Winter is certainly a time to dig into our dried fruits, especially with our dwindling produce this time of year. It’s a time to celebrate stronger flavours and sweetness. It’s a time for concentrated tastes that warm the body, inside out….
... but it is not a time to give up the barbecue.
Yes, I’m a stubborn Canadian who while my days on the ‘cue have been reduced, still hasn’t given up the fight. Indeed, even when I lived in Yellowknife, I could be seen barbecuing at -40 and even -50ºC. (Okay, I did -50ºC once, just to say I did … but I did.) Still, it is a time for big flavours that command the season.
And, so, I’ve lately been fascinated with dates … and by ‘dates’ I mean the dried fruit. When I was in Saudi Arabia in the fall, dates, were everywhere and as ubiquitous as maple syrup is here in Eastern Canada. And they were delicious. Hitherto that trip, most of my experience with dates had been in the form of date squares which I love more for the oats than the sweetness. But when I ate those dates, I came to realize what a perfectly tender and amazing thing these were. Then, over the last month or so, Anne has been whipping up banana-date “ice cream” — and say this with “quotes” because it isn’t ice cream when it has no dairy in it at all … just dates and frozen bananas. While I didn’t instantly become a convert to creamless “ice cream,” I did like the marriage of these two ingredients and it got me thinking ….
My mind went back to the Middle East … and then kept going and the result is as fusion as I can get. The banana evoked thoughts of Indian and South Asian fare which is ultimately how the dinner evolved to include additional fusion dishes like Curried Sweet Potato Wedges and Wilted Spinach with Black Mustard Seed and Lemon (forthcoming). It got me thinking of warm, tangy chutneys, thick relishes, and sweet-spicy sauces and I recalled a delicious pork dish glazed with tropical flavours and tangy tamarind and the rest, is, as they say, now history ….
Cooking Notes: This rustic glaze takes 30 minutes to prepare and can be made ahead of time, even the day before. Choose a ripe but still firm banana as your ingredient which will allow the banana to cook down but still maintain some toothiness while forming with the the dates to produce a rich, flavourful sauce. This will be heightened by the molasses and the sweet chili sauce. The ginger adds some definite heat to the palette while the lemon juice brings zest to the tongue creating a perfect level of acidity for the pork on which it is served. The key to the dish is cooking the pork tenderloin perfectly. On the grill, this means high temperature searing of the loin and finishing it with indirect cooking. Alternatively, if doing this in your kitchen, sear the loins on the stove top and finish it in the oven at 350ºF (175ºF). But whatever method you use, remove the tenderloin from the heat when meat thermometer registers 150ºF and let the meat rest 5-7 minutes before serving. The rest will allow the essential juices to be reabsorbed by the meat … and allow the internal temperature to climb to 160ºF which is “medium” doneness for pork.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
Total time: 60 minutes
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Banana-Date Glaze
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) olive oil
- 1 small-medium onion, finely diced
- 1½ tablespoons (20mL) fresh ginger, minced
- 1 ripe/firm banana, sliced in quarters, lengthwise, and into 1-cm pieces
- 1/2 cup (5-6 dates) pitted dates, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon (15mL) Thai sweet and spicy sauce
→ or substitute a pinch of chile flakes and couple teaspoons of honey
- 1/4 cup (60mL) molasses
- 1/4 cup (60mL) fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
- 2 teaspoons whole fennel seed
- 1/2 teaspoon dried lavender
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 x 1-pound (450g) pork tenderloins, each
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- kosher salt
- fresh ground pepper
Note: Remove pork from fridge 30-60 minutes before grilling to allow the chill to come off the meat before grilling.
- In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and add the onions and sauté 3-5 minutes until translucent and slightly golden.
Reduce heat, and add the ginger and dates.
Continue to stir over medium heat for 1 another minute. Add the ‘cubed’ bananas …
Stir in the Thai chili sauce, molasses, and lemon juice …
… bring to a simmer, stirring regularly …
… until a thick glaze has formed (7-10 minutes). If the bananas haven’t totally broken down, lightly mash them with the back of a fork. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt. Let stand.
Final glaze will be thick enough to cling in large chunks to a spoon. It will also thicken more as it cools. Don’t worry.
- Make the rub by combining the herbs and spices in a mortar …
… and grind them to a fine powder using the pestle.
- Preheat grill to 450ºF (230ºC).
- Remove the silver-skin and any extra fat from the tenderloins using a very sharp knife.
Rub the loins with olive oil and then rub in the garlic.
Generously season the tenderloins with salt and pepper. Sprinkle them equally generously with the dry rub ensuring loins are well covered.
- Place tenderloins on the grates and grill for about 2 minutes per side, ensuring the loins have good colour all around.
After about 6-8 minutes of this, move the loins to indirect heat and apply a thick layer of glaze and continue to cook another 10-15 minutes.
Loins are done when internal temperature reaches 150ºF.Remove from grill and let rest for 5 minutes — during this rest, the internal temperature will rise to 160ºF which is medium doneness.
- Apply a “smear” of glaze to the plates …
When ready, slice the tenderloins on a slight bias….
… and serve with Curried Sweet Potato Wedges and Wilted Spinach with Black Mustard Seed and Lemon (recipes forthcoming).
Wine Pairing: Served this with an Ontario Gamay from Malivoire Estates (my review here). Otherwise, choose a “jammy” wine with good acidity.