I never thought I’d welcome fall as much as I do this year. See, I’m that girl that holds on to every last bit of daylight, sunshine, and heat from the summer, refusing to admit the seasons are changing as I freeze my butt off in flip-flops on a November morning. Yet here I am, unusually eager for life to slow down a little. This past summer has been one of the busiest I can recall, full of activities and fun times but also lots of work. Fortunately, I managed to pull it all off and still get ample sleep and exercise while staying on track with nourishing, healthy meals—most of the time, anyway.
I eat a lot of raw vegetables in the summer, and I don’t tire of them easily, but there are days when I feel a desire for something warm and cooked. Protein-rich stir-fries are a mainstay in my busy life, especially in warmer months. In my opinion they’re one of the finest ways to enjoy the bounty of the summer harvest in a quick, hassle-free way.
Stir-fries have all the markers I’m looking for in everyday cooking. They’re easy to throw together with whatever is in season or plentiful, and you can change them up in all kinds of ways by using different meats, vegetables, and flavorings. They’re economical, allowing you to stretch pricey protein-rich foods, and they can be prepared with almost any cut of seafood or meat—even tough ones, which stay tender thanks to the quick cooking. Additionally, that swift cooking gives the veggies just enough heat to take off their chill yet retain and even enhance their crunch and nutrients. A stir-fry truly is one of the fastest ways I know to get a load of delicious, nutritious food on my plate with minimal effort.
This wonderful pork and green bean stir-fry is packed with the bold flavors of Southeast Asia, a region I’ve swooned about before on this blog. The cuisines of that part of the world just seem to have a knack for creating incredible complexity out of uncomplicated preparations, often boasting an uncanny synchronization of salty, sweet, hot, and tart flavors.
Here I started with mild-tasting pork tenderloin, which is quick to cook and readily takes on the assertive shades of the sauce. Because I love the extra flavor and crunchy texture of meats seared over a fire, I opted to grill the tenderloin, which I then sliced and tossed with the sauce while the meat was still hot to really infuse it with all the flavors of its dressing. That said, you could eliminate the extra step of grilling the meat and stir-fry the entire dish on the stovetop and still obtain great results. You could also roast the tenderloin in the oven instead of grilling it. Do whatever works best for you.
For the vegetables I went with a simple combo of onions and garden-fresh green beans, cooked just to crisp-tender to preserve their nutrients and texture and mixed with a scatter of basil. Finally, I topped it all off, literally, with a crunchy chilled cucumber salad to create some wonderful textural and temperature contrasts. Yum.
Fresh and full of flavor, Thai Grilled Pork and Green Bean Stir-fry with Spicy Cucumber Relish is a simple but delicious way to use up the last of summer’s bounty. Serve it on its own or, if desired, over rice or rice noodles.
Thai Grilled Pork and Green Bean Stir-fry with Spicy Cucumber Relish
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cucumber relish (see ingredient list below)
Sauce for pork (see ingredient list below)
1 pork tenderloin, about 1 pound, trimmed of sinew
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1–2 tablespoons oil for frying, such as peanut oil or coconut oil
1 red or yellow onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced
½ teaspoon grated ginger
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 pound green beans, trimmed and cut in half, if large
1 large handful Thai or Genovese basil leaves
For the cucumber relish:
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced
1 small shallot, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes or ¼ small bird’s eye chili, minced
Juice of half a lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the pork sauce:
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon tamari
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 drop or pinch stevia or ½ teaspoon coconut sugar
1 tablespoon peanut oil, plus more for cooking pork and stir frying
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine cucumber relish ingredients (cucumber through salt and pepper). Place bowl in fridge. In a bowl large enough to hold the pork, mix ingredients for pork sauce (fish sauce through cilantro) and set aside.
- Preheat the grill to high or the oven to 450°F. Butterfly pork, rub with oil, and season liberally with salt and pepper. (Alternately, if stir-frying the pork, do not butterfly the tenderloin but instead slice it across thinly; toss slices with some oil, salt, and pepper, and set aside.) Grill or roast pork to medium (160°F at its center), about 10–15 minutes on the grill or 20 minutes in the oven. Set aside on a cutting board for at least 5 minutes to rest.
- Mix 2 tablespoons tamari and 1 tablespoon fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside. Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok or large frying pan until hot. Add onion and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes, and stir-fry 1 minute. Add green beans along with a splash of water; stir-fry mixture for 1 minute and then cover pan with a lid. Cook until green beans are crisp-tender, about 5–7 minutes.
- Remove lid from pan and add tamari/fish sauce mixture. Simmer 1 minute to allow mixture to coat veggies. Add basil and stir mixture until basil has wilted. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste. (If stir-frying meat, transfer green-bean mixture to a large bowl and cover. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan and heat over high. When oil is shimmering, add pork and stir-fry 3–5 minutes until pork is just cooked through.)
- Slice grilled or roasted pork thinly and add to bowl with pork sauce. Toss to combine, allowing meat to sit in sauce while you plate the food. Divide green bean mixture among individual plates. Top with sauced or stir-fried pork and a big spoonful of cucumber relish and serve.
Image from Briana Goodall.