from the heat and allow to cool before cutting into medium size pieces. The corn, once cool, can be sliced directly off the cob into kernels by holding each ear upright and using a sawing motion with your knife, slicing downwards. Add the vegetables along with the cheese, tomatoes and parlsey to the barley. Pour in the vinaigrette, toss everything to combine, then season with salt and pepper if necessary.
Tomato Basil Vinaigrette:
2 ripe, medium size tomatoes, cored and quartered
1 shallot, roughly chopped
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp fresh basil, cut into thin slivers
Method: In a blender, combine the first five ingredients together at high speed for 1 minute. Season to taste then fold in the basil.