Orzo Salad with Radish and Fennel

My family is afraid of vinegar.  I know, how can you be afraid of vinegar?  I didn’t believe it either, but it is true.  As soon as I take a bottle of vinegar out of the pantry, my family runs for the hills.  I am the only one that likes salad dressing (aside from my youngest, but she will only eat ranch dressing), and when I have to cook with vinegar, it is mandatory to open all the windows – even if it is cold and raining outside (oh, have I mentioned that we have only had 72 minutes over 75 degrees this year?), the windows need to be wide open for the smell to escape.  I have learned over the years that it is best to cook with vinegar when I am the only one in the house – and since that almost never happens, my vinegar bottles remain very full in the pantry – longing for me to find discrete ways to use them.

Because of the issue with vinegar, pasta salads are not very popular in our house.  I love them, and look for them every day in the salad bar at work – and for that matter, I cover my salad with balsamic vinegar every day.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and what caught my eye was the fact that it was missing a key ingredient – yes, vinegar!  I had to give it a try, I had nothing to lose – and I was able to keep the windows shut.  So, here was the funny part – it actually wasn’t that good the first night I served it.  The dressing was too strong, and the orzo and veges needed more time to marinate.  The next day though, it was awesome.  I had no intention of blogging about this, until I had the leftovers.  The flavors really came together in perfect harmony, music to my mouth.  So – give this one a try, but you must make it ahead of time and let it sit – it is definitely a pasta salad well worth the wait.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fennel (about 1 bulb)
  • 1/2 cup chopped radish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preparation

Cook orzo pasta with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to the package directions, omitting additional fat. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.

Combine lemon juice and next 3 ingredients (through pepper) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add orzo, fennel, and the next 4 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt); toss well to coat. Cover and chill. Top with nuts before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Orzo Salad

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Sesame-Soy Cucumber Salad

I have mentioned previously about my obsession with cucumber cocktails…but I failed to mention that I am pretty much just obsessed with cucumbers in general.  I am the only one in my house that likes them, and I can easily eat an entire cucumber in one sitting – easily.  I love how easily they take on a marinade – and how just a little bit of seasoning can go a long way.

I remember when we lived in Denver (the sunniest place on earth) and my husband was just in the beginning stages of his gardening passion – he would basically grow anything.  He decided to try cucumbers, and little did he know they would grow like weeds.  He hates cucumbers, so luckily for me, I had loads of them all summer long.  He tried to eat them and tried to like them, but just couldn’t do it.  That was the last year we grew cucumbers – he decided he couldn’t waste the space on something he didn’t like.  Also – aside from eating them raw, I have to admit, zucchini is much more versatile.  You can bake, cook, roast, grill, pretty much do anything with zucchini – they are just as easy to grow – and my husband loves them.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - and it looked so good, I had to make it – and eat it – all of it – by myself.  It was really no trouble though, the entire dish was gone in a matter of minutes.  It was super easy – and would be delicious alongside some grilled chicken or steak.  So give it a try, and don’t be like me – wait a day before eating – it actually gets better the longer you wait…

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced seeded cucumber

Preparation

Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add cucumber; toss to coat.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Sesame-Soy Cucumber Salad

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Thai Chicken Salad

Salad, greens, ruffage, or as my step-father calls it “The Silent Killer,” based on Jeffrey Steingarten’s book “The Man Who Ate Everything.”  Yes, I read the book, but I didn’t believe it.  I cannot live without salad – it is my stand-by lunch every day.  I cannot get enough greens, as I like to call it.  There is something about that fresh crunching sound that really invigorates me.

Every summer we have one or two weeks when it is so hot, you don’t want to turn on the oven or the stove.  Occasionally it gets too hot to even grill outside – of course as I sit here on this sunny day in May when it is barely getting out of the 50s, I can’t ever imagine that will happen again.  Unless I have just ruined it for us, yes, it does eventually get warm – at least for a few days.  I remember my husband saying that a good hearty salad would be perfect on those hot days – thus avoiding the oven, store and grill.  So, when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – I decided to give it a try – just to see if this would make the mark.

Let me first start out by saying that I made enough salad to feed a small army – but it was delicious.  The dressing was light, yet potent enough to give it a wonderful peanut flavor.  The sprouts made it slight bitter, but I loved that – and the red peppers added a touch of sweetness.  The fresh lime though really made the salad.  I ended up squeezing a few extra sections onto my helping, and it was just the touch it needed.  This summer, when you don’t feel like cooking – go and get yourself some cooked chicken from the market, and whip this one up – it will fill you up, without creating any heat!

Ingredients

  • 6 cups torn romaine lettuce
  • 2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 2 cups fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 3/4 cup sliced celery
  • 2/3 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
  • 4  lime wedges (optional)

Preparation

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine coconut milk and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper) in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens slightly, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool for 2 minutes. Pour warm coconut milk mixture over lettuce mixture. Sprinkle with peanuts; serve with lime wedges, if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6 as a main course.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Thai Chicken Salad

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Turkey and Tomato Salad with Avocado Dressing

 

There are two types of people – people who like salad dressing, and people who don’t.  I am definitely a salad dressing person – my husband, not so much.  He is perfectly content to sit down to a nice big salad with no dressing.  My older daughter, the same way.  There has to be a lot of cheese on the salad for me to do that…  My younger daughter – just like me – carrots are just a means to get the ranch dressing into her mouth.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light - and was stuck on the dressing.  The funny part is the title of the recipe had no mention of the dressing what-so-ever.  I adapted the salad slightly to what I had in the house that evening – but I have to admit, for me, it was all about the dressing.  This dressing was so delicious, I was eating it with a spoon.  It was ridiculously creamy, and the avocado flavor was amazing – mixed in with the garlic – wow, what a treat.  I can’t wait to make that dressing again – even if I am the only one in the house to eat it.

Ingredients

  • 1/4  cup  low-fat buttermilk
  • 1  tablespoon  light mayonnaise
  • 1  tablespoon  fresh lime juice
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground red pepper
  • 1  garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2  ripe peeled avocado, seeded and coarsely mashed
  • 4  cups  bagged chopped butter lettuce
  • 2  cups  diced deli, lower-salt turkey breast (about 8 ounces)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Preparation

Combine first 7 ingredients in a blender, and process until smooth, scraping sides. Set aside.

Combine lettuce and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle buttermilk mixture over lettuce mixture; toss gently to coat.

Serves 4

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Turkey and Tomato Salad with Avocado Dressing

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Roasted Radicchio with Lemon Vinaigrette and Breadcrumbs

The other week my CSA basket came with a beautiful bunch of radicchio.  A couple of days went by and I still hadn’t figured out what to do with it.  That evening I just happened to open my Bon Appetit, went to my favorite column (written by Molly Wizenberg), and what did I find?  A recipe for Roasted Radicchio with Lemon Vinaigrette and Breadcrumbs.  I have to admit, even I was a little weirded out about the whole thing – what are the chances?  Ok, I guess it is not unheard of that I have some interesting ingredient in the refrigerator that I am looking to use up – but I truly believe this was the first time I ever had radicchio in the refrigerator, and surely one of the few times when I read a recipe where radicchio was the main ingredient.

If you like the bitterness of radicchio, you will love this recipe.  The dressing was wonderful, and the breadcrumbs – now, what doesn’t taste better with breadcrumbs?  The only thing I didn’t like about the dish was that as soon as the radicchio began roasting, it lost its beautiful purple color.  So, sorry for the picture, but this is what it looked like.  So if you can move past the appearance, you will love it.  Now go get yourself some radicchio.

Ingredients

Vinaigrette

  • 3 tablespoons finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil

Breadcrumbs and Radicchio

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch cubes crustless country white bread
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 2 heads of radicchio (about 1 pound total), each cut into 6 wedges with some core attached to each wedge
  • Shavings of Grana Padano or Parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Preparation

Vinaigrette

Mix cheese, lemon juice, garlic, minced anchovies, and pinch of sugar in medium bowl. Whisk in olive oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill. Bring to room temperature and rewhisk before using.

Breadcrumbs and Radicchio

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil. Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and garlic in medium bowl. Add bread cubes, oregano, and crushed red pepper; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer bread cubes to prepared baking sheet.

Bake bread cubes until golden brown, tossing occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool. Transfer to work surface. Cover with paper towels. Using mallet or rolling pin, crush bread cubes into breadcrumbs.

Preheat broiler. Line same baking sheet with fresh sheet of foil. Place radicchio wedges in large bowl. Drizzle remaining 3 tablespoons oil over; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Arrange wedges on prepared sheet. Broil until beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, turn radicchio over, fanning leaves out slightly. Broil until radicchio is soft and beginning to brown with some edges beginning to char, watching carefully to prevent burning, about 2 minutes longer.

Return radicchio to same large bowl. Drizzle enough dressing over to coat; toss. Arrange wedges on plates. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over. Top with cheese shavings and serve.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Roasted Radicchio with Lemon Vinaigrette and Breadcrumbs

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Golden Corn Salad with Fresh Basil and Arugula

Corn seems to be in season here for months.  Growing up on the east coast, I remember thinking that corn season was so short.  There were only a few weeks when the corn was perfectly sweet, and you had to stop at the local farm stand to get your fill.  I loved that time of year.  My favorite way to eat the corn – take a piece of bread, put a lot of butter on it, then spread it all over the warm cob – sprinkle some salt on top – and delicious.  

When I got older, I realized that corn on the cob was even more delicious without the butter and salt – you could actually taste the sweetness of the corn – instead of just a bunch of salted butter (which don’t get me wrong, was incredible).  What I also realized is that cutting the corn off the cob, and making something out of it – was even better sometimes.  There is really nothing like fresh corn, just off the cob.  The corn oozes with juice and sweetness.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and decided that I had to buy the last of the corn at the farmer’s market to try this out.  Since corn is seriously in season all summer long (not sure how, but let’s go with it), there was no shortage.  I also picked up some fresh arugula, potatoes, red pepper, and queso fresco while I was at the farmer’s market – and when I got home, my husband had a small bowl of cherry tomatoes waiting for me – so I threw those in as well.  The result was a magical garden salad that was amazing.  The dressing was very light – and it was a perfect end of summer salad.

Ingredients

  • 8  ounces  small yellow Finnish potatoes or small red potatoes
  • 3  cups  fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
  • 2  cups  assorted cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4  cup  minced shallots
  • 3  tablespoons  white balsamic vinegar
  • 1  tablespoon  Dijon mustard
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
  • 3  tablespoons  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6  cups  arugula, trimmed
  • 1/2  cup  torn fresh basil leaves
  • 2  ounces  queso fresco, diced

Preparation

Place potatoes in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil; cook 11 minutes or until tender. Drain and chill. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Combine potatoes, corn, tomatoes, and bell pepper in a large bowl.

Combine shallots and next 4 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Slowly pour oil into shallot mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk. Drizzle over corn mixture; toss well. Add arugula; toss. Sprinkle with basil; top evenly with queso fresco.

Serves 4-6

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Golden Corn Salad with Fresh Basil and Arugula

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Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Green Olivada

We have had such a cold summer, it is no surprise that we still don’t have ripe cherry tomatoes in our garden.  Maybe in the next couple of days – with our temperature finally in the 90s.  Usually I wait all summer for those babies to be ripe, and I hold off on all my good tomato dishes.  This year – I figured I would be waiting forever, so I actually had to buy some at the store just to make this recipe I found in Bon Appetit.  It looked so good, I couldn’t wait. 

 The olives gave this pasta salad so much flavor, and the fresh mozzarella and tomatoes were like icing on the top.  The colors were beautiful, and it make a perfect side dish with our burgers and dogs.  I can’t wait until our cherry tomatoes are ripe in the garden, so I can make this again.

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped pitted green olives (from about 6 ounces unpitted whole olives), divided
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound gemelli, fusilli, or rotelle pasta
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 8-ounce package small (cherry-size) fresh mozzarella balls in water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

Ingredient Tip

Fresh mozzarella balls packed in water are available at many supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets.

Preparation

With machine running, add garlic clove to processor through feed tube and process until finely chopped; turn off machine. Add 1 cup chopped olives, capers, red wine vinegar, anchovy paste, mustard, and crushed red pepper. Using 6 on/off turns, process to chop coarsely. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup olive oil, forming coarse puree. Transfer to bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup olives. Season olivada to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Olivada can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Transfer drained pasta to large bowl. Drizzle remaining 1 tablespoon oil over pasta; toss to coat. Cool, stirring occasionally.

Add olivada, halved tomatoes, mozzarella, and oregano to pasta; toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serves 6 as a side dish.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Pasta Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Green Olivada

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Lemony Orzo – Veggie Salad with Chicken

One of my favorite summertime dishes is to make an orzo salad with chicken mixed in.  Add a little dill and a lemon vinaigrette, and you’ve got yourself a perfect meal, especially when it is hot outside.  I usually make a big batch of it and bring it to our community swimming pool for Sunday night dinner.  It is my hope that someday even the kids will go nuts over it.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and it looked just like the version I make (sans the recipe).  I decided to give it a try to see how it compared.  I have to wonder if somehow there was a secret camera hidden in my kitchen that watched me make this – it was just like my own rendition.  It was so delicious and light, you just couldn’t help but have seconds and thirds.  The kids didn’t know what they were missing, but had they known, there wouldn’t have been as much for the adults…I guess when they are finally able to appreciate this pasta salad, I will have to double the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3/4  cup  uncooked orzo
  • 1/4  teaspoon  grated lemon rind
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  minced garlic
  • 1/4  teaspoon  honey
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  cup  shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1/2  cup  diced English cucumber
  • 1/2  cup  prechopped red bell pepper
  • 1/3  cup  thinly sliced green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2  cup  (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese

Preparation

Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain and place in a large bowl.

While orzo cooks, combine lemon rind and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper), stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over orzo; toss to coat. Add chicken and next 4 ingredients (through dill); toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 4.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Lemony Orzo – Vege Salad with Chicken

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Summer Barley Salad

I have really started to like making salads out of barley.  It is much healthier than pasta, and has a great nutty flavor.  I have never much been into cold rice salads, so this is a perfect alternative.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and I was so excited – I had been thinking about all the barley I had in the pantry, and how I was going to use it.

The first time I made barley, it turned out almost like a risotto – and even though when mixed with the rest of the ingredients, it still tasted great – for some reason I was just not satisfied with the texture.  The next time I made barley, I decided to rinse it after I was finished cooking.  That definitely did the trick – and the barley didn’t all stick together.  From now on, I always rinse the barley after I am done cooking it.  Not only does it cool the barley off, but the grains don’t stick to each other, and allows all the other ingredients to mingle in just the right way.

Now I just need to get my kids to start eating it…and when I do, then I know I was successful.  Even though the kids didn’t like this salad, all the adults I served it to LOVED it.  There were hardly any leftovers, and there were only 4 adults.  The flavors were wonderful, just perfect along side the grilled steak we had for dinner.  This is definitely a summer salad keeper.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2  cups  uncooked pearl barley
  • 1  cup  fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1  cup  diced seeded plum tomato (about 2 small)
  • 1/2  cup  chopped green onions
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 20  kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

Cook barley according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool completely. Combine barley, corn, and next 4 ingredients (through kalamata olives) in a bowl. Combine juice and next 4 ingredients (through garlic), stirring well with a whisk; drizzle over barley mixture. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Summer Barley Salad

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Greek-Style Pork Chops

Summer to me is synonymous with grilling – even if it is cold and rainy outside.  For some reason, the fact that it is summer encourages me to buy meat at the market that tastes great on the grill.  My husband is the grill master of the house.  So, I have a confession to make…I don’t even know how to use the grill, or turn it on.  I really rely on him to do the grilling, which means I can spend more time baking.  We all win.

I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and it looked so simple, I had to make it right away – especially because my market basket just happened to come with all the other ingredients.  Everything about this dish was terrific.  The yogurt gave the pork just a little extra punch, and it also went perfectly with the cucumber tomato salad.  The next night I served the rest of the salad with the leftover yogurt, and it made a wonderful dressing.  If you don’t have a grill, you could easily do the pork in a grill pan on the stove – but it is summer (at least in spirit here), so at my house we grill outside.

Ingredients

  • 2  tablespoons  red wine vinegar, divided
  • 1  teaspoon  dried oregano
  • 2  teaspoons  olive oil, divided
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 4  (4-ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops
  • 3/4  cup  plain fat-free Greek-style yogurt
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1 1/2  cups  diced plum tomatoes (about 2 medium)
  • 1  cup  diced seeded cucumber
  • 1/2  cup  diced red onion
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Combine 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, oregano, 1 teaspoon olive oil, and garlic in a zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag, and seal. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, turning after 10 minutes. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, remaining 1 teaspoon oil, yogurt, 1 tablespoon dill, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Cover and chill. Combine tomatoes, cucumber, and onion. Sprinkle tomato mixture with 1/8 teaspoon salt; toss to combine.

Heat a grill. Remove pork from bag, and discard marinade. Sprinkle both sides of pork evenly with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add pork to grill, and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove pork from grill, and let stand for 2 minutes. Place 3/4 cup tomato mixture on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with 1 pork chop and about 3 tablespoons yogurt mixture.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Greek-Style Pork Chops

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