The trouble with lean meats, such as boneless, skinless chicken breasts and pork tenderloin, is that they lack the flavor of their higher-fat cousins.
But that doesn't mean flavor can't be added.
Flavoring pastes are a particularly handy method of doing so because they are easy to apply, stick to the meat well and contain an optimal balance of moisture to produce meat that is neither dry nor mushy.
Pastes can be made by pureeing strongly flavored ingredients, usually along with some seasonings and just enough oil or other liquid to achieve a consistency that spreads easily, but will stick to the food. Meat that has been coated (pat it dry first) should be covered and refrigerated for at least 1 hour and up to 24.
The soft texture of roasted garlic or caramelized onions makes a great base for a flavoring paste, especially when combined with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil. Consider adding chopped, fresh thyme, rosemary or any herb that strikes your fancy.
Miso, a fermented soybean paste with the consistency of peanut butter, also makes an outstanding base for a flavoring paste. Several varieties of miso are available, with the lighter colors having the mildest and sweetest flavor. Note that miso can be quite salty, so a little goes a long way.
Look for miso with other refrigerated soy products at most larger grocers and natural-food stores.
Miso will keep, refrigerated in an airtight container, for quite a long time (check the date on the package). Among other things, leftover miso can be used as a base for soups, salad dressings or even served on its own as a condiment.
Orange-miso pork tenderloin is prepared using a paste made with sweet white miso, orange juice, minced garlic and ginger. Serve with steamed snow peas or a cold, wild-rice and red-pepper salad tossed in a rice-vinegar and sesame-oil dressing.
Start to finish: 30 minutes (plus 1 to 8 hours marinating)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons sweet white-miso paste
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
11/4 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat (1 large or 2 small tenderloins)
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, miso, ginger, garlic and oil.
Place the pork tenderloin in a large zip-close plastic bag. Add the marinade, then turn the tenderloin to coat completely. Seal the bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours.
Heat a gas grill to medium-high or light a charcoal fire. Oil the grill grates.
Remove the pork from the bag, letting any excess marinade drip off. Grill the tenderloin, turning several times, until just cooked through and an instant thermometer inserted at the center registers 155 F, 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer to a cutting board, cover with foil and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, carve crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 179 calories; 46 calories from fat; 5 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 92 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 30 g protein; 0 g fiber; 138 mg sodium.