Corn & Black Bean Salad with Grilled Pork

As we have already discussed, colorful food is pretty much always the best. Nutrition experts say that in order to ensure you’re getting the best range of nutrients, you should try to eat every color of the rainbow in your foods. We Americans really don’t have a lot of dishes we can take credit for that are incredibly colorful and good for you… we pretty much can boast hot dogs and fried chicken, neither of which are exceptionally high on the “eat this because it helps your health” meter. As I mentioned in my Greek Salad recipe, the Greeks are super well-known for being ultra health conscious in their food. However, today we are traveling to Mexico with a very classic Mexican dish known as corn salad. The cool thing about this is that it can be eaten hot, or cooked and then chilled and served cold, so it makes an awesome cookout side dish if you serve it without the meat.

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There are a lot of elements to this that actually work well on their own, so I’ll separate it out that way. Check the recipe at the bottom if you’re unsure about how to time it so it all comes out at the same time. For the pork, I used boneless pork chops. This is so easy guys, I mean really. All you do is rub both sides of the pork chops with salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, and ground cayenne. (The cayenne is what adds the heat, so bear that in mind when seasoning. If you don’t really like your food spicy, leave it out altogether.) Then, just put them on a grill over medium heat and grill for about 6-7 minutes per side, or until the internal temp reaches 160 degrees. This recipe serves 4 people, so use 4 pork chops.

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To really make this fresh and delicious, I used fresh corn on the cob for the corn base for the salad. This recipe for grilled corn is so super good, so feel free to steal it from this recipe and just make this bangin’ corn on the cob for your next barbecue! The key is seasoning the corn and then grilling it, instead of just boiling it in a pot of water. The real magic is in a seasoned butter – soften about 3 tablespoons of butter and add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro. (If you’re making the corn on the cob on its own, feel free to sub in whatever herbs you like!) Mix the seasonings into the butter and then slather it on 3 ears of corn. I have found that it’s easier to spread it on one side (as shown in the photo) and then use your hands to rub it around the whole ear.

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Once they are rubbed with the herb butter, wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and grill for about 15-20 minutes, over indirect heat, turning occasionally. Once it’s done, take it out of the foil and then cut it off the cob and set aside. The base of the salad gets made on the stove, not on the grill, so get a large skillet with about 2 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat. To the heated pan, add a diced bell pepper and either one diced yellow onion or one diced red onion. (The red onion gives more powerful flavor and more color!) Once these have sweated (about 2 minutes), add in 3 cloves of minced garlic, a drained can of black beans, and 4 diced Roma tomatoes. (If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, use a can of diced tomatoes, drained.)

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Stir this together and add two teaspoons of salt and pepper, a teaspoon of dried cilantro, and a half teaspoon of cayenne. (Use more or less depending on your preferred heat level!) Let simmer for about two minutes and then add your reserved corn. Give it a final stir and then plate it, topping each plate with a sliced pork chop. Top with freshly chopped cilantro!

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This is a total crowd pleaser and a great way to shake up dinner in the middle of the week! The whole thing can also be made inside on a griddle or on the stove, so it works for all seasons, but it’s really a great summer dish!

Full Recipe:

Mexican Corn & Black Bean Salad with Grilled Pork

Yield: 4 servings (8 if you are making it as a side and not a main dish.)

Ingredients:

3 ears of fresh corn, husked
3 tablespoons softened butter
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cilantro (to taste)

4 boneless pork chops
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, cilantro, and cayenne (to taste)

2 tbsp canola oil
1 bell pepper, diced
1 yellow or red onion, diced
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt, pepper, cilantro, and cayenne (to taste)

Process:

1) Heat half of your grill to medium heat.

2) Combine softened butter and spices and spread over ears of corn. Wrap corn in aluminum foil and place over indirect heat on your grill. (Remember to turn every few minutes. Corn should be done after about 15-20 minutes.)

3) Rub pork chops with spices on both sides. Spray heated half of grill with cooking spray and then place pork chops on heated side. (Cook for approximately 6-7 minutes per side, or until internal temp reaches 160 degrees.)

4) In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of canola oil and add diced pepper and onion. Let sweat for two minutes, then add the garlic, beans, and tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro, and cayenne, to taste.

5) While salad is simmering, take corn off the grill and cut the corn off the cobs. Once it’s all cut, add into the salad, give it a final stir, and then turn off the heat.

6) Plate the corn salad and put a sliced pork chop on top of each plate. Serve immediately.

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Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

I’m pretty convinced that everything good in the world comes from the Mediterranean region. As my loyal readers know, Tuscany is probably my favorite place on the planet, as I illustrated in my most pinned and most popular blog post ever, Tuscan Pasta in Lemon Blush Sauce. (Guys, it’s been pinned 142 times as of today. That’s a LOT for a small town girl like me!)

But I digress.

A place I have yet to visit in the world (but is TOTALLY on my bucket list!) is Greece. Not only is that a country steeped to the bursting in history and rich culture, but their food is known for being natural and wholesome. The Greeks are not at all fans of processed food – most McDonald’s that have tried to open there have ended up closing. Because of this, it’s naturally the ideal kind of cuisine for someone like me.

So, I’m sure a lot of you frequently visit Panera or some other establishment that serves a “Greek Salad.” Usually, it’s mixed greens with some olives, peppers, and feta tossed on top. Now don’t get me wrong – I will tear up a Greek salad from Panera Bread if I’m waiting to meet a client there. But did you know, the classic “Greek” salad actually has no lettuce at all?

Yup, that’s right. It’s a tomato and cucumber based salad, tossed with red onion, green pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese, and dressed with an olive oil vinaigrette.

Mouth watering yet? Yeah, mine too.

Read on my for my take on the classic Greek salad – warmed up with sautéed chicken!

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Mise en place – French for “everything in its place,” or doing all of your prepwork before you start cooking – is so important for this dish! The only thing you have to cook is the chicken, and that goes so fast that you’ll need to have everything else ready beforehand!

So, get yourself your favorite large cutting board (my father made mine for me, crafty gentleman that he is) and prep the following:

One pint cherry tomatoes, halved.

One cucumber, large dice.

One green pepper, small dice.

Half a red onion, small dice.

About 40 (ish) kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped.

Three cloves garlic, minced.

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MAKE OR BREAK TIP: Kalamata olives typically come with the pits still in them. To get them out, crush the olive under the side of a chef’s knife (sort of like how you’d smash a clove of garlic to peel it) until it smashes down and the skin breaks, then pull the pit out with your fingers. It’s a little tedious, but once you get a rhythm, it’s not so bad.

Once this is all done, cube two large chicken breasts into bite sized pieces. Put a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and once the pan is hot, add the chicken and season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss to coat and let simmer for five minutes or so, tossing occasionally. When it’s just about done, add your minced garlic, toss to combine, and cook for one additional minute.

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While the chicken is cooking, make your dressing by whisking together the zest and juice of one lemon, 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (the really good stuff!), 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. I know it doesn’t look like a lot, but I promise, you only want a light coating of dressing!

Once the dressing is done, add your prepped veggies to a large bowl and pour the dressing overtop. As soon as the chicken/garlic is finished cooking, get it off the heat and immediately into the bowl. Toss it all together so the heat from the chicken warms up the vegetables a bit, and then dish it out and top with crumbled feta cheese!

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We eat with our eyes before we ever taste with our tongues, and I have to say, the colors in this dish make it look SO appetizing – and the flavors packed into it don’t disappoint!

Alternatively, you could of course make this into a vegetarian dish by removing the chicken. (Removing the chicken also turns it into a super awesome side dish, especially for summer!)

Full Recipe:

Warm Greek Salad with Chicken

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, large dice
1 green pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
Approx 40 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large chicken breasts, cubed into bite size pieces
Zest + juice of one lemon
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for sautéing chicken)
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Salt, pepper, oregano, basil, to taste

Process:

1) Prep all vegetables first (tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, and olives), putting them into a large bowl as you finish each one.

2) In a small bowl, whisk together lemon zest and juice, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and 1 tsp each of salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Add to vegetables.

3) Cube chicken and add to a heated skillet with 2 tbsp olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, oregano, and basil. Toss occasionally and allow to cook for about five minutes, or until cooked through. Just before chicken is done, add minced garlic and toss to combine, allowing to cook for one additional minute.

4) Remove chicken from heat and immediately add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with feta cheese after serving.