Autumn is nearly upon us, as the last harvests of summer linger just a bit longer. Now is the perfect time to grill up some beautiful pork chops and serve them topped with a wonderful Mediterranean Salsa of olives and tomatoes.
Unlike other cuisines, Mediterranean Cuisines isn’t of a particular ethnic persuasion but rather a culinary style of cooking that is influenced by an array of diverse people living around the Mediterranean Sea. Almost since the beginning of civilization, the sea has been an intersection of trade between Asia, Europe and Africa. This exchange of ideas, cultures and goods has resulted in some of the most delightful culinary offerings anywhere. Olives are the most common ingredient in Mediterranean cooking. Beef is rare, as the rocky landscape does not easily support large stock domestic animals. Goat, lamb, pig and chicken are the more common meats. Fish from the sea is the most typical source of protein in the Mediterranean diet. Eastern Mediterranean brings an influence of Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, and Egypt. Southern Europe brings with it Southern France, Italy and Spain, with a preference toward grilled meats, tomatoes and red wine both in the foods and at the table. Northern Africa brings spice of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya to the table. This cumulation of styles and traditions sets Mediterranean Cuisine apart.
Mediterranean Grilled Pork with Mediterranean Salsa
Ingredients – Spice Rubbed Pork
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons crushed or chopped fennel seeds
1-1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
6 boneless pork loin chops, about 3/4 inch thick
Ingredients – Mediterranean Salsa
2 scant cups cherry (or grape) tomatoes, quartered
1/2 small red onion, cut into small dice (about 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped pimento-stuffed green olives
2 tablespoons drained capers
2 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice; more to taste
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To Make the Pork: In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, fennel seeds, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, and salt.
Build a hot charcoal fire. While the grill heats, lightly coat both sides of the pork chops with the oil and rub with the spice rub. Clean the hot grate with a wire brush; oil the grate.
Grill the meat uncovered over direct heat on the hottest part of the grill, taking care not to crowd the meat. Cook until the meat forms impressive grill marks on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and continue to grill until the meat is just firm to touch and just cooked through, an additional 3 to 4 minutes for pork chops, depending on their thickness. (watch out for flare-ups.) Transfer to a serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve with the salsa spooned alongside or over the meat.
To Make the Salsa: In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, olives, capers, basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, and 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and pepper. Let stand while the meat grills. Before serving, adjust the lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Rice Pilaf makes for a wonderful side, as does a Greek Salad.