I’ve been making the most delicious fennel-rubbed pork tenderloin thanks to Ian Knauer for several years now. I usually serve it over a lemony orzo risotto, but this time I decided to adapt the recipe into a salad when I had a little radicchio on hand from an impulse buy at the grocery store.
Okay, so it wasn’t really an impulse buy. While I didn’t know exactly what I would do with the radicchio when I bought it, I knew something would come to me. And that it did! Amazingly, our annual fennel plant we planted last year rebounded, and produced several more delicious bulbs this year. We also had some pomegranates sitting in the fridge from a friend’s tree. It made perfect sense that these sweet flavors would make a delicious pairing with the bitter radicchio, and could also be a good lesson in food history for all of you.
Believe it or not, I actually love radicchio for its bitter flavors. Full disclosure: I had my DNA analyzed a couple years ago and my genes did give me away as a person who likes bitter foods, which explains why I like black coffee and IPA! But you know what? People who like bitter foods tend to be healthier overall. This is because there are more phytonutrients in bitter produce than mild produce, which is due to the fact that modern agriculture bred these phytonutrients out in favor of sweeter produce with even less fiber.
So what does this mean for us in the modern era? It means that it’s beneficial to test our palate, and even if we don’t like the flavors the first or second time, we can become accustomed to them, or even pair them with other ingredients to balance the flavors. So the next time you bite into a bitter vegetable, like radicchio or arugula, instead of turning up your nose, maybe think how you can make it yummy! Pro tip: Look for vegetables rich in deep colors like purple, green, red, orange, and blue. These pigments are full of antioxidants that can fight cancer and prevent heart disease. For more reading on this, check out this interesting article in the New York Times.
Below is the recipe. I hope you make it and enjoy it! It’s not too bitter in the end. I promise.
Roasted Pork Tenderloin Salad with Braised Fennel and Radicchio
Adapted from Ian Knauer
Time: 45 Minutes
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 lb pork tenderloin
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, cut into 1/2 inch wedges (reserve 1/4 cup fronds)
2 tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicen broth
2 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp whole-grain Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
1 small head radicchio, trimmed, leaves torn
1 small bunch chives, cut into 2-inch lengths
Seeds from 1 small pomegranate
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 350F with rack in the middle.
In a small skillet, toast fennel seeds over medium heat, bout 2-3 minutes, until fragrant and lightly browned. Let cool. Roughly grind seeds in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
Pat pork dry, then sprinkle with crushed fennel seeds and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a 12-inch oven-proof heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Brown pork on all sides, about 6 minutes total, then transfer to a plate. Sauté garlic and fennel wedges in skillet until fennel is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add wine, stirring and scraping up brown bits, then stir in broth and butter. Nestle pork top of fennel and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into center of pork registers 145 to 150°F, about 15 minutes. Transfer pork to a cutting board and let rest 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, transfer skillet to stovetop (handle will be hot) and boil, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid has evaporated. Stir in lemon juice and reserved fennel fronds. Remove from heat.
In a large serving bowl, prepare dressing by whisking olive oil, vinegar, shallot, mustard, and seasoning with salt and pepper. Add 2 tbsp of the braising liquid from the skillet and torn radicchio. Toss to combine and let sit 5 minutes to soften. Add braised fennel wedges, chives, pomegranate seeds, and toss again to combine.
Thinly slice pork and serve over radicchio salad. Garnish with parmesan cheese and enjoy!