I’m back and I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I really hope you haven’t stopped relying on my recipes and wandered off somewhere else looking for dinner inspiration. Here it comes.
I found new salad recipe ideas in several places, some in Seattle and some a bit farther away. I’m seeing more use unusual and healthy ingredients. And using ingredients like ancient grains, lentils and unusual vegetables for salads.
This salad was inspired by a charming restaurant in Rancho Santa Fe, California called Thyme in the Ranch.
Jicama was in several of their salads. This happily reminded me how much I have always loved jicama. I’m not sure why, but I’d just forgotten about it.
If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a root vegetable with a tan exterior and creamy white interior. Its crisp and kind of starchy texture is just wonderful in a salad. Jicama is also good just sliced and plunged into your favorite dip. The skin can be a bit hard to remove so I use a paring knife rather than a vegetable peeler. You’ll find it in the produce section near the potatoes and onions in most grocery stores.
Baby salad greens – I like their size and flavor. Promise me at least 30 minutes before eating them you’ll take the time to “prep” them. This means rinsing with cold water, spinning out excess water preferably with a salad spinner and refrigerating. No matter how pressed for time I may be, I always try to do this because crisp salad greens are a must.
It’s a little bit of science at work in addition to making your greens more attractive to eat. By osmosis, the salad greens literally drink up the water clinging to the leaves and end up crispy and crunchy.
Here’s my best tip for preparing cooked chicken to have for a salad. It’s so easy. I take boneless, skinless chicken breasts – I always start with organic free-range – pound them to an even and thin thickness, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and broil. It’s a consistent method and you can make several ahead and have them in your refrigerator for spur of the moment salad making, enhancing a pasta dish or just sprinkling with salt and pepper and eating with your fingers. See the pictures below for how I prepare it.
And the walnuts! I like to give them a little caramelized sugar flavor by heating them in a saute pan with a little sugar. They add just the right amount of crunch and sweetness to the salad. The same method works for pecans or almonds if you want to change it up.
My last new idea is putting buttermilk in the vinaigrette dressing. I think my mom used to drink buttermilk in a glass. Or maybe I just thought that because she grew up on a farm. Regardless, buttermilk is getting attention for the great ways it enhances recipes. Along with grated lemon zest and chopped thyme it adds just the right flavor to the vinaigrette.
And to all the Mom’s out there – Happy Mothers’ Day. Celebrate yourself. No matter what that may be – I hope your day is exactly how you like it.
- 1 cup walnuts
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 medium size jicama
- 2 cups thinly sliced or shredded cooked chicken breast, see note below
- 8 cups (5 ounces) lightly packed assorted baby salad greens
- ½ cup Lemon Thyme Buttermilk Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
- 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
- 2 ounces (1/2 cup) crumbled French feta cheese or shaved Parmesan cheese
- Put sugar and walnuts in a small saute pan over medium heat; cook and stir until sugar is melted and walnuts are lightly browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to parchment or wax paper, spreading out in a single layer. Allow cooling to room temperature.
- Remove hard outer peel from jicama. Grate jicama using a large hole on a grater; there should be approximately 2 cups.
- To serve, toss greens with Lemon Thyme Buttermilk dressing. Add chicken, walnuts, jicama, apple and cheese; toss to evenly combine.
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1-1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Put all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid; shake until evenly mixed. Alternatively, whisk together all ingredients.
To prepare cooked chicken breast:
Preheat broiler or a grill.
Begin with a boneless, skinless chicken breast and put it between a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap; pound to about 1/2-inch thickness.
Brush with olive oil and season with kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Broil or grill chicken until cooked through, turning once during cooking, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; allow cooling to room temperature then refrigerate until chilled. Thinly slice chicken.