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COOKING ON DEADLINE: Recipe for strawberry-balsamic glazed pork tenderloin

This April 28, 2014, photo shows strawberry balsamic glazed pork tenderloin in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

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This April 28, 2014, photo shows strawberry balsamic glazed pork tenderloin in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

When you discover foods that have a natural affinity for one another, it's easy to find numerous excuses to enjoy them together.

One of my favourites is strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Both sport assertively sweet, nicely acidic flavours that not only work well together, but also pair up wonderfully with so many other foods. Often, I'll keep it simple and make a vinaigrette — 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons strawberry jam, pinch each of salt and pepper, sometimes some minced garlic. Dump it over a salad and top with almonds.

Or if I'm feeling lazy, I'll just make a salad and slice strawberries into it, then squirt the whole thing with balsamic glaze. Intense, but delicious. If I'm in the mood for something sweet, I'll use that same combination — fresh strawberries and balsamic glaze — over vanilla ice cream.

With grilling season well underway, I decided to come up with a way to put these ingredients to work with something meaty. The result was a fantastic grilled pork tenderloin that is slathered with a strawberry-balsamic glaze. For optimal flavour, the pork gets hit with the strawberry-balsamic blend three times — as a marinade, as a glaze during grilling, and again as a sauce when served.

You're going to want something starchy to help balance the flavour — and mop up some of that sauce. Consider microwaving some new potatoes until nearly, but not quite cooked. Gently crush them so they are partly flattened, but not falling apart. Drizzle them with oil, then season them with salt, pepper and garlic powder, then finish them on the grill.

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STRAWBERRY-BALSAMIC GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN

Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 6

1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons honey

3 cloves garlic

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds pork tenderloins

In a blender, combine the strawberries, oil, vinegar, honey, garlic, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour about a third of the mixture into a small saucepan and set aside. Pour another third of the mixture into a large non-reactive (glass or stainless steel) bowl. Pour the remaining sauce into a small bowl.

Slice the pork tenderloins into 1/2-inch rounds. A few at a time, place the rounds between sheets of plastic wrap, then use the a meat mallet or rolling pin to carefully pound the rounds to an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. Place the pounded rounds in the non-reactive bowl with the sauce, turning to coat evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

After the pork has marinated for 20 minutes, heat a grill to medium-high.

Place the saucepan of strawberry-balsamic sauce over medium-low heat on the stovetop. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until thickened. Cover the pan and remove from the heat.

When the pork has finished marinating, use an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to oil the grill grates. Place the pork rounds on the grill. Baste the pork with the sauce set aside in the small bowl. Grill for 3 to 4 minutes, then flip the rounds, baste again and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes.

Divide the pork between 6 serving plates, then spoon a bit of the simmered sauce over them.

Nutrition information per serving: 240 calories; 70 calories from fat (29 per cent of total calories); 8 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 100 mg cholesterol; 9 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 32 g protein; 240 mg sodium.

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J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch@ap.org

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