Salad piled on top of a seared chicken breast and drizzled with dressing is one of my favorite recipe templates. It satisfies the craving for a lighter dinner and yet the chicken makes it substantial enough. Using boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to an even thinness speeds up the cooking and gives more surface area for flavor. The possible combinations for the chicken seasoning, salad and dressing are unlimited.
A wet rub made with ground sumac stirred into olive oil creates the flavor for the seared chicken in this Middle Eastern version. Sumac – what is that? Or maybe you’re familiar with it. I didn’t know what it was until I tasted it in the classic Syrian Fatoush bread salad. The spice ground sumac is brick red in color and gives a mildly tart lemony flavor. It is used in many cuisines in the Middle East. I wasn’t sure how widely available it would be but I was happy to find it at several upscale grocery stores and a specialty spice stores (here in Seattle I’ve found it at Central Co-op, Metropolitan Market and World Spice Merchants.) I know that finding sumac is possibly a recipe deal breaker so I give a substitution for it just in case.
Torn pieces of pita bread tossed with olive oil and cooked in a skillet until browned and crisp add a satisfying crunch to the tender spinach leaves and thinly sliced radish and cucumber. And to drizzle over it all, the Tahini Honey Lemon Dressing – a velvety smooth concoction with just the right amounts of cilantro and garlic. Tahini paste is a player in my refrigerator pantry and is one of those ingredients you’re always happy to have on hand when needed. It’s made from ground hulled sesame seeds and most grocery stores carry it.
- For the chicken:
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, about 6 ounces each
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon ground sumac (see note)
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- For the pita croutons:
- 2 whole wheat pita breads
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- For the tahini dressing:
- ½ cup Greek-style plain yogurt
- ⅓ cup milk
- 2 tablespoons Tahini paste
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped (1 teaspoon)
- For the spinach salad:
- 5 oz baby spinach leaves (about 10 cups)
- 1 bunch radishes (about 12 radishes)
- ½ cucumber
- For the chicken, pound breasts to ½-inch thickness. Stir together 2 tablespoons olive oil and the sumac and brush on one side of chicken. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to overnight.
- Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and place it, sumac side down, in the skillet. Cook until browned and halfway cooked, about 4-5 minutes; turn and cook until browned and chicken is cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.
- For the pita croutons, tear pita bread into 1-inch pieces. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat; add pita and stir to coat evenly. Cook and stir until pita is browned and crisp, about 4 minutes; sprinkle with salt and remove to cool to room temperature.
- For the Tahini dressing, whisk together all ingredients until smooth; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until using.
- For the spinach salad, trim ends from radishes and thinly slice. Peel cucumber and thinly slice. Toss together spinach, radishes, cucumbers and cooled croutons.
- To serve, put chicken on serving plates. Pile spinach salad over chicken. Drizzle with Tahini dressing. Or toss spinach with Tahini dressing then pile over chicken.