Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Don't Cook? Try This Salad

Sometimes you need a salad recipe that will be easy to assemble somewhere other than your kitchen, one that is a main dish salad, one that is fairly healthy with vibrant flavors, too. Then to have a salad that is also pretty good for non-cooks as long as they are comfortable with grilling chicken and you have a winner. Did I mention that it's delicious? It is. I served it with rolls just like THESE.

This recipe is based on a couple of recipes I saw online, but, as usual, I changed it so much that I'm not going to attribute it to anyone in particular.

For starters you can use a number of things for the salad greens. You can use pre-washed bagged salad mix. You can wash and dry and chop or tear your own greens. You can use almost any mixture of greens, so this is great for greens from your garden. I went with heads of romaine lettuce from Costco, which I washed, spun dry and chopped.

The next piece is balsamic dressing. You can use bottled dressing and most stores have a number of choices for you. You can also have a little fun in the kitchen and mix up a simple dressing with garlic, mustard, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar. The dressing is used to marinate chicken breasts and also to dress the salad when it is serving time.

The chicken breasts should be boneless, but they can also be skinless. You could also use boneless chicken thighs as long as you spread them out to cook so they cook evenly. You use 1/3 cup of the balsamic dressing as a marinade and put the chicken and marinade in a seal-able plastic bag in the fridge for about 3 hours, turning the bag over every hour. Not too difficult, right?

While the chicken is marinating you get to do some chopping. You need 2 cups prepared tomatoes. The recipes usually recommend getting rid of the seeds, but it is actually OK to just chop the tomatoes or dice them. If you are using cherry tomatoes, cut each of them in four pieces.

You will also need to slice or chop some fresh basil (1/4 cup) and stir that and some dried oregano into the chopped tomatoes.

A can of sliced olives, drained and some feta cheese finishes what is needed.

Once the chicken has finished it's time in the fridge, drain off the marinade and grill it until just cooked. Let it cool slightly, then cut into bite sized chunks. If you are lucky, someone who loves to grill things will do this for you as Sweetie did for me. I'm a lucky girl! I haven't tried it, but I suspect that if you bought a pre-cooked whole chicken and removed the meat and cut it in chunks and marinated it for a short time in the dressing that you could even skip the grilling part, although you will lose the great flavor one gets from grilling.

Now for the fun part, assembling the salads. If you are serving this somewhere other than you own kitchen, you will have a container of salad greens, a container of cooked chicken, a container of sliced olives, a container of the prepared tomatoes, some feta cheese and some balsamic dressing.

Put the greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with some of the dressing and toss to coat. This is a great time to use short tongs if you have them. Divide the greens among the plates. Top with a serving of chicken chunks (about 1/2 cup), then top that with 1/4 cup of the tomato mixture, add some of the sliced olives, sprinkle with some feta cheese chunks/crumbles and drizzle a tiny bit more dressing over it all. If you have extra basil, it makes a pretty garnish. That's it. Serve with pride and enjoy the flavors of the Mediterranean. I served some mini-carrots on the side, but a nice bunch of grapes would go well, too.

The recipe serves 8, but you can cut it in half or double it depending on how many you are serving.

Chicken and Tomato Over Greens Salad - 8 luncheon sized servings

  • 6 boneless chicken breast halves (can be skinless, too, if desired)
  • 12-14 cups salad greens of choice (about one and a half large heads, chopped, or two large bags)
  • 1/3 cup balsamic salad dressing per pound of chicken, plus more for tossing with greens (recipe follows; may substitute your favorite store-bought option)
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 can sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

For the balsamic salad  dressing:
  • 1 small garlic clove, smashed and minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

  1. For the balsamic salad dressing: In a bowl whisk together the garlic, salt and pepper, Dijon, honey and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking as you go, until the dressing is emulsified.  You may also add everything to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.

  2. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours to allow flavors to blend. The vinaigrette will keep for several weeks in the refrigerator. Shake well prior to using.  If the olive oil has solidified due to the cold, simply allow the jar to sit at room temperature for a few minutes before using.

  3. For the grilled chicken: Place the chicken in a large, resealable plastic bag. Pour the vinaigrette over top (1/3 cup per pound of chicken), seal, and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight if possible. I like to flip the bag a few times (every hour or so during the day) to distribute the marinade.

  4. Prepare the grill or heat a large cast iron skillet or grill pan. Remove the chicken from the marinade, discarding the remaining marinade, and cook the chicken over medium heat for 7-8 minutes per side, depending on thickness, or until the chicken is just cooked through. Cut into center...if still pink, keep cooking, if not you are done...don't overcook.  If cooking in a skillet or on a grill pan, you may need to do this in two batches.  Remove from the heat and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes. Cube into bite sized cubes. Set aside for 5 minutes and then package into ziploc type plastic bag. Refrigerate if not made right before serving.

  5. For the tomato mixture: Gently mix the tomato, basil, dried oregano and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a ziploc type plastic bag. Close and shake bag to mix the ingredients. Refrigerate if not made right before serving.

  6. Gather salad components: Washed, dried, and  chopped chilled salad greens or pre-washed chilled greens in the bag, chicken pieces in ziploc type bag, tomato mixture in ziploc type bag, drained olives, feta cheese in chunks and crumbles, extra vinaigrette.

  7. Assembling the salad: Reheat the chicken in the oven if one is available or serve at room temperature. (Chill any unused chicken right away). Place the salad greens in a bowl and toss with enough vinaigrette to lightly coat.  Distribute the dressed greens among eight plates. Top with chicken breast pieces (chunks) followed by one eighth of the tomato-basil mixture (about 1/4 cup). Sprinkle with some of the sliced black olives, drained. Sprinkle on one eighth of the feta cheese.  Drizzle a little extra balsamic vinaigrette over top  and garnish with extra basil if desired. Serve and enjoy!

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