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The more I entertain with friends, the more I love hearty salads. Everything you need in a meal can all be right within a salad. They’re great for lunches on the go, light evening meals, or special occasions.
My goal is to always use at least one in-season ingredient when I make a meal, especially since I only get to enjoy fresh produce for a certain amount of time. So this salad is all about the nectarine. When in season and ripe, the flavor and sweetness from a nectarine rivals any peach. What I love is that the skin is soft enough that I don’t even think of peeling it. And without the fuzzy texture of a peach, it’s perfect for a fresh salad.
While this salad can be completely vegetarian and still be amazing, I do love to add sliced pork on top. The addition of some protein increases the “meal” aspect of the salad but is totally optional.
How do I cook a pork chop?
I live in Iowa where pork is king. Pork is technically red meat but looks like white meat once cooked. The overall flavor is light and can withstand a lot of spices and seasonings. Pork chops are cut from the loin and can easily be overcooked easily. If cooked correctly, though, they are extremely juicy.
To help season and retain their juicy texture, I brine my pork chops with a dry brine. A mixture of salt, smoked paprika, and garlic is sprinkled over the chops for four to six hours before cooking. The brine mixture uses the natural juices of the meat to impart the seasonings and salt into the chops. The salt helps retain moisture and flavor the meat. The result is the best pork chop ever.
Why make a homemade dressing?
We’ve all become accustomed to store-bought dressing. But I promise you: once you start making homemade, there is no comparison. Store-bought dressings have so many stabilizers and preservatives that the texture can be thick and gloppy. Others have little flavor and are overburdened with sugar.
Instead, I make my own version of a green goddess dressing with the flavors of basil and parsley taking center stage. Instead of chopping everything individually, all of the ingredients use a blender to combine and create an emulsion.
For a creamy finish, I use Greek yogurt. It has a slight tang and some acidity, which is needed to balance out the dressing and make it… perfect!
Watch how to make this nectarine summer salad
Spiced Pork & Nectarine Summer Salad
For the dry brine
- 2 4-oz pork chops
- 1 tsp dried garlic
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 ½ tsp kosher salt
For the dressing
- ¾ cup parsley loosely packed
- ¾ cup basil loosely packed
- 1 leaf sage
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp apricot preserves
- 2 tsp Dijon mustard
- ½ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
For the salad
- 3 heads romaine lettuce
- 2 nectarines
- 2 oz goat cheese
For the dry brine
- In a small bowl, combine the dried garlic, smoked paprika, and salt. Mix and sprinkle on all sides of the pork chops. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours.1 tsp dried garlic, 1 tsp smoked paprika, 2 ½ tsp kosher salt, 2 4-oz pork chops
For the dressing
- In a large measuring cup or the canister of a blender, combine all the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth and combined, 1-2 minutes. Decant into an airtight container and use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to one week.¾ cup parsley, ¾ cup basil, 1 leaf sage, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tbsp apricot preserves, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, ½ cup Greek yogurt, 2 tbsp champagne vinegar, ½ cup olive oil, 1 tsp salt
For the salad
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of neutral oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the brined pork chops. Sear until golden. Then flip and continue until both sides are seared a deep amber brown, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- Transfer the skillet with the pork chops to the preheated oven to finish cooking. Roast the pork chops until the internal temperature reaches 140°F, approximately 15 minutes. Then remove from the oven and set the chops aside to rest for 15 minutes. The residual heat will continue to cook the pork to 145°F.
- Set the same skillet over medium-low heat. Cut the nectarines in half, remove the pits, and sear cut-side down in the hot skillet. Sear until browned on the cut side, 1-2 minutes. Remove the nectarines and set them aside to cool.2 nectarines
- To assemble the salad, cut the romaine heads into bite-size pieces. Arrange on a large platter or bowl. Drizzle with some of the dressing and toss to coat the lettuce. Slice the pork chops into ¼-inch slices and arrange on the salad. Cut the nectarines into eighths and place on the salad. Finish with crumbled goat cheese and more dressing to taste.3 heads romaine lettuce, 2 oz goat cheese