So many plums, so little time. The countdown is on for the end of the stone fruit season, but right now you can find perhaps a dozen plum varieties at both your local farmers’ market or supermarket. A recent stroll down the grocery aisle revealed Pluots of the red, green, and dinosaur varieties, as well as Sunrise Reds, Midnight Moons, Damson, Greengage, Mirabelle and Stanley Rubies. The colors both outside and in reflect the rainbow. I love buying a few of each so that chopped and mixed you can create a colorful salsa with tastes that run from tart to sweet, then pump that flavor further with fresh lime, crystallized ginger and loads of fresh mint.
Plums are an essential flavor in many Asian cuisines, but especially Japanese and Chinese. While neither the salsa nor the pork marinade are authentic, they reflect my modern update on classic cuisines using the palate of flavors and pantry staples that represent their birth regions. I first traveled to both Japan and China shortly after my year-long stint in four kitchens in France, where I drilled down on classic techniques. That travel, more than anything else in my life, transformed both my palate and thoughts toward technique, opting for less reliance on fat-first flavor and relying more heavily on quick cooking techniques and bold aromatics, like ginger. It has been said I am a fiend for ginger. That is no lie.
I found this bamboo ginger grater on one of my trips, and it is much easier to clean and gives a higher yield of grated ginger than a microplane. If you ever see one, snag it. The two recipes in this post rely on crystallized ginger for the salsa (love the little texture contrast that crystallized gives when mixed with fruit) and fresh for the marinade. Fresh ginger is also a terrific meat tenderizer, so this marinade works well with less primo cuts of meat.
Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin
This marinade recipe in its first iteration came about from a bet with the great Josh Wesson, lord of all things food and wine pairing. Once during Aspen’s Food & Wine Classic, he smugly dared me to serve up blue fish in any possible way that would EVER pair with a wine. Once thought to be too oily to be wine-friendly, the pesky poisson was handily tamed by this robust marinade. I WON. I don’t remember where we landed for the wine, but believe it was a Gewurztraminer or something in the Alsatian family. The marinade went on to earn me a spot in the Gourmet Magazine Healthy Menu Awards final round, and in yet another reboot it was featured in Great Women Chefs. Until I saw the parade of plums this week, I had not thought of the marinade in quite a while, but dusted it off and tweaked a few ratios and ingredients, and it’s just as full of flavor (and simple to prepare) as I remember. And as is required to qualify for my list of favorite “dump and stir” recipes, this Asian marinated pork lets some of the store-bought ingredients like black bean garlic paste and hoisin do the heavy lifting, flavor-wise.
With all the plums in season right now, it’s the perfect time to whip up a little Asian-inspired Ginger Plum Salsa. And what could be better than serving that with this flavor-rich and a snap to prepare Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin?
Ginger Plum Salsa
2 cups pitted and diced plums (assorted varieties, about 4 or 5 plums)
1/2 cup diced, peeled cucumber
2 Tablespoons minced red onion or 1 scallion, thinly sliced
Juice of one lime (about 2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice)
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 Tablespoons chiffonade (thin ribbons) of fresh mint
2 1-pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of silver skin and fat
Make Ginger Plum Salsa
Combine the plums, cucumber and red onion (or scallions) in a small bowl.
In another small bowl, whisk together the fresh lime juice, honey, crystallized ginger and red pepper flakes. Pour over the fruit and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Add the mint just before serving.
Makes 2 1/2 cups
Make Asian Marinade
Combine all marinade ingredients and marinate the pork at least 30 minutes and up to overnight. If you are marinating for more than 1 hour, refrigerate, covered.
Grill Asian Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Remove meat from marinade and pat dry. Start over a hot grill to mark, then cook on a cooler part of the grill (with the lid down) about 20-30 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 145oF. Alternatively cook in a 425oF until meat reaches temperature, 20-35 minutes.
Remove from the grill or oven and let rest 10 minutes before carving.
Serve alongside ginger plum salsa.
Prep Time:20 minutes (plus marinating time)
Cook Time:25 minutes
Fresh mint and lime juice really elevate the flavors in the salsa and brighten the whole plate.
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Who are you ugly-looking, cardoon-like stalk hanging out in my farmers’ market? Why are you catching my eye now? Are you a fruit? A vegetable? What can I do with you? You look absolutely flavorless from here! Why why why would I want to take you home?
Well, friends, I am here to tell you how this homely VEGETABLE – yes, not a fruit – can change your life. Like right this very minute. Only 5 minutes of chopping and 7 minutes of stirring and you have the hottest condiment of the season – a zesty gingery dried cherry and lime rhubarb chutney flavor-bomb.
Despite being a vegetable which grows from rhizomes (think ginger), rhubarb is most often treated like a fruit – jams, pies, cobblers, and crisps. That’s because its super tart acidity begs for the addition of something sweet. The large triangular leaves look a bit like the Caribbean vegetable callaloo or even taro. However they are generally considered poisonous. You won’t see them at the market (that would be a mean farmer), but you will see them if you grow your own. Best to steer clear. They are only a problem if ingested so don’t worry about harvest.
And, you might be wondering about the wide range of color. Sometimes it’s kind of baby diarrhea green, and sometimes its ruby red. In general, the red comes out first in the season and is from a hot-house, and the green is more likely to be field grown showing up later in the season. But color also varies by variety. There are dozens of varietals with flashy names ranging from Egyptian Queen to Prince Albert. The variety German Wine has pink speckling on green stalks, while Fraulein Sharfer Torte has very fat, red stalks. The taste will not vary much, but the appearance of the end product depends on produce selected. Choose stalks that are firm and crisp. Since I got a color combo when purchasing recently, I divided the pieces, while chopping, by color. I cooked the greener pieces down first to get the creamy base and then added the redder pieces in later to add a bit of texture and the bright color. Whether or not you separate by color will not impact taste, just the aesthetics.
One way to heighten and set the color of any red or blue fruit (or vegetable) is to add acid. Often chutneys call for vinegar, and as I was perusing my cabinet for the perfect choice, I saw the two limes I had purchased just for this purpose and forgotten about. Genius! It was a maiden voyage using lime in chutney prep and oh-so-delicious. I served this gingery rhubarb chutney on fresh goat cheese the other day and the first cry from the crowd was “limey deliciousness!” It is a match made in heaven.
Making Rhubarb Chutney
I also chose dried cherries to add both to the redness of the finished dish and to add a pop of rich dark fruit. Dried fruit in chutney is classic, but golden raisins wouldn’t have done either of the twin duties that dried cherries took on. Chutneys are all about balancing tart and sweet and contrasting textures, often with a touch of heat. This rhubarb chutney recipe combines tart rhubarb with sweet dried cherries and balances the perkiness of lime juice and zest with sugar. Crystallized ginger adds both heat and texture. And adding the chopped rhubarb in two stages further adds contrasts in texture. Because of all the acidity in the dish, be sure to store in a non-reactive (glass) airtight dish.
If you find yourself with an abundance of rhubarb stalks, trim and chop the stalks and spread out in a single layer and freeze. Once the pieces are frozen, you can place them in a Ziploc bag and store more compactly. This will give you an off-season supply to make fresh rhubarb chutney to go with your Christmas goose or Easter ham. I love to top fresh cheeses like goat or fresh ricotta with this chutney or serve with grilled or roast meats like pork, chicken or game. Enjoy!
Chutneys are all about balancing tart and sweet and contrasting textures, often with a touch of heat. This rhubarb chutney recipe combines tart rhubarb with sweet dried cherries and balances the perkiness of lime juice and zest with sugar. Crystallized ginger adds both heat and texture.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add lime zest and juice, dried cherries, and crystallized ginger. Return to heat, and bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute. Add sugar and salt, and stir until dissolved. Add about half the rhubarb (see note) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the rhubarb dissolves, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining rhubarb. Simmer until the rest of the rhubarb just begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Let cool completely.
Taste and adjust flavor, adding additional sugar or lime juice to balance to your desired level of sweetness.
I saved the reddest pieces for the second addition of rhubarb to boost the color of the finished dish.
This can be refrigerated in a non-reactive container, covered, for several weeks.
Serve with cheeses from Brie or fresh Ricotta to Manchego and Parmesan. Also pairs well with grilled meats like chicken and pork.
Nothing screams holidays like cranberries, citrus and spice. Mulled wine, orange pomanders (that’s fancy talk for oranges poked full of cloves), and cranberry garlands. So imagine my delight when the good people from the healthy living site Mambo Sprouts shot me a box of the finest spices to review. Squealing! I like to make edible gifts for the holidays – are you with me? We really don’t need one more thing to dust or store. But devour? Hells yeah! Last year I made cheese wafers and put them in a nice little cracker dish (okay, one more thing to store).
This year I have on my radar some spice blends and chutney. What’s that you say? Chutney is weird? No, no. Ain’t so. Yes. You are right. But only if you are referring to the more traditional, pungent (read: medicinal tasting) versions that are fortified with mustard oil and strong vinegar. This Anglo spin balances its tarts with equal measure sweets (sugar, dried cranberries and candied ginger), and the acid from kumquats (unlike strong vinegar) borders on sweet. It’s practically dessert, wink wink. It can be the perfect foil to too-rich-double-crème brie or the right amount of sweetness to tangy goat cheese. One chutney can do both! Spicy (think turmeric, allspice and cinnamon), zippy (crystallized ginger), tart (kumquats and crans) and sweet (yeah, there’s some sugar – but not as much, by half, of what you would normally see.)
Palate. Passion. Purpose.
You already know I’m all about this, right? But I have met my match in partnering with Frontier Co-op. A purpose-driven company, Frontier’s theme is Cook with Purpose. Every bottle contains products with a story and the label tells that story. Frontier, as one of the earliest to advocate organics, firmly believes that social responsibility is the foundation for great products and that sustainable agriculture and ethical sourcing yield quality. Since their 1976 Iowa founding (in a river cabin!), they have worked with growers worldwide to build a safe food supply. A large part of that is education and they have created charitable funds (three to be exact) that train farmers and co-ops on how to protect themselves and the environment. The turmeric, sourced in Sri Lanka, was produced by a co-op that benefited from a Frontier grant which enabled an organic training center for the farmers. The cinnamon is Vietnamese. Frontier provided its producers with educational supplies, beds, room & board so the children in these remote communities can be educated. Worldwide, producers are blessed by the generosity of Frontier providing so many basics, ranging from clean water to roads to medical care. Frontier is on a mission – responsibility to people and planet. And btw interesting timing…our paths crossing now. I’m a month away from joining the board of CWS, a global agency with key initiatives in sustainability, hunger, development, and advocacy, among other important work. #fullcircle Frontier had me at Purpose!
Spicing It Up!
Armed with my box of Frontier Co-op goodies, and knowing it’s the time of year when warm spices soothe the soul, I decided to dose this chutney with Vietnamese cinnamon, turmeric, and allspice. The great thing about warm spices is they can flow from sweet to savory, and in fact this chutney does a bit of both. I spent some time a few years ago in southern India and learned more about Ayurvedic cooking. (I also learned a thing or two – first hand – about Ayurvedic massage. Ever have a massage by two people with a whole lotta oil and choreographed moves? Inner-resting! But, that’s for another post.)
A word…or two…about the star ingredients – the spices!
Quality cinnamon is different from supermarket cinnamon (generally cassia) due to its super high oil content, a result of specific harvesting techniques. This Vietnamese (fka Saigon) cinnamon has at least a 5% oil content, which makes it more than double the regular stuff. That results in an abundance of flavor, but especially the pungent, sweet and spicy notes. It also means a little bit goes a long way. The difference in color compared with supermarket brands is remarkable.
You may remember that Buddha Bowl post with fresh turmeric from the winter. While it’s lovely to source fresh ingredients, chances are that rhizome has been on the road a while. If you want real flavor, reach for a quality dried spice. Often called Indian saffron, turmeric – a member of the ginger family – not only gives curry its bright golden color, but it also adds a pepperiness that makes it a regular in Asian cuisine.
And our old friend allspice – I just used it in that yummy pumpkin chia pudding recipe. While it seemingly combines cinnamon + clove + nutmeg and has a very big name, it’s just a single spice and it hails from Jamaica. No doubt you have seen it as an essential ingredient in jerk chicken. It is in fact the unripe berry of a small evergreen. How very Christmasy!
In a medium non-reactive saucepan, combine the cranberries, kumquats, sugar, applesauce, and lemon juice. Cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 minutes.
Add the dried cranberries, crystallized ginger, vanilla extract, cinnamon, allspice, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Continue simmering until the fruit is softened and the chutney is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes more.
Remove from heat and let cool completely. Refrigerate, covered, and serve at room temperature.
Makes 3 cups.
Serving Suggestions: This is great with roast meats, slathered on a sammie, or served alongside or atop cheeses. If you warm it up, it will thin a bit and it makes the best glaze for your Christmas ham.
Serving and Giving Notes
The chutney can be made up to 1 week in advance, and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. It will easily last several weeks, but I’m just not going to tell you to prepare it weeks ahead. Scraping the last bit out of the bottom of the jar 3 weeks in? Well, that’s a different story. By all means!
If you are making this to give as a gift, make sure to sterilize the jars (glass only, please), and let your giftee know this has not been canned, needs to be refrigerated, and is for current consumption.
Taste the Tropics. Lime-cured fish, spicy jalapeños and tropical fruit. It’s a fruity fresh twist on a traditional recipe.
1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound bay scallops, trimmed of muscle
1/2 pound salmon fillet, cut in ½ “ pieces
1 diced red pepper
3 scallions, sliced on diagonal
1 minced jalapeno
1 cup lime juice, or enough to cover
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 mango, diced
1 pink grapefruit, cut in sections and diced, juice reserved
1 orange, cut in sections and diced, juice reserved
Salt and pepper
Garnish: Fried Plantain Chips
Blanch the shrimp in boiling water, for 1 – 2 minutes, until no longer translucent. Drain and refresh in cold water. Cut into 1/2″ pieces.
Combine shrimp, scallops, salmon, red pepper, scallions, jalapeno, and lime juice. Refrigerate, covered, for 2 – 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
Drain off most of the liquid. Whisk together olive oil, orange juice, and cilantro. Pour over fish and add mango, grapefruit, orange and their juices. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to serve.