This skillet dinner is a gratifying way to enjoy the fall color well after the trees have dropped their leaves. With chunks of orange squash, deep green kale and slices of red apple simmered until tender with medallions of pork, it screams autumn not only because of its seasonal ingredients’ hues, but also because of the way its fuss-free preparation and one-pan cleanup fulfill a practical need during this often overwhelmingly busy time. All that, and it tastes amazing, too.

A key to its mouthwatering, multilayered flavor is the seasoning for the pork (you could sub chicken breast), which is a simple mix of fennel seed and peppercorns, coarsely crushed using a mallet, rolling pin or spice grinder. The fennel imbues the lean meat with the aromatic essence of pork sausage, and the pepper provides an enlivening kick.

The pork cooks quickly, so it’s browned in the pan for just a couple of minutes, then transferred to a plate. Then the squash, which you could buy precut to make this even easier, is simmered briefly in the same skillet, absorbing the meaty flavors left in the pan. Onion and apple are added and cooked until they have softened, then broth with a brightening splash of vinegar and tangy hit of mustard are stirred in and reduced a bit to form a light sauce.

The tenderloin is then returned to the pan, and the kale (or spinach or Swiss chard, if you prefer) is stirred in and simmered for the last few minutes, until the pork is just blushed in the center and the kale is tender but still verdant.

The result is a complete meal, all there in one skillet – protein, vegetable and sauce – stunning, delicious and just right for the season.

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Fennel-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Squash, Apple and Kale

Active time: 35 minutes | Total time: 45 minutes

4 servings

This stunning skillet meal is packed with autumnal flavor and color, with orange squash, deep green kale and slices of red apple simmered until tender, with medallions of pork in a light mustard-spiked sauce. Seasoning the pork with a coarsely ground mixture of fennel seed and peppercorns gives the lean meat an aromatic sausage-like essence that infuses the whole dish.

Storage Notes: Leftover pork and vegetables can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.


3/4 teaspoon whole fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1/2 teaspoon fine salt, divided

1 large pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds), sliced into 1/2-inch thick medallions

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3 cups (about 1 pound) diced butternut squash (3/4-inch dice)

2 tablespoons water

1/2 medium yellow onion (about 4 ounces), thinly sliced

1 medium red apple (8 ounces), such as Honeycrisp, unpeeled, sliced into 1/4-inch thick wedges

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

4 cups (9 ounces) lightly packed, coarsely chopped kale


Place the fennel seeds and black peppercorns into a small sealable plastic bag, then use a mallet or rolling pin to hammer the seeds until they are coarsely ground. (Alternatively, you can pulse them briefly in a spice or coffee grinder, or use a mortar and pestle.) Add 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to the fennel-pepper mixture, then sprinkle it onto both sides of the pork, pressing it in slightly with your fingers so it adheres.

In a large, high-sided skillet with a lid over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the pork and sear until browned, about 1 minute per side, then transfer to a plate.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of the oil to the skillet. Add the squash and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the water, cover and cook until the squash is nearly tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the lid, add the onion and cook, stirring, uncovered, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the apple slices and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more.

Add the broth and vinegar, then stir in the mustard. (Don’t worry if it doesn’t immediately blend into the sauce; it will by the time the dish is done.) Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. Cook until the apple has softened slightly and the liquid has reduced a bit, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the kale and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is tender but retains its shape and color, about 1 minute. Return the pork to the pan with any accumulated juices, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pork is warmed through and just blush in the center, 1 to 2 minutes more; remove from the heat.

Divide the pork and vegetables among the places, drizzle with the pan sauce and serve.

Nutrition information per serving (1 1/2 cups of sliced pork and vegetables), based on 4 | Calories: 403; Total Fat: 18 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 92 mg; Sodium: 482 mg; Carbohydrates: 29 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugar: 10 g; Protein: 35 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

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