5 Spice Summer in the City

Yesterday was one of the hottest days of the year here in lovely Chicago.  I walked out of the house at 5:15 a.m. to meet my bestie for our morning walk, and the humidity hit me like a brick wall.  It was already 81 degrees and felt like the jungle.  Despite a huge list of things to do in the kitchen (handle farmer’s market rhubarb, CSA corn, carrots, eggplant, zucchini, and fennel), I realized at that moment there was NO. WAY. I was turning on the oven.  But I had already defrosted a pork roast for today’s recipe, and even using a skillet (as the recipe directs) sounded like a bad idea.  So I resolved to wheel out the grill and handle the pork and the pile of produce at the same time.


Five-Spice Pork with Gingered Vegetables
TOTAL TIME: 0:25          PREP: 0:15          LEVEL: Moderate          SERVES: 4

  • 1½ c. bulgur
  • 1 tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • ¾ tsp. five-spice powder
  • salt
  • 1 whole pork tenderloin, cut into 1 inch medallions
  • 5 medium carrots
  • 8 oz. stringless snap peas
  • 1 tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • ¼ c. water


  1. Prepare bulgur as label directs.
  2. Meanwhile, in 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt on pork medallions to season all sides. Add to hot oil in single layer. Cook 6 to 7 minutes, turning over once, until instant-read thermometer registers 145 degrees F when inserted horizontally into pork. Transfer to plate.
  3. To same skillet, add carrots, snap peas, ginger, 1/4 cup water, remaining 1/4 teaspoon five-spice powder, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook 2 minutes or until carrots are just tender, stirring, adding another tablespoon water if pan seems too dry. Serve over bulgur with pork.

I skipped the bulgur because we are eschewing wheat right now.  I offered Husband quinoa, but he opted for salad, so we eliminated step one.  I seasoned the pork medallions and put them on the grill.  This recipe says cook to an internal temp of 145°, but I prefer 155° for pork, so I let them go a little longer. (Our grill was being temperamental and we had to switch propane tanks in the middle of the cooking, so I can’t give you an actual time here.)  I even tried to do the fancy cross-hatch marks like I learned in school, but they didn’t really show up because of the whole low-propane issue.

I peeled the carrots, salted and peppered them, and put the larger ones on the grill (opposite the pork) with the smaller ones on the rack, because they were skinny enough to fall into the flames.  The skinnier and smaller ones softened up beautifully and got some lovely char on the tips (they were on the heat for 20 minutes).  I cut them all up into 1-2 inch pieces after they came off the grill and tossed them into the pot with the pea pods as directed in step three. I cooked the vegetables for at least 5 minutes so the thicker carrots could soften a bit more.

That’s a big shred of ginger on the left in the vegetable pile

Verdict: Success! The pork was flavorful and juicy.  The 5 spice was very subtle, and I think could be increased without becoming overwhelming.  Rice or a similar component would bring the dish together well, but I can’t say it is necessary– we didn’t really miss the bulgur.  The 5 spice flavor was more evident in the veggies, and the pops of grated ginger were hot and bold (Husband immediately moved the larger shreds to my plate). I was happy with the smaller grilled carrots, but the thicker ones were still a bit raw in the center. Going forward, I would cut those in half lengthwise before grilling. I would definitely use the grill for this dish again.  It was a great way to get everything going at the same time, and allowed me off moments to check on the garden and supply a pan of water to our wild rabbit family.  The pork rested while I finished up the vegetables, and despite the grill blip, the meal was on the table in about 30 minutes.


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